Specialized Team Provides International Patients With World-Class Care
Sep 05, 2022 Jasmine Aimaq
Nobody likes going to the hospital. That’s especially true if you must travel for hours and navigate a new country and language, all while worrying about your health with questions swirling through your head. Will my care team understand me? Are they as good as everyone says they are? Will they respect my beliefs and honor my needs?
The Cedars-Sinai International Patient Services team understands. Better yet, they can usually answer those questions with a resounding "yes."
"Cedars-Sinai is a major destination for patients from around the world. We received patients from more than 105 countries last year."
The Local Is Global
Los Angeles is one of the most diverse, dynamic places on Earth, home to millions of people from more than 140 countries who speak at least 224 different languages.
"That gives Cedars-Sinai a head start in delivering culturally appropriate care while never compromising on the advanced medical treatments, equipment and facilities for which we’re known,” says Dr. Shoma Desai, director of International Patient Services.
“Cedars-Sinai is a major destination for patients from around the world,” she adds. “We received patients from more than 105 countries last year, a number that’s been trending upward and clearly shows the amazing level of trust patients put into our hospital. We couldn’t be more appreciative of that trust.”
A Comprehensive Approach
The dedicated International Patient Services team is extensively trained to support international patients and their families, and services begin well before patients begin their journey to Los Angeles.
"Once we know you’ll be coming to us, our dedicated care coordinators start assisting you right away,” says Donna Bias, manager of International Patient Services. "We’ll get in touch with you to discuss your individual situation and options, including which of our doctors are best suited to provide your care."
Dr. Desai adds, "We use a regionalized approach that matches the patient with coordinators and staff who come from the same region when possible and when it makes sense for that patient’s condition, drawing on both technology and the human touch to ensure the best service and communication."
In addition to the medical aspects of care, Cedars-Sinai International can advise patients on accommodations, whether they’re staying for days, weeks or months. That includes recommending hotels near Cedars-Sinai at a price that makes sense for the patient.
"To make sure you’re safe and comfortable in your temporary home, we can also check out longer-term rentals if needed, sending photos and other useful information before you head to Los Angeles," says Donna.
"You will be able to reach your care coordinator at your convenience through a number of communication tools. We’ll be there for you every step of the way—before you get on the plane, throughout your stay and after you return home," she adds.
The Cedars-Sinai International team will help ensure a smooth transition of care between your doctors back home and the doctors who treat you at Cedars-Sinai. That includes bundling medical records and coordinating care. They’ll also work directly with insurance companies and manage the transfer of medical records to arrange worry-free billing.
"Taking care of administrative and logistical details helps our patients have peace of mind, and we know how important that is to their wellbeing. We do all we can to help our patients feel at home," says Dr. Desai.
World-Class Care in Many Languages
Making patients feel at home includes making sure team members understand the culture from which patients hail. While no two patients are alike, the Cedars-Sinai team will always try to offer options that are preferred in a patient’s particular part of the world.
"Approximately 10 languages are spoken at Cedars-Sinai, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, French and Arabic," says Dr. Desai. "If we see a patient from outside those linguistic areas, we work closely with our language access team to provide live interpreters as well as online language services available to all Cedars-Sinai providers."
Other important touches, from specialized diets to access to appropriate clergy, help round out a personalized, dignified experience for the duration of the patient’s stay.
International patients come to Cedars-Sinai for a range of reasons. Some are referred to confirm a diagnosis using tests that aren’t available locally. Others need specialized surgery or treatment from experts who are world-renowned experts in their field, and others are simply looking for the best care in a global city.
With a diverse staff of over 3,000 doctors, Cedars-Sinai has experts from every specialty and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No.2 hospital in the USA and top ranked in 11 specialties—including cardiology, neurology, lung surgery, orthopaedics, endocrinology, gastroenterology, OB-GYN and cancer.
Many patients fly in from the Pacific Rim, Latin America, the Middle East and beyond. Some are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who moved from those areas but still prefer a culturally tailored healthcare experience.
"Every patient is different, and regardless of where they live, we meet with them and their families early in the process and make sure we understand what they’ll need," Dr. Desai explains.
This includes offering virtual second-opinion consults or video visits for those who are not able to travel to Los Angeles.
Patients also have access to Cedars-Sinai’s dedicated International Lounge, a serene space that provides international and executive health patients with concierge services and a welcoming environment to unwind during their journey. The space includes multiple lounge areas, private rooms to consult with patient coordinators, a shared office area, communications room, pantry, and a prayer/meditation room.
To assess every patient’s unique needs, Cedars-Sinai International experts also work closely with the Patient Experience team, which conducts regular surveys asking patients to rate and comment on various aspects of their care.
"We pay close attention to patient evaluations, because they help us know what’s working well and where there is room for improvement," says Donna.
Meanwhile, Cedars-Sinai’s presence and reputation around the world continue to grow, ensuring more collaborations across borders and more visits from international patients.
"Like the city in which we’re located, Cedars-Sinai International welcomes people from any and every background," says Dr. Desai. "If you need us, we look forward to taking care of you."