Author: Renee-Marie Stephano
Orlando has another attraction that has its own set of stories and memories worth boasting about. Of course, medical tourism is not usually mentioned in the same breath as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios or sunny beaches, but it should and could very well be someday.
For starters, Florida hospitals including those here in Orlando offer some of the best healthcare in the world for the state’s increasing population and remain an important reason why many people buy homes, rentals and retirement properties and start businesses in the region. These same healthcare providers and some of the unique specialty treatments they offer could serve as further impetus behind a new generation of tourists both domestic and international who come to Orlando for not only fun in the sun, but for medical attention that they can’t get anywhere else at the time and price they want.
Despite an origin that dates back to a collection of theme parks, Orlando has steadily moved to fortify its larger tourism economy by diversifying related industries, such as a university-based medical school, interstate highway connections to nearby metropolitan areas and a stadium with a seating capacity capable of hosting major events. Medical tourism is positioned to be the next step in this “Never Ending Story.”
The concept behind medical tourism is simple enough: Send the patient where the care is delivered inexpensively, efficiently and effectively. This twist has put a wrinkle in healthcare reform in the United States and helped to create a $60 billion global industry.
U.S. residents already provide Florida with about $5.2 billion of this revenue; about 3 percent of both the total patients and healthcare expenditures within the state. By comparison, more than 38,000 international patients spend more than $580 million on medical services in Florida annually; about less than one percent of all visits and charges. Couple those numbers with evidence that Florida already enjoys a thriving tourism industry worth some $51 billion — attracting 94 million annually; 59 million to Orlando alone — with the state’s nationally recognized healthcare facilities and, clearly, there is an economic opportunity here worthy of pursuit.
Each stakeholder – public and private — must do its part to ensure that this moment is not lost and drive more patients to healthcare providers — like the UF Health Center – Orlando Health, in Orange County, for life-saving cancer treatments – and other doctors and clinicians here and across the state.
Let’s be clear. Medical tourism is not a shot in the dark aimed at filling in the state’s infrastructure gaps. Rather, it is targeted approach to ensuring economic prosperity and quality of life for Floridians and beyond. But, it won’t happen overnight. The good news is that there is plenty of assistance by way of education tailored to certification programs and networking and partnership opportunities linked to professional conferences. The 8th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Sept. 27-30, 2015, at the Orange County Convention Center, in Orlando, Fla., is one such opening to advance the discussion.
Coming to Florida should not be an option for medical tourism patients across the globe and here in the United States. Florida should be the definitive choice.
About the Author
Renée-Marie Stephano, JD, is president of the Medical Tourism Association®, the first membership-based international nonprofit trade organization and think-tank for the medical tourism and healthcare industry. The MTA provides strategic development programs for destinations seeking to create sustainable and attractive programs for foreign direct investment. The MTA provides advisory services to investors interested in the industry and matches these financiers with medical tourism-related projects. www.MedicalTourismAssociation.com