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The healthcare system and hospital facilities in the USA

Healthcare in the USA has always been a controversial subject, and this controversy has reached a peak in recent years with Barack Obama’s Healthcare reforms.

The USA has no state provided healthcare system. Each individual, or their employer, is expected to take out health insurance to pay for their care. There is assistance for the underprivileged and those on low incomes, called Medicaid, but this has proved to be a less than satisfactory system. The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Acts, finally pushed through the American legislature in 2010, have aimed to make healthcare available to all, and to help over 50 million Americans who don’t have, or can’t afford health insurance, to get the cover they need at a price they can afford.

Unlike most medical tourism destinations, where patients are attracted by low prices, private healthcare in the USA is relatively expensive, and when combined with the cost of travel and accommodation, may actually be considerably more expensive. This is why three quarters of a million Americans travel abroad for healthcare every year.

However, the USA can offer the medical tourist the cutting edge treatments that may not be available elsewhere. High quality training and investment produces world leaders in the fields of cardiovascular surgery, neurology and oncology, who are able to offer life saving treatments that make the costs worth every penny.

In a report by McKinsey & Co., it was found that of the 85,000 medical tourists that visited the USA in 2008, 40% were searching for the world’s most advanced technologies and 32% were seeking treatment that was unavailable in their home country, while just 9% were seeking treatment at a lower cost.

In the USA, the medical tourist can expect the very highest standards of care, equipment and facilities during their trip, with many clinics arranging everything from flights and accommodation to concierge services.

Since around 70% of American hospitals are not-for-profit organizations, medical tourism is seen by many as an important income stream, with the total market attracting an estimated $1billion in revenue from overseas patients every year. This in turn enhances their ‘bottom line’, allowing them to offer better services to the rest of their patients, especially those on lower incomes.

Doctor accreditation and qualification in the USA

The USA: Doctor accreditation

In the USA, doctors train at medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. Entry requires four years of undergraduate training beforehand, and candidates must pass a Medical College Admission Test. Only around 18,000 of 47,000 applicants are accepted each year.

The qualification of Medical Doctor (MD) takes at least four years, followed by at least one year’s internship before graduates are allowed to practice in the USA.

Further training of between three and eight years is then required in order to become Board Accredited in a specialist field.

Doctors in the USA are monitored by the American medical Association (AMA) the USA equivalent of the General Medical Council (GMC). Standards are exceptionally high but any medical tourist should make sure they have chosen a doctor and a medical centre they are comfortable with, before embarking on the journey to the USA.

The USA: Cosmetic surgeon accreditation

To qualify as a cosmetic surgeon requires significant training beyond the basic MD qualification. Membership of the leading body, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) requires at least six years of general surgery and a minimum of three years cosmetic and plastic surgery training (although these may be concurrent). Members of the ASPS are also required to maintain continuing education, including the latest patient safety developments, and must sign up to a strict code of medical and professional ethics.

The USA: Dentist accreditation

To become a licensed dentist in the USA, a dental health professional must start by studying at one of the 56 dental schools accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) and pass a series of written and practical examinations.

Entry to dental school requires at least 2 years of college level pre-dental education, although many require a full degree. Dental training then takes around 4 years before students graduate and are awarded the qualification of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and issued with an ADA license to practice.

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