Commercial Mistakes when Marketing to International Patients

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Growth has enlisted a number of new players who are trying to make their mark on the medical tourism industry. Some have found success and others have not. As a marketing director, I’ve seen this phenomenon from a different perspective than those medical professionals within the industry.

Here are three of the most common mistakes and a few tips to overcome them:

1) Understand Importance of Service

Service is the top challenge for clinics and hospitals worldwide with international patients, who, by far, have higher expectations. That should be of no surprise. For one, the incertitude of a medical procedure away from home can be overwhelming for some. Besides, their needs are just different and higher, beginning with traveling arrangements.

Some hospitals and clinics have found greater success by understanding their international patients ’ needs and helping them overcome those challenges. Knowing your international patients and their unique needs will influence the service you provide; however, there are “universal” needs that any medical tourist will demand. Understanding the market and developing partnerships to compliment the needs of your international patients will make a difference.

2) Adapt to Digital World

Many of us entered the medical tourism industry, lured by the high demand for services. We adapted our services, offices and business models to comply with this evolving market. So, then, why have we struggled to adjust to the greatest societal transformation in the past decade? We live in a digital world that now demands an international presence that only the internet can provide.

That said digital marketing cannot be applied to all industries alike. Medical tourism has unique strategies, techniques, and even regulations. Digitally skilled professionals can enhance your internet marketing strategies. An unorganized digital strategy can be just as expensive — if not more — than not having one at all.


Determine your goals and clarify strategies to achieve a digital presence; one that provides information, builds recognition, generates leads and establishes e-commerce. An online presence will allow your organization to build an international brand.

3) Measure Commercial Strategies

International patient departments face challenges unlike those found in local hospitals or clinics including limited resources and the means to measure success, which makes developing and managing budgets that much more difficult. In other words, what’s not measured cannot be managed.

Don’t forget to measure yourself. Of course, all healthcare providers are familiar with surgical success rates and other standard indicators. But, can customer service be measured? Are you currently measuring conversion rates? How many leads do you have to receive in order to acquire a patient? Industry standards attest to conversion rates above 12 percent as strong.


Are those numbers familiar? Some companies report 35-42 percent rates. The different success rates don’t happen by accident, but are rather the results of strategic customer service management.

Start by measuring your company’s current conversion rate; how many leads are needed to generate a patient. That will give you a great idea of the return on investment that can be expected from a particular strategy.


Building an international patients department is not accomplished in a day. To do so requires time, effort, knowledge, investment, and partnerships that will certainly pay off.

About the Author

Alejandro Gutierrez is chief marketing officer for Sani Dental Group, a dental clinic of some 30 doctors in Los Algodones, Mexico, dedicated to medical tourism. marketing@sanidentalgroup.com