Will medical tourism drive domestic doctors out of business?

Will American physicians go the way of the Big Three automakers?

Insurance companies are subtly pushing their members towards having their surgeries performed in countries like India or Thailand, in exchange for substantial cost savings at hospitals that are comparable in quality to those in the United States.

Also on another note, many hospitals are using so-called “nighthawk” radiologists from India to interpret many of their radiology studies, again with significant cost savings.

Domestic doctors, predictably, are not happy with this move. Hospitalist Robert Wachter writes that the presence of foreign competition is akin to the threat that the Big Three automakers face from Japanese companies. Will doctors Stateside innovate to keep up with the international competition?

Thus far, their response smacks of protectionism. When a group of surgeons were asked whether they would care for complications from a surgery performed overseas, the response was a decided “no.”

As always, Dr. Wachter brings up good points, saying that the status quo cannot continue. Rather than exhibiting hostility, American doctors would be well served to provide the necessary improvements in patient satisfaction and cost savings to meet the foreign challenge.