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“You’re Dealing with an Emotionally Charged Individual…”: An Industry Perspective on the Challenges Posed by Medical Tourists’ Informal Caregiver-Companions

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Background:Patients engage in medical tourism when they privately obtain a medical care abroad. Previousresearch shows that many medical tourists travel abroad with friends and family members who provide supportand assistance. Meanwhile, very little is known about this important stakeholder group, referred to here ascaregiver-companions. In this article we examine the challenges that can be posed by caregiver-companions andthe overall practice of informal caregiving in medical tourism from an industry perspective. Specifically, we reporton the findings of interviews conducted with international patient coordinators (IPCs) who work at destinationfacilities. IPCs come into regular contact with caregiver-companions in their professional positions and thus areideally suited to comment on trends they have observed among this stakeholder group as well as the challengesthey can pose to medical tourists, health workers, and facilities.Methods:We conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with 21 IPCs from 16 different facilities across ninecountries. Topics probed in the interviews included caregiver-companion roles, IPCs’and others’interaction withcaregiver-companions, and potential health and safety risks posed to medical tourists and caregiver-companions.Thematic analysis of the verbatim transcripts was employed.Results:Although most participants encouraged medical tourists to travel with a caregiver-companion, manychallenges associated with caregiver-companions were identified. Three themes best characterize the challengesthat emerged: (1) caregiver-companions require time, attention and resources; (2) caregiver-companions candisrupt the provision of quality care; and (3) caregiver-companions can be exposed to risks. IPCs pointed out thatcaregiver-companions may, for example, have a negative impact on the patient through cost of accompanimentor inadequate care provision. Caregiver-companions may also create unanticipated or extra work for IPCs, asadditional clients and by ignoring established organizational rules, routines, and expectations. Furthermore,caregiver-companions may be susceptible to stresses and health and safety risks, which would further deterioratetheir own abilities to offer the patient quality care.Conclusions:Although caregiver-companions can pose challenges to medical tourists, health workers, and medicaltourism facilities, they can also assist in enhancing best care and offering meaningful support to medical tourists. Ifcaregiver-companions are open to collaboration with IPCs, and particularly in the form of information sharing, thentheir experience abroad can be safer and less stressful for themselves and, by extension, for the accompaniedpatients and facility staff.
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et al. Globalization and Health
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Globalization and Health
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“You’re Dealing with an Emotionally Charged Individual…”: An Industry Perspective on the Challenges Posed by Medical Tourists’ Informal Caregiver-Companions
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