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Need a knee replacement, but don't have any health insurance? If you're considering surgery outside the U.S. to save money, you could also come away with a new electronic personal health record, in addition to a new knee.
A new pact between Microsoft and Bumrungrad International Hospital has the Bangkok, Thailand hospital rolling out Microsoft HealthVault personal e-health records next year for patients who live locally as well as for "medical travelers" who venture overseas for care.
With HealthVault, international patients who receive treatment at Bumrungrad will be able to access and share their medical records via the Web once they're back home, promoting continuity of care. The records are available free to Bumrungrad's approximately 420,000 international patients as well as to those living locally.
Bumrungrad has 1.5 million patients, and about 45,000 of those annually are Americans who travel to Thailand for healthcare services that are too expensive in the U.S., or aren't readily available to them if they're living outside the U.S. as expatriates.
About 15,000 of the American patients who get care from Bumrungrad live inside the U.S., and the rest come from about 190 other countries throughout Asia and elsewhere, said Curtis Schroeder, CEO of Bumrungrad International Hospital in an InformationWeek interview.
"Americans are coming to Bumrungrad for different reasons, but for many its price and being among the millions of uninsured" in the U.S., Schroeder says.
Other patients who travel to Bumrungrad from other parts of the world including Europe, often do so because of long waits for care in their countries, or lack of healthcare access in developing nations.
On average, healthcare services provided by Bumrungrad cost about one-eighth as much they cost in the U.S, said Schroeder.
For instance, a hip replacement surgery that costs between $50,000 and $60,000 in the U.S. costs about $4,000 to $5,000 at Bumrungrad, he explained. While prices are lower, quality of care is high at the hospital, he said. Bumrungrad has accreditation from various U.S. associations, including the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
"Medical tourism isn't new, it's only new to Americans," said Schroeder. Still, with tens of thousands of Americans already traveling to Bumrungrad, it's not an alien idea to all.
From Microsoft's perspective, the push to e-personal health records is happening globally, not just in the U.S.
"From Boston to Brussels, the conversation is the same," said Nate McLemore, general manager, Microsoft Health Solutions Group. "Continuity of care, engagement of the patient -- those are issues everyone is talking about," he said.
Microsoft expects in coming months to sign additional international healthcare providers who will be using its HealthVault, and other health IT products and services, including its hospital information system, Amalga, said McLemore. Bumrungrad has also been using Amalga for several years, said Schroeder.
Last May, Microsoft signed an exclusive hosting deal with telecommunication services provider Telus to provide Canadian consumers with access to HealthVault e-health records.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on e-health and the federal stimulus package. Download the report here (registration required).