Caring for International Patients at Cedars-Sinai
Oct 25, 2021 Jasmine Aimaq
"I always tell international patients that I will be their family while they are at Cedars-Sinai, no matter how long it takes."
Cedars-Sinai sees a lot of patients from abroad. What are the main reasons they come to us?
Donna Bias: Whether they're coming from Guam, Mexico or Saudi Arabia, our international patients often have good medical care where they live, but suddenly find themselves facing a problem that requires another level of expertise, equipment and facilities.
Sometimes, doctors refer patients to confirm a diagnosis using tests that aren't available locally. Another common reason is that someone needs specialized surgery. That can happen when a condition is rare or complex or would benefit from new technology or exceptional skill.
An international patient may also want to come to Cedars-Sinai to take part in a study or clinical trial, which gives them access to emerging treatments that aren't available elsewhere. With more than 500 trials and 2,000 research projects underway, we can offer a level of groundbreaking care that most places cannot.
How do they find us?
DB: They'll often be referred by their doctor. Because we are ranked nationally in 11 specialties by U.S. News & World Report and are ranked #6 overall, Cedars-Sinai is highly respected by medical professionals around the world.
Sometimes, patients will ask to be sent to Cedars-Sinai after doing online searches for specific specialties, or they may have a friend or relative who raves about the care they got here.
Cedars-Sinai has always believed that quality care should be accessible to everyone. That's part of our foundational values. To that end, we've increased our collaborative efforts with health systems abroad in recent years, and our name is well-known in many places.
Traveling for healthcare must be stressful for patients. What does Cedars-Sinai do to make it easier?
DB: This is where the "care" part of healthcare really comes in. Facing a serious health problem is stressful enough without the added pressure of traveling to a new and unfamiliar place. To make things as comfortable as possible, our services begin well before the patient lands in L.A.
A dedicated care coordinator will get in touch with the patient to discuss their unique situation and options, including physicians best suited to their care. Working with the patient's insurance company, we also manage the transfer of medical records and arrange worry-free billing.
These things make a huge difference to patients, so they can focus on their health, leaving the administrative issues to us. People need emotional and logistical support when they seek care away from home, and we provide that support.
Once they've decided to travel to Cedars-Sinai, what should international patients expect?
DB: Their experience with Cedars-Sinai may start with a review of their records by one of our specialists or teams before they arrive—although the patient will always have a whole team taking care of them once they're here. Their coordinator will meet with them personally in L.A. and help oversee their schedule.
We also help them find a place to stay, whether they are here for days, weeks or even months. That includes recommending hotels near Cedars-Sinai at a price that works for them. To make sure they're safe and comfortable in their temporary home, we can also check out longer-term rentals if needed, sending photos and other useful information before they head to L.A.
Each international patient has their care coordinator's cell phone number, and they can also communicate using WhatsApp or WeChat. We'll even help them with a SIM card to make sure their phone is all set up. And if their visit ends up being longer than planned, we can give further advice on accommodations and travel—so they don't feel alone.
What about spiritual support for patients from different backgrounds?
DB: Los Angeles is such a diverse place that Cedars-Sinai already offers spiritual care that honors a wide range of beliefs. Our chaplains represent multiple faiths and cultural traditions, and they are here for all patients, including those who come from abroad.
For those patients who have the time and energy, can we help them enjoy L.A.?
DB: Absolutely! Since L.A. is a world-famous tourist destination, a visit can include fun—even if it's for medical treatment. We know this city and we happily share our insights, experiences and contacts to help patients make the most of their trip. Health is about more than just the best medical treatments, and we believe in looking after the whole person.
Is there anything else you want international patients to know?
DB: I want them to know that we are here for them every step of the way—before they get on the plane, when they arrive and during their stay. I always tell international patients that I will be their family while they are at Cedars-Sinai, no matter how long it takes. They won't go through this experience alone.
It's a privilege to welcome patients from abroad and to show them all the respect, compassion and excellence they deserve.