Author: Medical Tourism Magazine
An increasing number of patients travel to places a great distance from their homes to seek medical procedures. The emerging trend has become a phenomenon. In 2010, the size of the global medical tourism market reached $75 billion in U.S. dollars. Medical services are rapidly evolving for both the national and international providers. New models how to properly deliver 21st century medicine to patients who seek treatment outside of their hometowns or home countries are extensively being explored. Many of the new models, unlike traditional ones, advocate providing quality of care, low costs and amenity services. Even though every model has a different mix of concerns, the common thread is the delivery of services with a focus emphasized upon the issue of competing in a global market. Nevertheless, medical tourism has been and will continue to be an important part of the delivery of medical services in today’s world.
To elevate the quality of care in medical tourism, concierge services are becoming increasingly available in many medical tourism destinations. A hired concierge will assist clients with various activities including arrangement of transportation, restaurant reservations, appointment for spa services, procurement of tickets to various events, and recommendations and travel arrangements for tours to local attractions. To stay in business and be in competence within a global market, medical tourism destinations sought to offer concierge services that focus on quality of care and enhancement of client relationships.
This paper used the methodology of content analysis, through examining words or phrases within a wide range of texts including paper, websites, reports, interview transcripts and identified many elements that can be implemented for establishing concierge services in a medical tourism destination.
There are three entities identified as key areas for the development of concierge services. They are physicians, hospital and programs for patient’s family and friends.
Concierge medicine or concierge healthcare emphasizes the accessibility and immediate attention that a physician
To enhance the quality of care in medical tourism, concierge services are becoming increasingly available in many medical tourism destinations.
may provide to patients. A physician needs to be 24-hour accessible by phone, email, text message or pager. Physicians are encouraged to offer free check-up, provide preventive care and electronic medical records, coordinate with fitness and nutrition providers, recommend personalized wellness programs to clients and attend specialist appointments with patients (Clark et al, 2010).
Key elements identified by examining the role of physicians in concierge services are:
- Exclusive services
- Integrate treatment with caring programs
- Hospitals, to stand out from the crowd, are adding amenities and special services for clients to improve their services.
“Staid is out, amenities are in.” Besides providing Wi-Fi connections and hanging arts on the walls, the Century City Doctors Hospital in Los Angeles extols its menu, created by celeb chef Wolfgang Puck, and puts flat-screen TVs in all rooms. Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, has an afternoon tea service. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, offers patients field trips to local museums and attractions. A new hospital, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, in a Detroit suburb, established a wellness center facilitated with walking path, cooking classes and shops that intended to make it more of a community draw (Hobson, 2008).
- Offering concierge services for everyone including visitors, patients, families and friends, employees, medical staff.
The Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Fla., a spaor resort-like hospital, was jokingly referred to as “the Hilton of hospitals.” The center offers a 24-7 concierge service with a wonderful entertainment system that includes movies, games, Internet access and patient education videos, and “comfort carts” filled with snacks and beverages for patients and their families (Finkel, E., 2006).
- Outsourcing concierge services for efficiency and patient satisfaction.
Busy doctors, nurses or patients’ families may not consider the hospital a logical place to take their dry cleaning. But some of the nation’s top outsourcing companies are banking on dry cleaning and other concierge services, such as car washing and oil changes, to keep hospital employees happy in an increasingly competitive working environment (Kirchheimer, 2005).
Program for Family and Friends
A common theme among concierge services is the special treatment and services associated with simplifying life and providing exclusiveness to treatment.
However, often, one important element was missed among these services: programs designed for families and/or individual who are companions of the patients. These individuals are often thought of as ancillary to services that are provided. They are most important because the patient is concerned about their loved ones and how they are treated. There is evidence that when these services are provided, it helps with patient recovery.
Reviewing the existing literature in health industry, we found eight common facilities that were associated with somewhat services provided for family and friends.
- Facilitate rooms inside hospital or hotel rooms; no concierge service provided; hospital controlled.
- Hotel rooms outside hospital; hotel attached to hospital; no concierge service provided; hotel controlled; hospital promoted.
- Hotel rooms outside hotel; not attached to hospital; no concierge service provided; hotel controlled; hospital promoted.
- No affiliation with hospital; no concierge; hotel controlled.
