Cleveland Clinic on the Changing Landscape of Medical Tourism

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Nizar Zein, MD, Department Head of Liver Disease and Chairman of Global Patient Services at the Cleveland Clinic, spoke at the 2016 World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress’s Medical Director Summit. Afterwards, he sat down with Medical Tourism Magazine and discussed the changing medical tourism landscape how hospitals are adapting.

Medical travel dates back as far as ancient Greece, but over the years the landscape for medical travel has changed considerably due to a variety of reasons. Most recently, Dr. Zein told MTM, that changes are driven by economic growth and that, due to economic indicators, the destinations people travel to will change every so often.

In addition to economics, some changes in the medical travel industry today are driven by technology. More and more, people are able to resolve their health-related issues remotely with the use of telemedicine.

“I predict that medical travel will continue to evolve over time and will never be a static business. But the reasons that people travel for care and the markets they travel to will also change over time. It seems that right now the trend for medical travel is for the purpose of preventative health and wellness,” said Zein.

According to Zein, some of the existing challenges for medical tourism include the following:

  • Travel issues, finances for travel and visa delays
  • Money transfers to pay for medical treatments can be difficult, depending on the stability of the country
  • High level of hospitality services not always available in the U.S.; this involves offering more than just a discount to medical travelers
  • Creating an appropriate culture of empathy for foreign patients

One of the ways that the Cleveland Clinic is adapting to this changing landscape of medical tourism is by establishing hospitals outside of the United States.