For the average patient seeking care, there is a confusing array of terms describing who participates in the healthcare referral process. Here are some terms and what they mean.
Medical tourism: Seeking care away from home, either in the same country (like across several state borders in the US and sometimes called domestic) , outside the home country (leaving the US to go to Mexico) or to a home country (coming from the Caribbean to get care in Florida). Many industry participants are trying to get away from the term “medical tourism” since it tends to minimize the serious medical issues and risks associated with getting care away from your home location or region. Evolving terms are global or international healthcare referrals or sourcing, global care or transnational care referral. Also, how does traveling a few miles from your home, even if it means crossing a state border or a country border (Canada or Mexico) for care differ from domestic medical tourism? This lack of specificity contributes to the confusion about how many people actually seek care in different regions and that leads to inflated numbers of “medical tourists”
Facilitators: Facilitators are those individuals or companies that help patients identify providers and make travel or care arrangements for a fee. They do not actually provide care. Facilitators can be country specific, regional or global and sometimes promote themselves as exclusive (the only company that represents care providers in a given country to inbound potential patients) or non-exclusive (multiple people or companies that can source providers in a given country).
Transnational providers: These are, usually, large domestic providers with brand recognition, like the Cleveland Clinic , Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that have affiliation arrangements with hospitals outside of the US, for example, Panama,Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
BOTTOM LINE: If you decide to seek care away from home, do your homework and understand the role of the different members of the chain of care.