- Facilitate rooms in a hospital or hotel rooms; concierge service provided; hospital controlled.
- Hotel rooms outside hospital; attached to hospital; concierge service provided; hotel controlled; hospital promoted.
- Hotel rooms outside hotel; not attached to hospital; concierge service provided; hotel controlled; the hospital promoted.
- No affiliation with hospital; concierge services provided; hotel controlled.
Of these eight types of facilities, 1-4 offer no concierge services; and 5-8 provide concierge services. The first and fifth types are services undertaken by hospitals; types two, three, six and seven are affiliated with hospitals. Hotel rooms are often recommended by hospitals; while types four and eight are totally operated by hotels independently.
The key factors in these types of facilities are whether or not concierge services are provided and where they are controlled and promoted. Many of these services are the same as the concierge provided by doctors and hospitals to their clients or employees. But, those services are perfunctory and only designed to make the individual more comfortable. The missing element in most of them is the personalized services. Travel agents or a ground operator can usually provide such individualization of services. It is they who usually bring services together that meet and take care of the individual needs of patients and their visitors. It is the coordination of those amenities and personalization of them by travel agents or ground operators that made the greatest impact on client satisfaction.
Recommendation for the Development of Concierge Services
The client is seeking the best physician to provide the quality of treatment. Physicians affiliated with universities or research hospitals are on the cutting edge of medicine. Their research reputations may help individuals to make a proper decision. A prospective client may visit the website http://health.usnews. com/ to read peer reviews posted for every doctor, but this is only available for the medical practitioner in the United States. Another way to learn about a doctor’s reputation is to examine his/her publications and research grants. Most practitioners are certified by a country’s medical board. The criteria used for certification is available, but varies by nation. Certification does not ensure quality of service. Thus, research conducted by a prospective patient is essential to obtain the quality and level of service that they expect. Here is a helpful research site: http://Health-Tourism.com
There are two major components for a successful hospital: one is the reputation and the other is the certification that its professionals profess to provide the best services. Joint Commission International (JCI) is an international hospital certification board (http://jointcommissioninternational.org/). In addition to JCI, the other website: http://health.usnews.com/ also provides reviews of hospitals. One critical element for reviewing a hospital is how its staff provides quality services. JCI established standards directly related to quality and ensures they are based upon their criteria.
Concierge Programs for Recovery
Proper recovery is essential for healing. There are three key elements for one’s recovery: the quality of rehabilitation, the environment, and families and friends. Concierge for families and friends is the least explored element in medical tourism because it involves mixing and matching of services that make the primary difference. A great deal of research has been done on how to enhance the quality of rehabilitation. Standard procedures in operation have been established based upon criteria created by professional organizations and their recommendations. Research on the recovery environment is well underway in terms of designing and functioning. But, many of the recovery environments are institutional in nature. One of the benefits in medical tourism is to offer a client a relaxed setting within a pleasant environment. In this kind of environment, recovery is enhanced with family and friends. This adds another dimension to the healing process. The last two elements discussed above hold potential, especially related to positive attitudes toward healing processes.
Post recovery is designed as a prevention phase. This is the educational process provided to the patient and the family and friends to help the individual plan their future and change their lifestyle in order to prevent further problems. Most times, the educational process is provided, but there is very little follow-up to ensure or continue the process to help the individual realize their goals. This type of follow-up allows building relationships with clients and often makes a difference in retaining clients for future services.
Often there’s a controversy about benefits and costs when planning to add a new program. The assumption is often made that concierge services cannot be provided because of a high cost. This is not true even though it is very difficult to achieve without certain expenses. Research is needed to determine which services will provide what type of benefits. Without this information, money is sometimes wasted on services that have no direct or indirect benefits to achieved outcomes.
About the Author
Dr. Bob D. Lee is an associate professor in the program of tourism, leisure, and event planning at Bowling Green State University. Ohio, USA. Dr. Lee’s research interests include medical tourism, older travelers, health and leisure. His publications have appeared in International Medical Travel Journal, Journal of World Leisure, International Journal of Leisure and Tourism Marketing. [email protected]
Dr. David Groves, a professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University, has more than 100 publications. His research focuses on event planning and tourism destination development, and health education.