Author: Grace Gardner
The terms “hospital” and “hospitality” are both derived from the Latin root “hospes,” which means host. When we think of hospitality, we think of an entertainer or host of some kind taking care of guests, acquaintances, or friends in a manner that helps them feel at home. We think smiles, laughter, friendly faces, and maybe even Mom’s home cooking.
On the other hand, when we think of a hospital, doctors in white coats, sanitized surfaces, and sick people come to mind. That doesn’t sound very homey. But, what would happen if we could bring hospitals and other healthcare providers back to their “hospes” roots? What if we could bring out the hospitality in the healthcare system?
Thanks to the rise in domestic and international medical tourism, this concept is now a reality. And if your practice hasn’t caught on, it’s time to make a change or get left behind.
New Trend Emerging
Whether your facility is ready or not, a trend in hospital and healthcare management has arrived. Providers who employ hospitable staff members, like a medical concierge, are attracting more patients, especially domestic and international healthcare travelers and, in turn, increasing revenue. One of the greatest appeals of medical tourism revolves around patients’ ability to be in complete control of their destination. They have the option to pick which hospital, clinic, hotel, and city they want to visit for medical care. And, as more facilities begin to cater to medical tourists, competition will steadily rise to the next level.
Six Steps to Make Your Company a Destination
Step 1: Evaluate Your Service Offerings – Facilities that offer minimally invasive, outpatient procedures are ideal for the medical tourism model. Patients are traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to undergo a procedure. Often, this isn’t only about getting the best care possible. It’s also about going on a type of medical vacation. Patients bring their spouses or family members, book evenings out on the town, and plan visits to the local attractions. How can you capitalize on this? The first step would be to narrow down which of your service offerings appeal to medical tourists. Cosmetic surgery, stem cell therapy, hair transplant surgery, and vision correction surgeries are just a few of many options that have appealed to healthcare travelers. Once you have determined which of your offerings are fitting for medical tourism, research your market and your locations’ unique draw.
Step 2: Get Digital, Get Visible – All smart healthcare providers boast the highest quality of care and patient satisfaction rating, but in a technological era, more and more patients are turning to at-home research to determine the validity of these claims.
How can you get their attention? A social media presence and large patient testimonial base have become increasingly more important for success. Nothing will give your practice instant credibility like 100 testimonials from patients across the world saying that your procedure worked, and your quality of care went above and beyond the status quo. It’s time to get a little savvier with your marketing if you want to appeal to medical tourists. Word of mouth isn’t going to reach the person in South America seeking relief for his or her chronic back pain.
This means having an easily navigable website, a branded social media presence, a large, visible archive of testimonials, and good ratings on sites like Healthgrades.com and even Yelp.com. If you can’t determine why you should visit your practice from a simple Google search, neither can a healthcare traveler.
Step 3: Welcoming & Clean – First impressions are important. As mentioned above, hospitality means a feeling of being taken care of, security and comfort. A sterile hospital environment is alien to the average patient. Feeling out of your comfort zone isn’t ideal for anyone about to undergo a procedure. And the uncomfortable feeling definitely contributes to the overall patient experience. Your clinic or hospital can still be sterile and clean without feeling unwelcoming. Apply warm paint colors to walls; utilize sophisticated color palettes, textures, and natural light. Hang pleasant works of art that will appeal to client demographics. The art doesn’t have to be luxurious. The intent is to leave patients feeling at ease.
Step 4: Evaluate Tourist Appeal – It’s a little bit easier to attract healthcare travelers when your practice is already located in a tourist destination like Florida, California, or New York. So, why should a typical patient visit your practice in New Hampshire for a procedure? VisitNH.gov tells us that New Hampshire has beautiful waterfalls, one-of-a-kind antique stores, peaceful nature activities, and plenty of spas and well-being services. Get partnering. Offering domestic and international travelers package deals on rates for hotels, attraction visits and meals is a great way to entice them to sign up for your procedure. When shopping, not everyone always looks for the best value for the money.
The state of Florida hopes to spend $5 million next year alone to entice healthcare travelers. The Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously backed the bill. Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private business recruitment organization, and Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promoter, are now responsible for drawing medical tourists to Florida.
Visit Florida has partnered with a site called FloridaMedicalTourism.com, which offers a $999 wellness package that includes complete physical health services, as well as a complimentary heart-healthy lunch, transportation to and from the hotel with a sight-seeing group, complimentary oneday pass to Busch Gardens theme park, and a full-time escort.
These are the types of incentives that can really set your practice apart, as well as support the local economy and small business owners. It really is a win/win.
Step 5: Employ a Medical Concierge – Take a look at your patient acquisition from first contact through follow-up care. Is this a process you would want your family member to go through? What needs to be improved? We all know that physicians are busy, and as a result their administrative staff is usually extremely busy as well. By employing a medical concierge representative, you are giving patients (and prospective patients) the extra support and comfort that really satisfies the core principle of any provider-patient relationship — trust. A medical concierge staff representative helps qualify patients while educating them about their procedure. This takes stress off of the overseeing physician and administrative staff and allows them to get back to what they do best, proving the highest quality of care. Many times, the medical concierge also acts as the patient’s trip advisor, helping him or her plan hotels, dining, and trips to local attractions. Imagine preparing yourself mentally for a life-changing surgery. Now, imagine that process coupled with trying to plan a major trip. The medical concierge aids the patient’s overall experience, and takes the stress off so he or she can focus on getting better.
Take a look at your patient acquisition from first contact through follow-up care. Is this a process you would want your family member to go through?
Step 6: No Excuses, Play like a Champion – If positioning your practice as a global provider is something you’re really interested in doing, now is the perfect time to commit. With any new business venture it takes time and capital to see success.
Don’t expect a return on investment overnight. If you’re a small practice without a marketing team or operational support you do have options. One support package that just arrived in the healthcare arena is referred to as Patient Experience Management (PXM), a system which employs or trains an existing medical concierge for your practice, as well as implementing streamlined operational and marketing support.
This particular package has been successful for a variety of practices ranging in specialty including a stem cell therapy practice, a sleep apnea treatment company, and many more.
Medical tourism will only continue to grow in popularity across the United States and the world. By incorporating these tactics, you can increase your patient acquisition, raise revenue, and take your medical practice to the next level. Get involved with your state’s legislators and local government to see what steps can be taken to support medical tourism. By welcoming medical tourists to your state, you will not only raise revenue, but will also support local businesses and the economy. Once you have determined which of your service offering are best for medical tourists, consider employing a medical concierge.
When implemented correctly, this individual will have an invaluable impact on your practice.
About the Author
Grace Gardner is a full-time writer and editor for Lung Institute, an innovative stem cell company based in Tampa, Fla. Lung Institute is changing the lives of hundreds of people across the nation through the innovative technology of regenerative medicine. As the global leader of stem cell therapies for chronic obstructive disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary fibrosis, Lung Institute is committed to providing patients a more effective way to address lung disease and subsequently improve quality of life. LungInstitute.com