With high standards of healthcare and a long history of treating international patients from the Middle East, Africa and Eastern European countries, Western Europe – and in particular the UK and Germany – has over 30 years experience in the medical tourism industry.
Europe, however, is largely ignoring the potential of the US market and US purchasers and facilitators are largely ignoring Europe. To address these issues, two workshop sessions were scheduled at the Congress under the following topics:
• The European Model for American Patients – creating a competitive edge and
• International Patient Departments – contrast between Europe and the US
The main European contributors in these sessions came from the UK and Germany.
The European Model for American Patients
The first two speakers, Leonore Bocher and Prof. Dr. Horst Kunhardt outlined the virtues of healthcare treatment in Germany emphasising the quality of care, the wide range of clinical services available, the fixed prices which demonstrate significant savings when compared to the US, the emphasis on patient care and the beautiful scenery of the country.
Having presented on the virtues of treatment in the UK – the leading medical tourism destination in Europe - at the 1st Medical Tourism Conference, Elizabeth Boultbee took the opportunity to discuss the barriers to the US market for European providers which included the following issues & questions:
While prices in Europe are certainly lower than the US for the self pay patients, are they sufficiently competitive to attract those patients that would have more confidence in European medicine?
US is a Competitor in Many Markets
US Hospitals are competitors for Germany and the UK in many of the traditional European international markets and while US providers take a share of those markets European providers remain sceptical that US patients would travel to Europe for treatment.
Patient Flows from Existing Markets Strong
Patient flows from other international communities to Europe remain strong through well established networks and contacts. The US self pay market is fragmented and appears difficult to target. At the present point in time, the rewards of developing and maintaining current markets outweighs any benefits of chasing after a US market that is unsubstantiated.
Little Interest from Facilitators
Despite the explosion of Facilitators, none of them are approaching European hospitals to provide services to the US market. Facilitators are much more interested in the patients from Europe that are travelling abroad for treatment. In reality, there is much more inbound medical tourism than outbound – a fact which seems to have escaped the attention of the Facilitator.
European Perceptions of US Patient
Much has been written about the litigious nature of the US patient and against that background the US patient is perceived to be demanding and overly difficult. That said, this has not been evidenced by UK Hospitals who treat the large US expatriate community in London and Africa.
The presentation raised more issues and questions that it answered and unfortunately there was no time to discuss the issues in any detail due to the time constraints.
International Patient Departments
Elizabeth Boultbee from the UK & Leonore Boscher from Germany both presented on the best practice of International Patient Departments in both countries and unsurprisingly best practice in both countries included the following services:
• Multi-lingual staff acting as interpreters and patient advocates
• Culturally appropriate food, entertainment systems, and staff training
• Language appropriate literature and TV
• Spiritual support & children’s education
• Travel & accommodation services
• Second opinions from Consultants – usually free of charge
• Outpatient bookings and direct admission to hospital electively or in an emergency
Mary Ann Keough Hoss from the Eastern Washington University presented the initial stages a research project designed to compare, develop and implement the best practice in International Patient Departments. As in most countries, there is very good practice and very poor practice. The project is still looking for participants and any providers who would be interested in participating in this research should contact Mary Ann on email@example.com.
Dr. Robert Gerl from Germany presented at both sessions on a new MBA programme in Health & Medical Tourism.
The MBA program in Health and Medical Tourism /Cross-border Healthcare Management is designed as a joint European educational program aimed at guaranteeing the highest level of quality in the emerging business of medical tourism and cross-border healthcare. It places special emphasis on the entrepreneurial and innovation challenges faced by managers in all lines of business associated with this industry. The program will be co-hosted by several leading universities in Europe and the US and will be offered on a block course basis for postgraduate professionals. A global approach is needed because of the complexity of the provision of international health services. Health clusters suppose an integrated management expertise which is embedded in various cooperating sector partners.
This program of study is targeted at executives with at least two years of vocational experience and is designed for postgraduate professional development in the following lines of business:
- Hospitals and Clinic Chains
- Specialist Clinics
- Alternative Medicine
- Spa and Wellness
- E-Health Industry
- Travel Organizations and Companies
- Healthcare and Medical Tourism Associations
- Medical Tourism Facilitators
- Consulting Services
Through project and learning modules, the student will benefit directly in two ways from the post-graduate executive program: First, it is our goal to ensure that the participants are well-prepared for the future challenges they will face as an executive and business leader in their current or future company; second, the participating institutions will provide the student with an environment in which they can turn opportunities into a business, pursue organizational excellence and transfer cutting edge knowledge to their respective companies.
Anyone interested in finding out more about this programme should contact Dr. Robert Gerl on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Boultbee has been working in the healthcare industry in the UK for over 20 years. Working with some of the most prestigious hospital providers in central London, Elizabeth has spent 15 years increasing patient flows to London. With a background in operational management, finance and international healthcare, Elizabeth has a wide range of experience in the medical tourism industry. Elizabeth is on the Advisory Board of the Medical Tourism Association and can be contacted at Boultbee & Co on email@example.com