An article published on May 16 in Part B News, “Prepare and monitor: Take extra steps when the patient’s a medical tourist,” discussed issues that U.S. medical practices can face when a patient receives medical treatment abroad. The medical tourism industry has been growing rapidly, led by a demand for cosmetic surgery (among other types of procedures) and generally lower costs of procedures overseas. Rivkin Radler’s Eric Fader was quoted in the article.

Eric recommended that a practice review with the patient all of the CDC’s guidelines, especially regarding immunizations. “These days, with COVID on top of other tropical diseases, it’s a whole new level of complexity compared to what it was before the pandemic,” he said. Eric also recommended that the patient ensure beforehand that the foreign facility is accredited by Joint Commission International.

If a patient has a visit with his or her U.S. physician after having already undergone a procedure offshore, “the situation puts more of a burden on the physician to gather as many facts as possible and turns the appointment into a much more complicated encounter,” Eric said. But if an unforeseen problem arises that the U.S. provider fails to detect, he or she may not be liable. “If the physician came across a patient on the street who had some unknown problems and tried to help them, then Good Samaritan laws would protect that physician,” Eric observed. “So if the patient shows up in the doctor’s office with potentially unknown and unexpected issues [from medical tourism], if the patient were to later bring a malpractice suit, the law would have to take into account that the provider was dealt a tough hand.”

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