Author: John H. Armstrong, M.D., FACS
Florida is a state with remarkable vitality, forged by opportunity, innovation and hospitality. Medical tourism is a natural fit, and Florida is serious about becoming a global destination for patients and health-seekers. Florida’s official Medical Tourism Program launched in 2014 as Discover Florida Health (www.DiscoverFloridaHealth.com).
We are already seeing momentum grow across the state. In 2014, the Florida legislature funded a statewide medical tourism program, through which VISIT FLORIDA has awarded grants in a competitive review process. Grant proposals were in two categories: healthcare/wellness and medical meetings. More than $3 million was awarded across 25 grant recipients including hospitals, health foundations, and visitor and convention bureaus.
The Florida Department of Health is driving the vision for Florida to become the healthiest state in the nation. This vision supports medical tourism, which not only helps patients receive quality healthcare in an environment of hospitality, but enriches community health as well. The Department promotes quality, safe patient care for our residents and visitors.
Demonstrating Excellence in Patient Care, Florida is focused on helping people live longer and with the quality of life they desire. We look at our annual vital statistics report to measure progress toward these goals: currently at 79.2 years, Florida’s life expectancy is reaching historic highs and remains higher than the U.S. average. To extend life, we are advancing programs that reduce the top causes of death, such as cancer.
Florida Embraces Medical Tourism
Governor Rick Scott and the Florida legislature have recognized the tremendous potential for accelerating cancer care and research by investing in Florida’s premier cancer centers. To help Florida cancer centers sustain and achieve the National Cancer Institute designation, 60 million was budgeted annually in 2014 and 2015. There are only 68 NCI-designated cancer centers in 35 states, and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa has achieved such status. The NCI program is a pillar of the nation’s cancer research effort, and Florida aims to move state-of-the-art research findings to bedside patient care as quickly as possible.
In 2013, Florida created the state-designated Cancer Centers of Excellence program. To receive this three-year award, organizations must complete a rigorous application and site visit process, through which they demonstrate commitment to excellence in patient-centered and coordinated cancer care. Distinct metrics include quality outcomes, evidence-based care, and patient and family education. In 2015, the first four recipients were announced: Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic Florida, the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Florida’s Health Cancer Center, which includes the University of Florida Health Shands Cancer Hospital in Gainesville, the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville and Orlando Health’s Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Keeping Patients Safe
Patients deserve to know that the healthcare professionals who care for them have met all the requirements for their areas of expertise, to include appropriate training, as demonstrated by an active and clear license to practice their profession.
The health professions in Florida are governed by 22 boards that ensure practice to the highest standards. The Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) Division oversees more than 200 license types in more than 40 healthcare professions for more than 1 million healthcare professionals. MQA evaluates the credentials of all applicants for licensure; issue licenses and investigate practice complaints. Further, MQA promotes accountability and transparency by providing information and discipline history for healthcare professionals to the public (www.flhealthsource.gov).
The department’s Unlicensed Activity Program protects Florida’s residents and visitors from the serious consequences of receiving healthcare services from an unlicensed individual. This program works closely with law enforcement to prosecute individuals practicing without a license. Patient safety is our priority.
Welcome to Sunshine State
By combining the best in patient and wellness care with extraordinary hospitality, Florida is poised to become a leader in medical tourism. We offer a diversity of care locations to suit every taste and a system of quality assurance so that the care experience is remarkable. By working together with a variety of state and community partners, the Florida Department of Health protects, promotes and improves the health of all people in Florida, residents and visitors alike.
About the Author:
John H. Armstrong, M.D., FACS was appointed by Gov. Scott as Surgeon General and Secretary of Health for the State of Florida in 2012. He was chief medical officer of the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation; surgical director of the USF Health American College of Surgeons Accredited Education Institute; and associate professor of Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, in Tampa, FL.