Author: Renee-Marie Stephano
The Medical Tourism Index (MTI) is the standard-bearer for those contemplating travel outside their country of origin for a medical procedure. Key considerations such as safety, environmental factors, healthcare staff and facilities, health insurance, and quality of accreditation necessary to make a well-informed decision are contained in the index in a compact, user-friendly format. What resulted from a multi-level, years in the making research tool has produced a “Who”, “What”, “Where”, “When” and “How” for the medical tourist. Where to travel for a medical procedure is only the first consideration of many important decisions that need to be weighed before booking travel arrangements. Word of mouth is a good resource when trying to find a good restaurant recommendation, but the medical tourist requires clear, concise research and accurate data.
Medical Tourism has increased significantly in the last several years with the explosion of complex communication techniques and transportation technologies. Prospective patients (consumers) are faced with tremendous competition within the growing global medical tourism industry. In addition, healthcare, hospitality and travel providers are attempting to improve their own services to become more attractive to the consumer.
Developed to complement and inform the burgeoning medical tourism industry, the Medical Tourism Index can be used as a source to guide consumers through the pros and cons of a particular country. It offers timely, on-point research for individuals and entities venturing in to what is a substantially growing multibillion-dollar industry.
Services most often sought by medical tourists are cardiac or orthopedic procedures. Common and on the rise are elective plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry procedures. Cost factors at home make some of these services unobtainable and create the demand to investigate venues away from home. For example, research shows that Central and South America have gained in popularity for those seeking more affordable plastic surgery and dental care. India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are medical tourism destinations for prospective patients seeking alternative orthopedic and cardiac procedures.
The Medial Tourism Index was conceived and created in conjunction with The International Healthcare Research Center (IHRC). Renée-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association® (MTA) and Professor Dr. Marc Fetscherin are the architects of the index. Over several years, and employing various scientific methods, data was collected from multiple sources from six demographic samplings – gender, marital status, ethnicity, geographical area, age and educational background. After the completion of the study the results were applied to 5,000 respondents.
The Medical Tourism Index website is user-friendly and enables the reader to navigate through the most attractive destinations, either in the Destination Profile section or the Key Findings section. The index directs the consumer to more specific areas of medical costs, facilities and services, and country environment. For example, MTI findings rate Canada #1 in country attractiveness for medical travel. That ranking is the result of three key factors individuals should consider before travelling abroad for a medical procedure. These factors – Destination Environment, Medical Tourism Industry and Quality of Facilities & Services scored high which resulted in Canada receiving an overall MTI score of 76.62. To back up that #1 ranking, the index sites Canada as a wealthy, democratic and developed nation with a strong, non-corrupt government, and the ‘rule of law’ in place. Their infrastructure and competitive healthcare system, as well as the quality of facilities and superior staff enables them to effectively market its medical tourism industry to a broad base of medical consumers.
Regardless of ranking, whether #1 or #5 in the MTI, the index takes into consideration numerous factors. Key points are the country’s attractiveness to provide fair and comprehensive results for consumers who may choose to base their travel more on environmental factors. For instance, a prospective patient seeking to visit Italy (only a marginally lower score than Canada at 73.01), may be drawn more to the description of the majestic Mediterranean Sea, cultural wealth, and competitive agricultural sector making it the world’s largest wine producer.
The Destination Ranking section in the 2016 Medical Tourism Index utilizes critical analysis from several sources. Information was collected from available press and literature and combined with a global sample of 4,000 prospective medical tourism patients and 394 Medical Tourism Association® members. In an effort to provide a measured geographical scope for the purposes of the study, the 2016 Medical Tourism Index contains a sampling of over 40 total destinations throughout the Middle East, Asia, Americas, Africa and Europe. The results, with #1 representing the most favorable destination, allows the user to simply scroll through the list.
The Destination Profile section is listed by country and is a time-saver for the prospective medical tourist in search of information on a particular country.
For instance, if a recent dinner party conversation touched on a particular country rumored to be known for great medical care, or a particularly ground-breaking medical procedure, a quick click on the country profile will determine the validity of the rumor. The Destination Profile contains over- all scoring and an in-depth overview of population, environment, GDP, social, entertainment, industrial and hospitality industry standards. Included in the overview are facts pertaining to health insurance (i.e., Free, National, Contributor), socio-economic figures and the attractiveness of a country’s hospitality industry standards. The Hospitality industry, as well as the Environmental attractiveness of a host country is particular important to the potential surgical patient due to the likelihood that post-operative instructions will prohibit the patient from airline travel for a prescribed period of time.
The future of Medical Tourism for all the stakeholders (Government, Healthcare providers and Travel and Hospitality Industry) will depend on the availability of comprehensive research to consult in order to improve, update and adapt to the needs of the prospective medical tourist.
NOTE: This article has been produced and developed by the International Healthcare Research Center, Inc., in partnership with Marc Fetscherin and Renée-Marie Stephano, JD.
SOURCES: www.news-medical.net/health/World-Medical-Tourism-Review.aspx wwwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/the-pre-travel-consulta- tion/medical-tourism From the American Medical Association. New AMA Guidelines on Medical Tourism. Chicago: AMA; 2008