Serving patients from over 120 countries around the world, the International Patient Center (IPC) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) provides services for patients who choose to come to the United States to receive world-class care. This includes coordinating all aspects of each patient’s visit to the hospital. From managing medical consultations and hospital admissions to travel and hotel arrangements, IPC staff are committed to making international patients and their families feel comfortable during their stay.
Stuart Mushlin, MD, FACP, is the Medical Director for International Patient Services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). He also serves as a liaison between the BWH IPC and Partners HealthCare International® (PHI), the global arm of Partners HealthCare that facilitates access to care for international patients who have the ability, both physically and financially, to travel to BWH and other Partners hospitals.
Tell me a bit about your background in medicine and your history at BWH.
I was a primary care doctor for many years at BWH. When I retired from practicing, I knew I wanted to keep teaching and, if possible, continue to be involved with BWH. Currently, in addition to my international responsibilities, I help with the Medicine residency training program, which involves mentoring residents on case-based presentations that are either structured or unstructured. I also take students on rounds as they examine patients, and I teach on our Integrated teaching service on the 10th floor a few months of the year. Lastly, I’m involved with the second year students at HMS.
It’s great you have continued to stay involved at BWH after your retirement. Could you tell me a little bit more about your international role at BWH and your work with the International Patient Center (IPC)?
My role is to assist the IPC in any way I can but the Director of the IPC, Ms. Kerin Howard, often doesn’t need it because she is so seasoned. I try to help her with specific patient requests and offering medical expertise, as well as identifying the best practitioner for the patient’s condition. I also help “raise consciousness” at BWH about our International Patient Center, specifically about our eagerness for our staff as a whole to know we exist and how they can be of assistance.
Could you also touch on your role as a liaison between the IPC and Partners HealthCare International?
It is basically a bi-directional function, very non-bureaucratized and informal. I serve on the Board of PHI. I also have free and open communication with the CEO of PHI, Dr. Gilbert Mudge, Jr. I ensure that if decisions are made at PHI that may impact our IPC, that our IPC understands the genesis of the decisions and facilitates them. I’m glad to facilitate PHI’s presence at BWH and by the same token, ensure that PHI knows the expertise and resources available at our hospital. PHI recently conducted a survey of staff interested in international work at all Partners Hospitals. I was integral in the development of that survey, and it has been helpful both to my office and PHI.
Because we want to raise awareness of your role in international patient services for BWH and for Partners hospitals as a whole, what is the single most important thing you would want the internal BWH community to learn?
We’re eager to have people know we exist, particularly those who would like to work with us. We want internal folks to know we are eager to partner with all members of the staff at the hospital to effectuate very high quality, efficient, care for international patients. We’re also looking for people who may not even realize we’re there who might want to help us, by either their specialty or national interest or both.
Describe how you collaborate with senior leaders at PHI to facilitate international patient referrals to BWH.
I ensure that leaders at PHI know our full service line. I also apprise PHI leaders of the quality ratings we get for the patients we are caring for. I help bring leads to PHI. Sometimes international opportunities arrive de novo based on expertise of the physicians at the BWH and their connections. The hallmark of this is there is a lot of bi-directionality. It’s very frank and open, and I think it works well.
What can you tell us about the average international patient who comes to BWH?
I don’t think there is any average patient. The only thing I can tell you is they don’t live in America. Our tracking data point to a lot of people from the Middle East, Bermuda and an increasing number of people from far east China. Of course, we would like to grow these statistics.
What is most important to a patient who wants to leave their home country and travel thousands of miles to come to BWH?
I think these patients would have certain expectations that I want to ensure we meet. First, I think they should get the highest quality and most advanced care available, not just in America, but in the world. Secondly, that they get compassionate care focused on them, their family, and with due consideration to arranging for their care once they go back to their homeland. Care that involves the entire patient.
How is BWH meeting the needs of the international patients?
I think we are doing well in this area. All of us at Partners strive for continuous quality improvement, so there is always room for improvement. I don’t think we are perfect but we conduct surveys of how patients have perceived our care and to a high percentage, they feel we have met their expectations for high quality, compassionate care.
What is your vision for the future of international patient services at BWH?
My hope is that we could develop more relationships with other countries and patients from other countries to not only grow the businesses we have now, but also to expand into other areas where we don’t have much of a referral base. I also hope we can exchange intellectual information with other countries – I want BWH, either alone, or collaboratively with PHI, to grow its international exchanges with various countries and with institutions in countries to share the knowledge and wonderful discoveries that we’re making that can impact care all over the world.
To learn more about international patient services at BWH, visit: