Anyone going abroad for a medical procedure will want to make sure they are adequately cared for when they leave their home country. With the growth of popularity of medical tourism, several international accreditation systems have been established in order to set some objective standards for external assessment of quality management.
You have very good odds of entering a hospital or clinic in North America or the European Union and it being accredited. This means that the facility meets the terms of best practices and standards which have been established by a third party accreditation agency. If you’re looking to undergo a major surgical procedure, it is highly recommended that you look for internationally accredited services first.
For Hospitals: Joint Commission International
The most respected, and to many the principal, accreditation agency in the US is the Joint Commission. An international affiliate agency, the Joint Commission International was established in 1999 in order to respond to the global demand for accreditation standards.
As a result, international hospital can only be JCI-accredited if they meet the standards set forth for the US hospitals. Today, there are about six hundred hospitals and clinical departments in over fifty countries around the world with JCI accreditation, with more services joining their numbers each month. This means that patients gain access to all common specialties, sub-specialties and procedures as well guarantees of quality care they will be receiving in these facilities.
Accreditation for Outpatient Specialty Clinics
Specialty clinics for dental care, orthopedics, plastic surgery, dental care, cancer and a number of other disciplines are far more efficient and as such are slowly pushing out the old decentralized general hospital model. These ambulatory centers are served by specialty accreditation agencies, which offer additional quality standard assurances for the processes that happen in these facilities. Some of the leading ambulatory facility accreditors are:
Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC)
This agency was founded in 1979 in order to organize and operate a peer based assessment, education and accreditation program for ambulatory health care organizations as a means of helping them provide the highest achievable level of care. The AAAHC will review and endors a wide range of clinics, which includes university and college health services, single and multi-specialty group practices, surgety facilities, managed care organizations and community health centers. The international part of AAAHC has begun to award accreditations to outpatient clinics all over Latin America.
American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International (AAAASFI)
Much like AAAHC, the AAAASF also awards accreditations to outpatient clinics, though their focus lies on surgery clinics. The international arm of AAAASF, the AAAASFI, was established in 2004 in order to serve the rising industry and consumer need for constant standards of quality on a global scale. Much like its version that operates in the US, AAAASFI has focused on three areas of quality: safe and appropriate patients, safe and appropriate facilities and safe and appropriate doctors and staff.
The Australian Council of Healthcare Standards, the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health, the Canadian Council on Health Services Accrediation, the Council for Health Services Accrediation of Southern Africa and the Japan Council for Quality Healthcare are just a few among numerous other bodies of healthcare accreditation whose role is to make sure that patients receive high quality care. It is worth looking into the measures these organizations use to establish standards of quality and make your own decision on what will satisfy you in terms of being suitable and acceptable to your needs.
ISO: A Word of Caution
During your research for a healthcare facility abroad, you may run into the phrase „ISO-accredited“. ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, which operates out of Geneva in Switzerland, is an association that covers 157 countries around the world and accredits and endorses a wide range of product and service sectors around the globe. However, healthcare procedures, techniques and practices are not monitored at all by ISO as they tend to focus on administration and facilities. As such, ISO accreditations have a very limited value to anyone doing research on the quality of care standards.
Who Watches The Watchers?
At this point, you may be wondering which of these agencies are reliable, especially given what you’ve read on the subject of accreditation thus far. To put it bluntly, who polices the police? This is where the International Society for Quality in Healthcare steps in. Founded in 1984, this agency is the world leader in accrediting healthcare standards. They approve of the quality of other accreditation agencies from all over the world by supervising and making sure they establish at least the minimum standards of patient safety. On their website, ISQua publishes a list of accredited agencies.