Is globalization the next step of healthcare?
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INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER – MAY 2015 VOLUME 47 : NUMBER 5
BY TARUN MAHUN LAL
Industrial Engineers and Their Tools Could Help Drive A Positive Trend
There is a clearly a problem. The combination of a inability to provide access to care for patients at the right time, high costs, and low quality requires a disruption a innovation to address these concerns. Fortunately, improvements in technology and communications systems combines with inexpensive modes of travel could, perhaps, support this disruption. This advance bring us to the question of whether the time is ripe for globalization of healthcare services.
Globalization refers to the act of investing into market internationally, beyond national and domestic locations, to establish business, thereby increasing interconnectedness across the globe. As you can imagine, globalization can be controversial, as on one end it offers advantages in creating jobs and opportunities for developing countries. On the flip side, globalization can be perceived as a means to exploit underdeveloped nations. On account of this and several other factors related to differences in policies and procedures in different nations, globalization across industries has been disparate.
Healthcare is one of the last industries to adopt globalization and is in the slow starting stages. Why? The short answer is that healthcare involves complications far beyond the difficulties of moving a product to another. There are a few interesting examples of successful attempts at directly or indirectly globalizing healthcare industry:
- Multiple facets of the healthcare system have been subjected to globalization through associated industries like medical equipment manufacturing and drug production.
- Administrative healthcare services such as transcription and billing have been outsourced to other countries for a long time.
- Radiology is another service that has been outsourced or centralized to reap the off-time benefits.
- Medical tourism is one of the most important steps in the globalization of healthcare delivery.
- A medical tourism has existed in cases where individuals traveled to other countries to get care for two reasons: the care was unavailable in their home country or the care in their home country wasn’t considered of good quality.
From the examples above, clearly there can be an incredible benefit to globalization in healthcare, particularly with ideas like medical tourism.
With that background on globalization and its opportunity in healthcare, what can industrial engineering tools provide to explore and support this disruption for better patient care? Here are a few ideas to ponder. First, can we help answer the question relating to the demand capacity implications of medical tourism? if U.S. medical expenditures are expected to be nearly 20% of gross domestic product by 2019, can medical tourism and other types of globalization drastically reduce the demand for these service in the United States? And would such a demand increase in developing countries create shortages for that country’s own residents? We can use industrial engineering tools to measure and develop policies to avoid such situations.
Another interesting area to explore using industrial engineering tools would be the impact on supply chain. Healthcare has number of supporting industries like pharmaceuticals, equipment manufacturers and the makers of medical implants. Industrial engineering tools could conceivably design big data marts that will help identify and share best practice across the world. There are a tons of others that IEs can offer as healthcare moves into the arena of globalization.
Healthcare needs a change, and globalization is one of the many possible opportunities. For globalization to provide maximum benefit to all stakeholders, federal, state, and provincial polices in all nations will need relaxed to encouraged the concept of medical tourism by including such options in preferred providers. IEs can make difference and validate this currently hypothetical concept of globalization through extensive analysis. This adds another set of applications to the million reasons that already exist for IEs to enter healthcare.