One of the criticisms of buying services via the web is that you cannot always be sure with whom you are actually dealing. This is especially true in the field of health and medical tourism.
One of the criticisms of buying services via the web is that you cannot always be sure with whom you are actually dealing. This is especially true in the field of health and medical tourism. When you visit a site about medical tourism:
- How do you know who is behind the site?
- How can you tell what they actually know about health tourism and healthcare in general?
- How do you know if you can trust them?
- How do you know where the patient’s money is going?
Next month, I’m speaking at the Annual Conference of the European Healthcare Fraud & Corruption Network (EHFCN) in Edinburgh. The Conference theme is “Cross-Border Healthcare in Europe: A Gateway to Fraud and Corruption?”.
The European Healthcare Fraud & Corruption Network (EHFCN) is the only European organisation dedicated to combating fraud and corruption in the healthcare sector across Europe. The network represents 23 member associations in 10 countries, which provide healthcare services to millions of people in Europe.
According to EHFCN, “the healthcare sector appears to be particularly vulnerable to corruption. The large amounts of money involved and the complexities of many healthcare systems play a role as well as the fact that there are many processes with high risks of bribery”
And now it is turning its attention to health tourism.
As a web publishing company in the healthcare sector, it’s important that Treatment Abroad is transparent, and that when we’re publishing health advice on our various web sites, we ensure that the information is written by qualified medical professionals. We make sure that all of our sites go through the Health On the Net Foundation’s certification process. (I recommend that all healthcare sites go through this process.) And our company has a Medical Director to oversee what we do – Dr Nick Plowman from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
But in the world of medical tourism, is there a problem with lack of transparency and is there significant potential for fraud?
In researching my presentation for the EHFCN conference, I’ve taken a look at transparency in medical tourism. I did the usual Google searches and I came across Health-tourism.com for the first time: It states that is “a guide for medical tourism, bringing you reliable, objective and useful information that will help you plan your medical travel”.
While I was browsing the site, I came across this:
- Medical Tourism Transparency Award – “we have created the Medical Tourism Transparency Award. This is a badge awarded to websites of medical tourism providers whose website information meet the criteria below.”
Now, let’s be clear, the guys at Health-tourism.com may be decent and honest people, with the best interests of medical travelers at heart. But it was their “Medical Tourism Transparency Award” that caught my attention. Health-tourism.com says that “The purpose of this award is to encourage providers to supply necessary information on their web sites – making it easier for you to make an informed decision.
So, I put Health-tourism.com through a “Transparency Test”.
I looked all over the site….
- It says that it’s run by Find Global Care.I can’t tell who they are or what their qualifications are.
- In the lengthy disclaimer it says “the content on this website has not been reviewed or prepared by medical professionals.
- And it says that the “relationship between the visitor/user and FGC shall be governed by the laws of Cyprus”. Why Cyprus?
- I can’t find any names at all.
- I can’t find out who owns the site or the company.
- I can find an address – 1B, Pinetree Boulevard, Old Bridge, New Jersey.
I’m an inquisitive person…..
I did some digging for information on Find Global Care. But all I could find… was another web site – half built at www.findglobalcare.com and an entry on WikiCompany with no information on the company ownership.
So I thought I’d pay a visit to 1 Pine Tree Blvd, Old Bridge, NJ 08857, USA using Google Maps Streetview. (Isn’t the web a wonderful thing?). I’m not an expert on US arrchitecture but judging by the Real Estate sigh outside and the building, this looks like an apartment building. But who lives there? And who’s behind the business? And what does he or she know about health tourism?
Next, I checked out the domain name. It’s registered to Udi Shomer from Illinois. Perhaps he’s behind the business? Who is he? I don’t know. But it’s not a common name, and the web may have some info on him?
There’s only ten results for a search for “Udi Shomer” on Google. (Hey, that’s close to being a Googlewhack!). Let’s take a look at the Udi Shomers on the web:
- There’s an Udi Shomer who has an entry in the Lonely Planet guide to Thailand.
- There’s a listing page for Tai Chi in Thailand.
- And there’s a few references in Israeli job sites (I think).
- And that’s it.
There’s a clear message here for medical tourists who use the web to research healthcare services.
- Look (very carefully) before you leap.!
And if anyone knows who runs Health-tourism.com, ask them to get in touch, so that I can fill in the gaps.