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We recently interviewed one of our professionals, Dr. Jim Dudl, about his thoughts and assessments on a wide range of topics from medical tourism in Costa Rica to wellness in general. This interview is the first in a series.
Q: Dr. Dudl please tell us about yourself and your background at Kaiser Permanente.
A: At the present time, I am the Consultant for Diabetes for the 600,000 diabetic members at Kaiser Permanente national.
Q: How large is Kaiser Permanente today in terms of number of patients?
A: It’s about 8 million patients, 13 regions with multiple hospitals and clinics.
Q: Do you know how many doctors work at Kaiser today?
A: I presume about 2,000-3,000.
Q: Ok. Tell us about your recent visit to Costa Rica and the Costa Rican medical system.
A: The Costa Rica medical tourism is an interesting opportunity for people in the United States who may wish to come to a beautiful place and at the same time have some health care needs enhanced or met. In Costa Rica, they have setup a system whereby they can do many other things that are in demand in the United States but sometimes that insurance does not cover or for people who don’t have insurance.
Q: What was your first impression when you visited the medical facilities in Costa Rica?
A: Well, it was very positive. I think, when people are talking about doing a medical procedure on their body in a foreign country, there are several things they need to consider. But the most important first thing is safety. It is your life and you want to be sure that this place is as safe as the United States.
Q: When we say this place, tell us what places in Costa Rica you went to visit?
A: Well, we visited two hospitals in San Jose, one called Clinica Biblica and the other Cima. And the proof that these places are as safe as the United States is quite evident because they have been inspected by the same group that inspects the US hospitals. In the United States, if you do not pass the Joint Commission Evaluation, you will be shut down and if you do pass, you are accredited in the US.
Q: What is this test? Is it annual? How vigorous is it? Tell us a little bit about Joint Commission International and what it means to have this accreditation.
A: It is usually done every two years in the hospital. It is a 3-day ordeal where they probe absolutely everything. They go over your statistics. What are your deaths? What are your success rates? What are your infection rates? What outcomes do you have? And they compare them with all the other hospitals in the US. They go through your facility, they look at it, they ensure that its clean, that it is meeting standards, the drugs are not out of date, the equipment all works. It is done in a minute fashion to looking at detail. The good thing about these two hospitals that we visited, is they are Joint Commission International approved which means all those same rigorous criteria were met by these two hospitals.
Q: And then when you went through these hospitals, and you got the sense, first of all, by knowing that they were joint approved. What were your other impressions that you received from the hospitals that you thought were memorable and worth mentioning?
A: Firstly, of course, safety is just a baseline. Quality is a key. If you are going there to have something done on your body, you want to be sure you have a high quality outcome. The other thing that I was impressed with was their quality statistics. They are again as good as the US. If you are having a plastic surgery, look at the picture, you can see how good they do, if you are having eye surgery, orthopedic surgery, gastric, bariatric surgery, all of those, the outcomes are equal to the US. So the second piece that was important was that they are equal in quality, not just safety. Then the third, which is something that we really value when we are a patient in the hospital, is the service. These places were not crowded, they were clean, the people were pleasant. They treated you very well and I must say, I think actually at a level beyond what I see in a usual hospital in the US.
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