FA Project

Globalization of Healthcare

Can you even imagine the amount of progress that has happened with technology during the last 100 years? From the invention of the airplane, invention of washers and other appliances, and the internet, technology has soared and outdone itself at least 20 times over. Of all of these new technologies, the internet has become very vital in today’s world for simpler purposes like making a standard Google search to more important purposes of creating new jobs, allowing easy flows of information between people, and opening up a world of new possibilities. In this world of possibilities became access to healthcare and healthcare services online. A simple google search about a health concern can be accessed and there are sure to be a WebMD or other popular sources to answer your medical concerns. While there are many benefits of this, there are also challenges, too. Before we understand exactly these benefits and challenges, it is important to look at how healthcare has globalized.

            What is globalization? According to Mittelman et. al, globalization is “the increasing transnational circulation of money, goods, people, ideas, and information worldwide” (Mittelman and Hanaway 5). While globalization has been around for centuries, the idea of globalizing healthcare is not as new as you would think. Early in the 7thcentury, the founder of the Tibetan Empire, King Songsten Gampo, held the first international medical conference and invited doctors from many other countries to attend and bring medical texts to translate (5). People have wanted to share information from the dawn of time and Gampo started this trend with healthcare. His predecessor, King Trisong-Detson, organized the second conference in the 8thcentury again inviting similar countries’ doctors to attend (5). These conferences were the first leap to spread knowledge about healthcare became so important. All information from these conferences was condensed and translated into a book, Gyu-zhi or “The Four Medical Tantras”, becoming the foundation for what is now Tibetan Buddhist medicine (5). These books and information from the beginning of globalization “are now in cyberspace, only a click away” (6). While healthcare efforts have come a long way since these first medical conferences, it is so important to see where it all began and how it has changed our world today.

            Globalization of healthcare is not only important for the United States to spread its advances to other parts of the world, but for the U. S. to also learn from other types of medical advances in other countries. There are many different types of medicine separate from what Americans consider medicine such as Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine, Ayurveda from India, and many more although some of these types are not regulated (6). In fact, only 61% of Africa’s healthcare systems of healthcare are legal (6). Therefore, American traditions and other regulated traditions of medicine could be vital and important to African societies and other nonregulated medical systems in the world showing why globalization of healthcare is important. With that being said, some non-Western systems should be taken into account in America’s medical regulations. Non-western practices tend to be “holistic…[and] connect patients’ physical systems with all other dimensions in their lives” (6). This viewpoint helps healthcare providers see why it is not all black and white and that there are other elements that come into diagnoses and how to treat individuals. It is so important for countries to collaborate and introduce methods and ideas to others to make it globalized and readily available for all people.

            Most if not all readers of this text can relate to readily available healthcare, but that is not the case in all countries like was discussed above. While most people are open to this become a worldwide phenomenon there are challenges, leaps, and bounds to make it through before we start seeing a world with globalized healthcare how most people intend it to be. There is currently a “discrepancy between the healthcare that is currently available and the expectation for quality, access, and timeliness” in most countries (Schroth et. al 22). It is currently in the works for planning for better healthcare by countries that realize the gap between what their citizens are receiving and what they could be receiving (22). 

            There are many factors that go into why it is challenging to make healthcare globalized and the first big factor is validating the quality of services worldwide. There have been “no international standards…set that [Western countries] may use to compare institutions” and their quality of service they are providing consumers (24). It’s definitely not hard to just pick and set a standard, but it is hard when many different countries come into the decision-making process of what should be the standard. Many factors come into validating quality such as accreditation, health care quality indicators, patient safety initiatives, and information technology (25). These are all possible factors to one day fulfill and have in all countries and some of these factors exist, but is definitely something to work towards for the future. Some ways to fulfill this idea of spreading knowledge is through sending American doctors to other countries to give medical programs and demonstrate surgical techniques and practices (26). Although this has been and can be helpful, “these services have decreased as the Internet has provided access to online continuing medical education” (26). Again, the internet has served as a method to increase and spread knowledge in ways we did not even think were possible at one time. Another way to fulfill the spread of knowledge and help those in developing countries is telemedicine. Telemedicine has changed due to improvements in video conferencing allowing healthcare providers to telecast and share this information with doctors in other countries or directly to patients (27). The internet and willingness to spread information has led to helpful medical access, but there are many further initiatives that need to be taken to make it accessible to all consumers and insure appropriate and necessary care.

            What can be reformed or changed to create healthcare availability for all countries? While it can easily get political and there are many opinions, it does vary. According to Joshua Reading, there is a “current lack of government involvement in healthcare” (Reading 381). This author believes that the government is a key to making healthcare accessible. He also believes that the government itself needs to expand money going into programs that help make it accessible (381). It involves expanding these medical programs and adding more of them as well as a greater regulation of what is provided and the quality it must uphold (381). While those reasons can certainly affect countries within themselves and to expand to others, there are two key ways that will ultimately globalize healthcare. The first being to create incentives for international providers to collaborate (381). Who would not collaborate if given a positive reason to work together? The second element is improved communication and cooperation between international communities and governments (381). Communication is key and that is what will make healthcare more accessible.

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