“Is it not also true that no physician, in so far as he is a physician, considers or enjoins what is for the physician’s interest, but that all seek the good of their patients? For we have agreed that a physician strictly so called, is a ruler of bodies, and not a maker of money, have we not?” - Plato
Plato, surely was advising physicians not to be mere money makers. Enter international accreditations, Asian hospitals now have an opportunity to make money as well as put the patient’s interest as first and foremost. The National Heart Centre, Singapore on achieving the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation proudly proclaimed “We have learnt to look at healthcare from the patients’ point of view.” And here lies the core benefit of accreditation process.
Asia’s tryst with accreditations began with the arrival of the medical tourist from the west. What began as a trickle, is all set to turn into a flood, with the Asian market predicted to reach US$ 4 billion by 2012. While underinsured and uninsured patients began to drive the market, soaring employee healthcare costs compelled the MNCs to join the bandwagon. A few multinational companies have begun sending their employees to Asian hospitals for treatment and also pass on a part of the huge savings in cost to them as well.
Global accreditations appear to hold the key to tap this emerging lucrative market. JCI, the leading international accreditation body, regarded as the gold standard, which has already accredited 30 Asian hospitals, is gearing up to strengthen its presence in Asia by setting up its first Asia Pacific office in Singapore. While the share of revenue lost by the US hospitals on account of the rise of Asia’s medical tourism still remains negligible, it is just a beginning. TIME magazine predicts that the trend will eventually turn the heat on the US hospitals. Reports TIME “It’s (medical tourism) one that could put greater competitive pressure on US hospitals as some of their most lucrative patients are siphoned off. Elective surgeries are key money makers for hospitals, and even a small drop-off can cut deep into their profits.”
While the accreditation drive began with the objective of attracting the attention of foreign medical tourists, they are bound to lay a platform for the hospitals in the Asian region to catch-up with the best global practices. There is a sense of deja vu. It has happened before in the region, with mainstream outsourcing – in IT and ITES sectors. Having to satisfy the exacting demands of global customers made these companies build the capabilities to become world-class.
Accreditations are organization-wide efforts and require commitment of the organization’s leaders. The accredited hospitals vouchsafe the ability of standards to deliver results. They tend to reduce the risk of medical errors significantly, inculcate a culture of patient safety and lead to overall quality improvement. However, for a vast majority of medium to smaller size hospitals in the region, affordability of international accreditations remains an issue. The local governments could come up with their models of independent domestic accreditation agencies along the lines of international ones, customizing the frameworks to suit the size of hospitals. The global accreditation bodies could also come up with variants of accreditations to suit the smaller hospitals.
The cover story, World-class via Accreditations, presents the scenario of accreditations in Asia. This issue also presents insightful articles covering Surgical Specialty, Cardiology, Diagnostics, medical equipment etc.