U.S. Network Adds Three Global Hospitals

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders Media, August 15, 2008

South Carolina-based Companion Global Healthcare expanded its international network this week by adding three new international hospitals. Inking the two separate deals—with International Hospital Corp., of Dallas, and India's Wockhardt Hospitals Group—allows Companion's American clients a wider choice for elective surgery and other medical procedures at Joint Commission International-accredited hospitals.

The addition of Hospital CIMA San José in Costa Rica, and two Wockhardt hospitals in Mumbai and Bangalore is yet another step in the maturation of the medical travel industry. Now Companion's individual and employer-sponsored clients, as well as more than one million members of Blue Cross Blue Shield and BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina, can access care at these facilities at preferred network rates.

"International patients have experienced at Wockhardt Hospitals excellent clinical outcomes in an environment of personalized care, which is highly affordable," says Vishal Bali, CEO of Wockhardt Hospitals Group. "Companion Global Healthcare has empanelled our JCI-accredited facilities for elective care of its insured members after an extensive quality survey. This truly is an example of how globalization of healthcare is providing both insured and uninsured people the choice of affordable centers of excellence across the globe as their treatment destinations."

CIMA's CEO, Carole Veloso, points out that the full-service hospital employs English-speaking clinical staff, and Costa Rica is a relatively short flight from the U.S.

Since its start-up in 2007, Companion Global Healthcare continues to develop its hospital network, which now stands at 10 hospitals. Companion President David Boucher says that when the entire network is completed, Companion will probably have about 20 international hospitals. The firm is trying to be both deliberate and diverse as it includes hospitals that meet the various needs of potential medical travelers. With this in mind, Boucher is trying to add hospitals that are high in value and quality.

Gary Wood, Ph.D., International Hospital Corp.'s chairman and CEO, says the agreement with Companion bolsters his system's reputation of delivering high-quality patient care. "For the past 12 years, we have provided a U.S. standard of care to hundreds of thousands of patients in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico, and helped build the private acute care hospital industry in Latin America," he says.

The deals Companion is making today could pay dividends in the near future as U.S. employers and insurers consider creating medical travel options that share cost savings with individual members. In a recently released study, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions predicts explosive growth that could reach 6 million outbound medical travelers by 2010.

Rick Johnson is senior online editor of HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at rjohnson@healthleadersmedia.com.
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