Challenges and opportunities in the care of international patients: clinical and health services issues for academic medical centers

Acad Med. 2006 Feb;81(2):189-92. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200602000-00016.


International visitors who travel to the United States for the express purpose of receiving medical care constitute a small, but unique and important, subset of patients in this country. These visitors have traditionally sought care at what are widely regarded as the premier U.S. academic medical centers. Their care may prove challenging due to logistical, medical, language, and cross-cultural issues, and has the potential to distract from the educational and research missions of these medical centers. The author reflects on how one academic medical center, the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, has experienced and responded to these challenges. Specific issues include scheduling and evaluation challenges, language and cultural differences, and arranging continuity care. The author concludes that when an institution invests the resources necessary to address these issues, and enlists physicians stimulated by this challenging group of patients, the arrangement is mutually beneficial to the international patients and the institution. Scholarly evaluation of this phenomenon has been virtually nonexistent, due to both the unique niche occupied by these programs and institutional competition for this group of patients. However, collaborative evaluation of international patient programs will provide the opportunity to assess similarities, differences, and effectiveness, benefiting both those providing and those receiving care by improving the appropriateness and quality of care.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Baltimore
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Hospital-Patient Relations
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Travel*
  • United States