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The Medical Travel Patient’s Bill of Rights & The Responsibilities and Obligations of the Medical Travel Patient

Dear medical travel patient,

Increasing numbers of patients are crossing international borders to seek medical care and treatment. These patients face challenges that are beyond those they would encounter if they sought care in their home country. They may be vulnerable to misunderstandings and inappropriate care. They may be subject to the vagaries of foreign laws that offer less or no protection in certain situations than they expect.

We believe that all health care providers and services must practice a health care ethic that respects the unique situation of the medical traveler. As the giving and receiving of health care goes global, we encourage all hospitals, institutions, medical professionals and related services to consider a bill of rights for medical travelers that supports good, safe, and appropriate medical outcomes. In the service of all international patients, whether medical travelers or not, and whatever their diagnosis, their national origin, or their medical destination, we offer this Medical Traveler’s Bill of Rights.

We thank all those who have contributed to this discussion of international patient’s rights, and those of the medical traveler. The two are similar but differ in significant ways, which we trust are clearly acknowledged in this document. Equally important is the medical traveler understands that he or she is a major partner when participating in the delivery of medical treatment and care across borders. The medical traveler must accept a grave responsibility to share in this delivery and follow-up care management. 

Sincerely,

The MedRetreat Team
 

The Medical Travel Patient’s Bill of Rights

You have the right to medical treatment.

1. To travel to another country to request and receive responsible and responsive medical care and treatment; and receive continuing or follow-up medical care and treatment upon returning home.

2. To receive a thorough evaluation by knowledgeable providers and screening tools of high standards that facilitate disease detection.

3. To receive medical care and treatment of a standard of quality comparable to that received by any patient attended by the same physician in the same facility; receive this care and treatment for the same cost; and receive skilled emergency care if you need it.

4. To receive relief from suffering according to the current state of knowledge of pain assessment and management.

5. To expect continuity of care, including a written discharge summary with information about continuing health care requirements immediately following your discharge from treatment and about longer term care after you return home, and information about cooperation between all health care providers and/or establishments which are involved in your diagnosis, treatment, care and follow-up including names and contact details; and a description of how you can appeal your discharge if needed.

You have the right to information

6. To request and receive, prior to treatment, an accurate and complete estimate of charges for your medical care or treatment.

7. To ask and be informed about the identity and professional status of the physician who will be coordinating your care, and of other health care providers who will see you, including qualifications related to your condition, such as education, medical license, board certification and re-certification, years of practice, and experience and outcomes in performing the recommended procedures.

8. To ask and be informed about the health care facility, including accreditation status, experience in performing recommended procedures and services, performance results or outcomes, and presence of or access to appropriate technology; and about the facility’s rules, policies, practices, and events that relate to patient care, treatment and responsibilities.

9. To receive understandable and relevant information about your current health status, options for treatment with related risks and benefits, length of recuperation, details about the course of treatment, your prospects for recovery, other medical alternatives, and the possible and probable outcomes of receiving or refusing care; and you have the right to request interpretation into another language.

10. To receive information about all prescribed medications including their names and alternative names as they may be known by in your country of residence, their normal actions and potential side-effects as may apply to you.

11. To ask and be informed if your physician proposes to perform research, experimentation, clinical trials or teaching that may affect your care or treatment; receive a full explanation; and agree or refuse to participate in such activities. Your refusal must not affect the standard of your medical care.

12. To ask and be informed about the existence of business relationship among the hospital, treatment facility, other health care provider, payer or agent.

13. To review your medical records; receive a copy of your medical records and other health-information documents; request changes to your medical records by providing documents or information before admission and/or after discharge; and update your demographic data at any hospital through procedures that guarantee accuracy, credibility and confidentiality of updated information.

You have the right to choice

14. To have a support person - a family member or other person of your choosing - present during examinations, tests, and meetings with your doctors. This includes your reasonable right to designate visitors during inpatient care in keeping with your health care facility’s restrictions, and to choose who, if anyone, should be informed on your behalf.

