Is certification about quality, or just owning a printer?

A new industry is developing around the business of medical tourism. It’s the certification business. You need an impressive sounding name, a web site, a decent laser printer (and a good relationship with a certificate framing service!).

A new industry is developing around the business of medical tourism. It’s the certification business. You need an impressive sounding name, a web site, a decent laser printer (and a good relationship with a certificate framing service!).
There’s a plethora of “get rich quick” certifications which are appearing around medical tourism. They are quick and easy to obtain. Through a half or one day seminar or an online course, the certifier usually promises that you will attract more international patients, give your organization a competitive edge, increase the safety of patients and even reduce your organization’s liability etc etc.
What’s not to be liked?

The hotbed of certification

The USA is the hotbed of certification. The US based Medical Tourism Association and its related entities is on a certification roll. Did you know that you can now become:

  • A Certified International Patient Specialist™
  • A Certified Medical Tourism Professional™
  • A Medical Tourism Marketing Professional™
  • A Certified Medical Tourism Hospitality Specialist ™
  • A Certified Medical Travel Hospitality Specialist ™
  • A Certified Health Tourism Specialist ™
    Sounds impressive! Not only can you collect a multitude of “qualifications” through the MTA, but through the other “non profit associations” operated by the MTA’s founders you can also sign up to become:
  • A Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist®
  • A Certified Wellness Provider®
    …through the “Corporate Health & Wellness Association”:
  • A Self Insurance Certified Specialist®
  • A Self Insurance Certified Professional™
    …through the “The Self Funding Association”:
  • A Certified Voluntary Benefits Specialist®
  • A Certified Voluntary Benefits Professional™
    …through the “The Voluntary Benefits Association”:

A Certified Healthcare Reform Associate®
A Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist™
A Certified Healthcare Reform Professional®
…through the “Health Care Reform Center and Policy Institute”

Thankfully, the “Global Benefits Association” hasn’t got around to certifying anyone yet, but no doubt the certifications are on the way!

Is it worth the paper it’s printed on?

The marketing “blurb” for this host of certifications follows a common template. A specialist “exam” consists of 100 multiple choice questions. The cost is usually around $1,000 to $1,500. There’s no information about who delivers the programmes and their experience and qualifications.
If you take the Certified Medical Tourism SpecialistTM certification, your $1,500 investment will buy you a training seminar at a conference or an online course. Score 75% in the online test and you can then “Demonstrate to employers, healthcare providers, insurers and other industry peers that you possess the training, knowledge, and understand best practices in medical tourism and international patient services”.
If only medical tourism were that easy or straightforward.
The certification is tied into a load of marketing and promotional stuff. You get a one page ad in a magazine, a two year membership of an association, a discount off a related conference and so on.
Hmmm…. Can anyone seriously believe that this is about educating the medical tourism community and raising standards? Will this really increase the marketability of the providers and facilitators? Will this actually deliver a safer and better patient experience?
Or is it about making money?

In a gold rush, the saloon owners make the money

Back in 2010, I wrote about “Medical tourism…lessons from the California gold”. I made the point that in a gold rush industry, it is not necessarily the prospectors who make the money. It is the saloon owners (and brothel keepers!) who keep the prospectors entertained, and the entrepreneurs and store owners who sell the supplies and the shovels that make a healthy profit.
In a gold rush
there are always people who are happy to sell you a map of where the gold is to be found.
And so it has become with certification in medical tourism. “I’ll sell you a certificate and this will bring you medical tourism gold”.
Worth the paper they are printed on? I’ll let you decide.

Related links

Medical tourism…lessons from the California gold rush

Previous articleLebanon seeks to grow tourism through medical tourism
Next articleEuropean Care rebrands following acquisition
Keith Pollard
As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.