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Physicians are accompanying their clientele to vacation homes and luxe spa recovery centers. Standards and accreditation are an international effort.

The rich and famous have been taking discrete trips out of the country for years to partake of nip / tuck surgeries, rehab, and other medical endeavors. Now the average American can enjoy an international medical getaway, and take along the whole family for less than the $ 40,000 price tag of one knee surgery in America.

The US has been listed as number 37 by the World Health Organization in Healthcare and one million people traveled outside of the US for medical related services in 2008. A medical retreat at a tropical "luxe" spa seems to be sounding better and better to more people.

Need Operation – Will Travel
Medical tourism, coined as such more recently, has been around since the Romans traveled to heal themselves in mystic locales. In modern terms, top services traveled for are;
o Plastic and reconstructive surgery
o Cosmetic and general dentistry
o Bariactric medicine
o Addiction treatments
o General surgeries
o Health and wellness

If you're are already one of the one million travelers, or considering adding to those numbers, you'll want to know what this all means.

Physicians worldwide join their clients on planes, in foreign hospital rooms and at 5 star spa recovery centers that resemble deluxe hotels. Their alliance with international countries, allows them profitability and exotic surroundings. Some may even be attracted by relaxed laws for more experimental procedures such as stem cell research innovations not yet approved in the US

Today providers such as Johns Hopkins, The Mayo Clinic, and Harvard (to name a few) boast overseas facilities. According to BusinessWeek, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of South Carolina also signed strategic alliances with seven overseas hospitals in 2008.

Your doctor may already be booking appointments in Guatemala, Thailand, Costa Rica or the Philippines. Just ask. Thailand for example, reported 1.5 million people for medical tourism in 2007. Physicians from around the world are registered to practice there. The reach is global and so is the responsibility.

Medical Marketing

My recent trip to Costa Rica on medical tourism included meetings with doctors, spas, government officials and encouraging a call to action for accreditation in medical spa and spa related centers. Costa Rica hosted its first Medical Tourism Congress last year, and is adapting quickly to be a leader in the industry.

Flashy ad's, incentives, and medical tourism "companion packages" bring a lot of attention to foreign medical institutions and their spa and leisure counterparts. Medical tourism can bring, economic growth, prestige, international alliances, and good will. It also brings with it the big question of medical standards and medical spa accreditation. How will the exodus of foreign patients be cared for? The growth also stirs up some stark contrasts with high expenditures to attract medical tourists with glittering centers, and airport improvements compared with the lower public health care of its national people. For the sake of this article let's stick with the first question. Standards.

Patient Trust and Loyalty

A national call to action backed by the government interested in the accreditation is a great starting foundation and was the topic of my meeting with Massimo Manzi, the Chief of Staff for the Ministry of Competitiveness in Costa Rica. Working closely with the International Tourism Board we discussed the growth expectations in medical tourism and the need for accreditation standards for spa / medical spas.

International standards are demanded to effectively blend the cross over with increasing medical tourism and their partnered spa recovery centers. The spa has become the alluring softer side of medical tourism, and a huge part of its growth. The need, particularly in Costa Rica is in creating a strong local incentive, bringing in partnerships, and forming associations. Such as the Costa Rican Spa and Wellness Association, expected to launch this year. After all, the goal here is competitiveness, and ensuring the confidence of potential clients.

With most countries using their own methodology to ensure standards, where is the unification, and how far does accreditation go on a global level?

According to the Medical Tourism Association, their "Quality of Care" program is …