Lowe’s Companies, one of the larger companies in the US with 228,000 employees, recently implemented a domestic medical tourism benefit. This will allow full-time Lowe’s employees and their covered dependents enrolled in the company’s self-funded medical plan the opportunity to schedule qualifying heart surgery procedures at Cleveland Clinic at an enhanced benefits coverage level. Domestic Medical tourism is an emerging trend in the US.
While smaller than outbound medical tourism where patients leave the US, domestic medical tourism is where patients travel across state borders in search of the highest quality of care. Just as outbound medical tourism from the US is growing, so is domestic medical tourism.
The Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland Ohio, is a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Known for being one of the preeminent medical institutions in the world, it has been rated #4 in Overall Best Hospitals and #1 in Heart Care by US World & Report. A major center for Inbound Medical Tourism into the US, The Cleveland Clinic welcomes thousands of patients, both national and international, for treatment each year. Global Patient Services within the Cleveland Clinic is a full-service department devoted to meeting those needs and requirements of out-of-state and international patients traveling to Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic in Florida. According to the 2008 Deloitte Report on Medical Tourism, The Cleveland Clinic has 1,400 physicians, more than 3 million outpatient visits and 68,000 surgical cases each year. In addition to the main campus, it has eight more clinic hospitals.
The Cleveland Clinic is no stranger to receiving patients from outside of the Cleveland area. The 1,000 bed hospital will be prepared to receive Lowe’s employees as they travel from all over the US, Canada and Mexico. They also anticipate the employees to travel with a spouse, family member or significant other. If the employee is approved to receive cardiac care, the Cleveland Clinic will work directly with the patient, clinical staff and also sort out travel arrangements and lodging. While Lowe’s has an organization that coordinates the logistics of travel for employee, the Cleveland Clinic has 3 hotels on their campus that provide a variety of arrangements, living options, and pricing. Families who travel with patients can chose which situation is best for them.
Lowe’s approached Cleveland Clinic as they were developing a benefit that would allow employees to seek out the best medical care in the country. Lowe’s selected Cleveland Clinic to provide those services in respect to heart care because the Clinic is the top provider of heart surgery in the US and has the largest heart surgery program in the world.
Bob Ihrie, Senior Vice President, Employee Rewards and Services says, “Lowe’s is committed to giving our employees access to world-class care at no cost to our employees, this offers the best long run outcomes for our employees and saves Lowe’s money over the long run.”
Both Lowe’s and Cleveland Clinic saw this as an opportunity to provide Lowe’s employee, regardless of their location, the access to top-quality care. Lowe’s idea was to get a patient to the best location for heart surgery to decrease likelihood of re-do’s, re-operations, and complications, so that overtime would lead to a lower cost.
“It’s the idea of getting it right the first time,” says Michael McMillan, Director of Market and Network Services of the Cleveland Clinic. “By ensuring the patient gets the best outcome, it results in more efficient and cost-effective care.”
Cleveland Clinic has decided to offer cardiac services only to Lowe’s employees, as this partnership is still in the beginning stages. As they move forward, they are looking to implement other options and services in the future. Lowe’s has estimated that 125 employees would be eligible to take part in the program.
The Cleveland Clinic is excited to work with Lowes and anticipates other employers seeing this example and also implementing domestic medical tourism to the Cleveland Clinic.
“Geography should not be a barrier in terms of getting the best medical care and Lowe’s is a demonstration to this,” states McMillan. “By supporting the travel aspect, you can get employees into the best location and we expect other employees to do the same as well.”
The Lowe’s and Cleveland Clinic partnership is a perfect example of employers in the US being open to the idea of patients traveling in order to receive “high quality” healthcare, and is the same reason some employers and insurers are implementing outbound medical tourism and letting patients travel overseas for high quality outcomes.
Chelsea D’Ariano is the Global Communications Coordinator for the Medical Tourism Association and is involved in managing the Public Relations and Marketing Department of the MTA. Chelsea is also a Contributing Editor for both Medical Tourism Magazine and Health Tourism Magazine. She can be contacted at Chelsea@medicaltourismassociation.com.