Every day we read more articles on the growing market for medical tourism and we see numbers that show hundreds of thousands of patients traveling abroad to receive medical attention in a country different than home. Medical tourism benefits everyone involved: patients of all ages benefit by receiving immediate treatment at very affordable prices from the best medical attention available in the world. One critical aspect of the medical tourism formula is still needs addressing: locating the international patient.
Every day we read more articles on the growing market for medical tourism and we see numbers that show hundreds of thousands of patients traveling abroad to receive medical attention in a country different than home. Medical tourism benefits everyone involved: patients of all ages benefit by receiving immediate treatment at very affordable prices from the best medical attention available in the world; doctors in foreign countries receive more patients; local governments benefit from lower health costs; insurance companies can offer their clients the opportunity of quality treatment at great savings for both; service providers benefit from added business: airlines, transportation, hotels, tourist destinations, etc. But one critical aspect of the medical tourism formula is still needs addressing: locating the international patient.
Articles on the U.K. talk about an estimated forecast of 174,600 citizens traveling abroad for 2010; the province of Alberta, Canada, has about 46,000 patients waiting for some kind of surgery; more than 250,000 U.S. patients travel abroad every year to search for medical attention. These are readily available numbers from reliable sources, but the fact is that these numbers are estimations and there is still no official count as to the actual number of people traveling abroad to receive medical attention – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of persons could be benefiting from the availability of excellent medical attention at affordable prices around the globe.
But the question is: Where are these patients? How can we contact them? How can we let them know there are economically viable alternatives for receiving top quality medical attention? The great challenge in the medical tourism industry is to reach these potential patients by developing marketing strategies which reach out to those who are in need of medical attention and are willing to learn about receiving medical treatment in a country away from home.
Medical facilitators, key players in the industry, must take an active role in addressing this challenge. By developing effective marketing campaigns to unlock the potential benefits of this industry, medical facilitators can open up the market, with themselves positioned at the forefront. Facilitators need to focus on developing relationships to form mutually beneficial joint ventures with other key industry players in the countries they are targeting, such as hospitals, doctors, medical clinics, insurance companies, large corporations, pharmacies, rotary clubs and retirement homes. Establishing these relationships will result in not only business opportunities for local companies wishing to pursue medical tourism, but will also create an opening into a potential patient market.
Additionally, facilitators must make themselves and their services appealing to international patients. Facilitators must be able to offer, with an impeccable quality policy, all of the operations and logistics that a traveling patient needs: well prepared, empathetic and professional call centers, medical staff, JCI approved hospitals with the latest technologies, doctors with excellent success rates, comfortable and secure local transportation, local tourism offerings, excellent hotel and airline fares, after treatment follow-up, and an all-around administrative infrastructure that will relieve the patient from absolutely all administrative tasks, such as payments, hospital registration, bookings, etc. The facilitator must do everything on behalf of the patient.
All around, it is a win-win situation for everyone, but there is more work to be done before it can be realized.
Jaime Yedid is the President of Elstree Medical Services, and has more than 10 years experience in the pharmaceutical and medical-devices industry. He also heads an important marketing and advertising company in Mexico City with major operations in the medical field. For more information on Elstree, please visit www.elstreemedicalservices.com.