Caroline Ratner spoke to Dr David Kalin of the International Board of Medicine and Surgery. The IBMS is an organisation that certifies physicians, surgeons, dentists and other healthcare professionals in the global healthcare community. The IBMS validates membership with documentation of licensure, specialty certification, hospital affiliation (if applicable) of doctors from all over the world. It aims to complement the accreditation of healthcare facilities undertaken by organisations such as Joint Commission International, QHA Trent, TEMOS and and provide medical travellers with a system that helps them make informed decisions when deciding on treatment abroad.
When did you start the IBMS and how long has it been established?
I started it in 2002, and have been developing the IBMS for the last eight years. Recently we have been growing exponentially and we have had more attention in the last three to six months than in the last eight years put together. We are finding that we are getting more and more traction as the medical travel environment heats up. We are now being sent credentials from all over the world and in addition to accrediting healthcare professionals we are beginning to affiliate with centres of healthcare excellence too.
Why did you start the IBMS?
As part of my job as a physician in Florida I used to evaluate and supervise professional tattoo and make up artists who are required by law to be supervised, evaluated and assessed by a physician. I developed a system of evaluation criteria and as a result of this system the State of Florida started sending me people. I developed a very good reputation within Florida and it led me to think, after having a personal experience of medical travel I thought that maybe I could apply this system to physicians around the world. I realised that I could create something that will help these doctors, surgeons and dentists all over the world establish themselves and gain a profile in the international medical community and also facilitate the public who are researching medical travel options to find out about surgeons, doctors and dentists overseas who had been independently assessed and certified as being at a certain level of medical competence and safety.
What makes you different from the other medical travel websites?
We’re not competing with medical tourism companies, and other accreditation companies. Our goal is to give the public clear and independent information about doctors, dentists and surgeons throughout the world. Our goal is to create transparency of information, visibility and establish someone’s credibility and enable people to find out about them. We are also not in competition with facilitators or travel agents. We only provide information about the standards and qualification of the doctors that ask to be certified by us.
What standards do you use to evaluate and judge standards of doctors?
It took a while to figure it out how to evaluate doctors around the world because every country has its own standards. We looked initially at what the lowest standards acceptable were and then subsequently we established higher levels. When we started we got a lot of flack and were told that standards were too low, but we had to get started somewhere and we needed to establish a baseline. Now we have a graded system from the lowest level, where a doctor is deemed minimally safe to the highest level which includes some of the most renowned doctors in the world.
Initially doctors sent a set of credentials on themselves and on hospital staff. At first there was only one set of standards on how we judged and evaluated those applying for accreditation. However, as we developed our board of advisors, which is comprised of leading doctors and figures in the world of medical tourism we have created a more dynamic and sophisticated system of evaluation that takes into consideration the fact that there are differing levels of ability and expertise in the world and this needed to be reflected in the accreditation we were awarding. We created a five tier system with different criteria for inclusion. This has to do with third party verification; notarising documents rather than just sending them by email and so on (full details on the IBMS website). At first we created two lower levels and made another level blue/grey level and then we made a gold level, a gold standard – something that people would expect. This gold standard demonstrates that doctors have financial indemnification if complications arise if patients return to their home country. This is one of the issues that keeps coming up, people are concerned about possible complications and our various levels establish what responsibility and indemnification doctors have in the case of something going wrong at any time, before, during or after treatment.
You mentioned that hospitals and clinics are also becoming affiliated to the IBMS - how will having IBMS accreditation help their medical tourism businesses?
As increasing numbers of international hospitals and clinics promote themselves to medical tourists we are hoping that they will want to affiliate themselves with us because their doctors want to be classified with us. We hope that the hospitals will feel it is important to have doctor’s members of IBMS and that they will realise that affiliating with the IBMS will enhance their profile.
What is the highest standard of classification for a doctor, dentist or surgeon?
This is the Emerald standard, and it will only be awarded to a doctor with an impeccable worldwide reputation, a Christian Barnard for example. It will only be awarded to a doctor who has an established safety and efficacy record. It’s not defined, it’s a decision that is taken by the advisory board and a wide range of factors are taken into consideration. We hope that by demonstrating these five levels that it will give people a desire to reach the highest levels.
Why have you chosen to differentiate between doctors? Doesn’t everyone want to see the best doctor in their field?
Some people don’t want or need to have to have the best, and yes some want the crème de la crème. Actually not everyone wants or needs the best doctor; some people just want to know there’s a basic level of safety. They want to know that a doctor can safely and capably perform a routine procedure or operation. We try to accommodate everyone. We absolutely encourage professionals to join at all levels so everyone is represented. I’m looking for safe doctors, who are legitimate in their country. We want to doctors and hospitals to put onus of proof why they are better than anyone else.
Do you help medical travellers to find doctors?
No, we provide information about doctors but we don’t promise we’ve got a doctor for you, we’re not a home care agency or a facilitator. We run a professional online web registry, open to the public, and see ourselves as another tool that people can use to get more confidence making informed choices when opting to travel for treatment abroad.
How do the general public find out about you?
We have 25 domain names so when people search for doctors it helps them find us, we have a number of websites that are just getting going and on them we promote the people who are in our membership. We work with affiliated members and health travel companies and hospitals and clinics but we don’t certify like JCI, but if we accredit your doctors then you can use our logo or seal on your marketing material and website but an affiliated centre of healthcare does not mean that all doctors are affiliated or have certification. We also have affiliated healthcare travel associates and facilitators and we have contracted out with our affiliate sites that they should promote these other places. We want to help people in the medical travel industry, and if they have a certification from JCI, MTA or QHA we will list them on our affiliated travel associations but we don’t certify them or assess them.
What are your goals for the IMBS?
One of our goals is to establish cooperation throughout the industry and we are concerned with establishing certain standards in the industry such as good translation services, the transfer of patient records back and forth, and the importance of pre and post medical care. We want to not only be able to exchange information within the industry and to the public but we want to be able to be part of pressure and creating guidelines that establish the ideas that you have to get information out in the industry clearly and consistently. We want to encourage cooperation throughout the industry.
We are also currently trying to work with third party verification organisations where you can check a doctor’s qualifications.
We also want to list all professional organisations. There are two categories; the first is a complimentary listing available for anyone that provides us with a name, their country, speciality and email address. This is open to doctors, surgeons, dentists, hospitals, facilitators, alternative health or industry professionals, insurance companies and hospitals creators and they can all be listed on our site for free.
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