Airport lounges in the United States, Canada and other countries are filling-up with a new type of traveler: the medical tourist. Increasingly more people with and without health insurance or socialized medicine are grabbing their bags and traveling to other countries for medical treatment that better fits their budgets. Many travel thousands of miles to Asia and Europe as their destinations of choice. Let’s face it, medical tourism is on the rise, and besides the patient, Costa Rica is one of the major benefactors.
So América Economia Intelligence launched an in-depth and scientific investigation on getting to know the major hospitals in Latin America and to understand which ones offer the best quality standards in their management, facilities, specialties and medical services to their patients. The result is the first comprehensive study on the quality of clinics and hospitals in Latin America based on International standards and qualify of healthcare.
America Economia worked for several months with a panel of experts to design a methodology to assess the quality of medical facilities, specifically those designated multipurpose high complexity -or- those best suited for the medical vacation tourist due to an infrastructure for several medical specialties under one roof. With information provided by ministries of health of 10 countries in the region, together with other international institutions, a sample of 180 hospitals and clinics were invited to participate by opening the secrets of their internal management teams to America Economia researchers.
The final list of 20 best Latin American hospitals and clinics were each evaluated in several different dimensions.
One of the most important dimensions was hospital safety. According to experts; the quality models discussed and the ability of an institution at minimizing risk within the complexity of its operations is the basis for quality management.
Clinica Biblica of CostaRica was ranked #5 in 2009 Top Latin America Hospitals & Clinics.. Also relevant was a hospital’s processes that reduce risks such as; existence of proper procedures for registration, management and transparency of health information and the perception of patients (such as satisfaction surveys). The systematic application of good practices and the availability of professionals in emergency shifts along with the measured presence and frequency of meetings of ethics committees are also important deciding factors being as such entities are responsible for ensuring the dignity of patients.
Another dimension analyzed for each hospital was the human factor. It is no mystery that many patients choose a doctor rather than the institution where they will meet, because they understand the importance of occupational health in the care they receive.
That is why America Economia Intelligence decided to include training of doctors in each hospital or clinic in the ratings. This was no easy task in that this type of data not readily available at a majority of Latin American hospitals and clinics.
However, information obtained did show: 91.4% of physicians of the 20 top Latin American hospitals and clinics have at least one specialty, 32.4% have a sub-specialty and 1.9% have two or more sub-specialties.
When it comes to Latin American doctors who practice specialized medicine; 9% of physicians with a sub-specialty, 15.7% of those with two specialties, and 84% of those with three or more specialties studied in the most prestigious medical universities in the United States and Europe.
Methodology of Ranking Hospitals and Clinics
In order to make a first selection of hospitals and clinics to be studied, América Economia consulted with the Ministries of Health of nine countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela) regarding which facilities, through their quality characteristics, local prestige and variety of medical benefits, should be seen as the best in each country.
America Economia then contrasted the preliminary list with various sources of classified information, such as Joint Commission International (JCI), in addition to accreditation schemes or national quality studies in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile.
A sample of over 180 hospitals and clinics where sent a questionnaire requesting specific data for comparison. After which, a second questionnaire was sent to 31 institutions with more specific questions.
Nearly 700 professionals voted regarding the prestige of the hospitals and clinics, the prestige of the health systems of the nine countries and their views about the factors that affect hospital quality.
This process received the support of an international panel of leading experts in hospital management and public health specialists who made contributions in the preparation of the conceptual framework, methodological design and performance analysis strategy of this ranking. Their work did not affect the outcome of the study, nor had access to the information provided by hospitals and clinics.
The final ranking was defined through the weighted sum of seven dimensions:
1) Patient Safety and Dignity: The set of conditions which encompasses a hospital or clinic that can provide guarantees that their patients receive the best attention, care and respect possible.
2) Human Capital: This includes readiness by a hospital or clinic qualified health professionals and excellence for hospital compliance with the task. That they are understanding and applying the right skills for diagnosis and treatment of patients.
3) Knowledge Management: Includes activities a hospital or clinic utilizes to both generate or obtain medical knowledge from outside the facility for continued education of the staff.
4) Capacity: Applies to those features that make a hospital or clinic work such as amplitude, load, number of specialties and its ability to handle complexity. This also includes the ability of care and hospitality for international patients.
5) Efficiency: It is for this aspect of managing a hospital or clinic, which aims to adopt practices that ensure a quality hospital makes rational use of resources. This also includes basic financial assessment of these entities, regarded as enterprises.
6) Prestige: Survey results of physicians on the most prestigious hospitals and clinics. These are both internationally ranked and ranked as Latin America facilities weighted by the country of origin of the survey participant.
Costa Rica obtained the distinction of having two hospitals make the 2009 Top 20 Latin American Hospitals and Clinics list … private Hospital Clinica Biblica in San José and public CCSS Hospital San Rafael in Alajuela, near the Juan Santamaria International Airport.