The world of medical tourism is growing quickly and while in the past years a lot of discussion has revolved around Americans, Canadians and British leaving their borders for more affordable or available care, it is important to remember that medical tourism is also a two sided coin in any country. High quality and modern technology attracts international patients to some of America’s top hospitals and medical facilities. American medical providers are placing their own stake in inbound and domestic medical tourism and are reaping the benefits. Some operate on large levels such as Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson and others are more specialized in private clinics across the nation.
This year at the 4th Edition of The World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress in Chicagoland, we have developed a dedicated track to Inbound and Domestic Medical Tourism to the US topics to bring greater participation and integration with the US healthcare industry. Long gone are the days where US healthcare providers can turn their heads away from the harsh reality that healthcare is more and more competitive. As patients have more high quality, affordable options, it is vital that American providers participate and create their own visibility on an international scale in the medical tourism industry.
American Inbound Medical Tourism, where patients are traveling from other countries to the United States, is still booming and successful. It has gotten more competitive as some US hospitals tighten up their prices to compete during the economic recession against other US hospitals attracting foreign patients. US hospitals are continuing to report success and many are expanding their efforts and work to help expand and attract more patients to the US for high quality healthcare. But these days could be numbered without a long term strategy to enforce existing patient flows and generate new ones.
The Emergence of Healthcare Cities & Medical Clusters
We are also starting to see more and more the emergence of healthcare cities and clusters worldwide. The Medical Tourism Association has been assisting in this development through its free educational seminars held all over the globe. The objective is to assist in the creation of the governing body, establish quality criteria and to assist in making the clusters run fairly to promote the hospitals and clinics that participate and to focus on promoting the location. The newest development, however, is the emergence of these clusters within the US such as in South Florida, Texas, Nevada and Minnesota.
Healthcare cities are the most effective ways for hospitals, clinics and countries to promote themselves. Healthcare cities and clusters are successful because it is nearly impossible for one hospital to take on the responsibility of branding a geographical location. Forming a healthcare cluster may be one of the most important single steps in establishing a medical tourism destination and to enhance the location’s chances of success as a destination for medical tourists and increasing patient flow. All the stakeholders must work together to promote this image of high quality of healthcare to establish a “brand” name for the location throughout the world.
This year, the Medical Tourism Magazine shall release its first edition of Destination Guides: Las Vegas. These publications are a series of healthcare and travel books destined to set a precedent. In our surveys, the vast majority of patients receives their information about healthcare and makes the decisions from information acquired on the internet. With the management of MedicalTourism.com, the Medical Tourism Association will make this full color guide available to consumers at no charge so they can have the most up to date information about healthcare procedures, destinations and the details found in the Destination Guides at their fingertips. Through the collaboration between The Las Vegas Healthcare Cluster and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas will be explored for the first time through a healthcare point of view. For more information please go to http://www.medicaltourismassociation.com/en/destinationhealthcare- guide.html
Why is Cluster Development Important?
A healthcare cluster is generally an independent organization of hospitals, clinics, medical professionals and the government in a specific city, state, or region. A healthcare cluster is funded by all the participants in the healthcare cluster and represents the interests of all the members and the cluster may also be supported by government funding. Their purpose is to promote the members of the healthcare cluster and to build a reputation as having extremely high quality healthcare.
Carefully targeted collective action by the members of the healthcare cluster often produces results that individual members are incapable of obtaining by or for themselves. Also, before patients travel to these destinations, there needs to be a belief and reputation that the location has extremely high quality healthcare, infrastructure support and governmental sponsorship. No one individual member can do this.
A healthcare cluster can adopt and promote high standards of ethical and professional medical care. These standards will need to be developed based upon the existing medical requirements and licensure standards for the country, state and city. Marketing standards and goals for the cluster need to be evaluated and designated to the appropriate entity or groups. Advertising budgets need to be developed as well and tie in with the Department of Tourism, Economic Development, Trade and Investment and Department of Health for governmental support.
Finally, appropriate aftercare systems need to be created to appropriately handle patients. This means that tourism organizations and hotels and/or recovery centers need to be incorporated into the cluster for the purpose of creating safe and reliable aftercare networks. In this way, the healthcare cluster can create self-regulation within the location to achieve its goals of being established as an independent arm of the healthcare and tourism sectors.
While there is much speculation as to how the medical tourism industry will grow, several things are fairly certain. Medical Tourism is a fast growing industry as patients from all around the world travel from one country to another for healthcare. Insurance companies are offering international provider networks to insureds, employers using medical tourism facilitators and highly developed international patient centers. Market opportunities due to affordability and accessibility make just about every destination a potential for medical tourism to someone, somewhere.
Baby Boomers will continue to provide the volume of patients which necessitates the development of more assisted living and retirement centers overseas and the need for healthcare access for these Boomers. Inbound and domestic medical tourism will continue to raise competition and keep domestic providers in check of their pricing and perhaps allow already strained systems the opportunity to become more efficient and affordable. And healthcare cities and medical clusters will facilitate the average patient’s search for high quality of care overseas and offer valuable solutions to current healthcare needs. For more information about MTA Cluster Development Programs, please go to: http://www.medicaltourismassociation.com/en/healthcare-clusters.html.
About The Author
Renee-Marie Stephano is the President of the Medical Tourism Association™ . Ms. Stephano is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Tourism Magazine, Health Tourism Magazine and Healthcare Development Magazine.
Having a background in international marketing and relations, health law and litigation, she provides a valuable service to the Medical Tourism Association™ in these fields. Ms. Stephano speaks regularly at international healthcare conferences on the Legal Issues Surrounding Medical Tourism and in the United States to employer groups, insurance groups and physician associations.
Renee-Marie consults international government ministries, private sector organizations and NGO’s about the growth of the global healthcare industry and accreditation, providing marketing assistance to promote their countries high quality of care. Ms. Stephano works with governments and healthcare clusters in the development of their Medical Tourism Initiatives. Ms. Stephano recently is the co-author of three books :
“Developing an International Patient Center: A Guide to Creating the Best Patient Experience”, the book “The Medical Tourism Facilitator: A Best Practices Guide to Healthcare Facilitation for International Patients” and the book: “Medical Tourism ~ An International Healthcare Guide For Insurers, Employers and Governments.” Ms. Stephano can be reached at Renee@MedicalTourismAssociation.com