15. To receive timely and prioritized scheduling of consultations, surgery and treatment, and timely response to requests and inquiries when you have work and travel constraints.

16. To make decisions about your medical care including giving informed consent prior to any medical intervention; and receive information about any proposed treatment procedure or medication you need to enable such informed consent or to refuse a course of treatment.

17. To seek a second or further opinion and/or referral to other specialists; and leave the hospital, even against the advice of doctors, to the extent permitted by law.

18. To continue or refuse treatment to the extent permitted by applicable laws regardless of how mild or advanced your condition may be. If you refuse a recommended treatment you are entitled to other appropriate care and service that the hospital provides or transfer with full medical records to another physician or hospital.

19. To consent in writing for the preservation, disposition or use of all substances of your body, except when used in your current diagnosis, treatment and care.

20. To provide advance directives such as a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy that will be honored by medical personnel to the extent permitted by applicable law. Such directives may include designation of a decision maker in the event you cannot speak for yourself, and your preferences on issues related to resuscitative services and desire for or against life-sustaining treatment.

You have the right to privacy

21. To receive treatment considerate and respectful of your personal values and beliefs, without regard to national origin, citizenship, country of residence, language, race, color, religion, ancestry, medical diagnosis, mental or physical disability, genetic makeup, educational background, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, economic status, or the source of payment for your care.

22. To receive evaluation and treatment in confidence and privacy, including in all written and electronic records, during case discussion, consultation, examination and treatment except where reporting is required by law.

23. To receive evaluation and treatment in facilities that ensure privacy during personal care, examinations and treatment; and interventions carried out only in the presence of those persons necessary for the intervention unless you agree.

You have the right to a complaint

24. To be informed of available resources for resolving disputes, grievances and conflicts, such as ethics committees, patient representatives, or any independent mechanisms available in the community, including ombudsmen and foreign consular representatives; have your dispute examined and dealt with thoroughly and in a timely manner; and be informed about the outcome.

The Responsibilities and Obligations of the Medical Traveler

Just as medical travelers have a reasonable right to expect certain terms and conditions from providers and other medical travel partners, they also, for the sake of their good health care, have certain responsibilities and obligations when electing to receive medical care and treatment outside their own country.

As a medical traveler, you have these responsibilities:

1. To work with your health care provider and agent or patient care manager to develop and carry out agreed upon treatment plans and ongoing therapies.

2. To ask questions if you do not understand information, medical terms, the specifics of your treatment, or what is expected of you; and prepare written questions and comments for your doctor

3. To consult with your doctor before self-medicating or seeking alternative therapies including herbal medicines that might interfere with your ongoing treatment.

4. To disclose relevant information to your doctors, nurses and care manager, before, during and after your treatment, including unexpected changes in your condition, new symptoms, or increased pain.

5. To make an effort to understand and accept the cultural differences of the health workers caring for you, and between you and patients from other countries; show respect and courtesy to those you meet on your medical journey; and clearly communicate your wants and needs.

6. To take all possible precautions against spreading disease or infection, including frequently washing hands and strictly following doctor’s orders.

7. To keep your appointments. If you are unable to do so for any reason, notify your health care provider or representative immediately.

8. To make sure you know all the costs involved in your care and treatment, properly arrange to make your payments and otherwise to meet your financial obligations.

9. To be honest, accurate and thorough when providing personal information, and update this information regularly. If you have received a discount or payment (financial or in kind) for “telling your story”, please say so.

10. To be prepared and knowledgeable as best you can about your medical condition and needs; seek expert advice from your general practitioner and/or medical travel planner; and keep your hometown doctor advised of your plans.

11. To seek out reliable sources of information; and be particularly cautious of internet websites and chat rooms that may distort, positively or negatively, information about a hospital, doctor, medical travel agent, or patient.

12. To understand that as a medical traveler who is also an international patient, you are a partner in your medical care and assume more responsibility than at home. If you choose to discontinue treatment, transfer your care and records to another physician or facility or otherwise act against doctor advice, you may not hold the doctor, hospital or agent responsible for any consequences of your decision.
 
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