Author: Medical Tourism Magazine
There are many more critical factors of a successful FAM tour than most people realize. Many of these are not widely known and/or acknowledged by destinations and their participating hospitals, clinics, hotels, government agencies and other organizations. As a result, hosts spend money for FAM tours and get no return on their expenditure. In fact, a FAM tour is an investment and should provide a return on its expense.
So what are these aspects that make a FAM tour effective, and how does the host make a profit? First, let’s look at the generally accepted medical tourism industry standard, and then we will examine the actual success factors themselves.
What constitutes a successful FAM tour?
A FAM tour is industry slang for “Familiarization Tour.” As its name suggests, the tour is intended to familiarize the attendees with the host destination. Medical tourism industry FAM tours are currently made up of trips of six to 12 people to a particular destination. During the tour, the attendees visit the destination hospitals and clinics, stay at select hotels and engage in some tourism activities. There is also the customary exchange of contact information with the intention of future business being conducted between the attendees and the participating destination FAM tour organizations.
Some of the better-planned FAM tour hosts do some screening of the attendees to make sure that they carry the right amount of influence in the relevant industries. Destinations are often looking for “buyers,” as they are usually called. Buyers are decision makers in the health insurance or employment areas, both of which are considered to be sources of potentially large numbers of patients for the destination countries and the participating organizations. Some of these better planned tours also schedule some business meeting time for the attendees and the host organizations to kick start their business relationships. Often times, visits can end without serious business being discussed but rather a promise is made to discuss business in subsequent phone or other meetings. Both these activities – the screening and the business meetings – are designed to increase the success of the FAM tour.
In short, the host destinations are attempting to ensure that the expense brings them some return. However, while these are excellent activities, they do not guarantee a successful FAM tour. In order for it to be successful, the following items must be considered and addressed during the planning stage. (Note that examples of the critical success factors are presented at the end of the article).
Factors for success
1. Build a “relationship”
Both destination hosts and FAM tour attendees must understand and agree with the FAM tour objective(s), which is usually to create an event that will trigger a relationship or that will enhance an existing relationship. Most FAM tours are designed to either create business for the destination host hospitals, clinics and participating organizations or to expose the destination host hospitals to the FAM tour attendees in the hope of generating future business. It’s important to note that without the relationship factor, the FAM tour is most likely to generate only business transactions at best. Many hospitals complain that, after spending money to host a FAM tour, they received little to no patients from their efforts.
Usually this is because the attendees are busy sending patients to destinations with which they have a relationship in addition to a business agreement. By introducing the relationship factor, FAM tour destination hosts and attendees start building the foundation for a long and fruitful relationship. The communication becomes more open and both parties work together to achieve success. Trust begins to develop, and barriers are broken down. This sort of relationship usually grows to include other business in addition to medical tourism business.
2. Define the host
FAM tours generally experience some disarray and confusion during the implementation stage when it is unclear to the attendees who exactly the hosts are. Are the hosts the government agencies, the hospitals and clinics, the funding organizations or a combination? It should be absolutely clear and transparent.
Also, the relationship between the host(s) and the other participating organizations should be abundantly clear. Of course, there is an optimal arrangement that will benefit all parties concerned, and the host(s) should consult with someone who has experience in the industry and who can help them leverage their host position to achieve successful results.
3. Identify the tour attendees
The host needs to figure out whom to invite to the FAM tour. Remember, the objective of the tour is to create an event that will trigger a relationship or that will enhance an existing relationship. Knowing that this relationship is primarily between the host(s) and the attendees, it becomes apparent that the attendees should be people who represent organizations that will benefit the host(s). However, the attendees should also be people who represent organizations that the host(s) can benefit. A relationship is between two parties; for the tour to be successful, both parties must benefit.
4. Assign a facilitator and create a schedule
Now that the host(s), attendees and objectives have been identified, the FAM tour needs a schedule and facilitator(s). A facilitator is the person who will actually implement the tour. The person should be fluent in the visitors’ language, but the tour can still be effective if one of the attendees is an interpreter. The facilitator should be widely available and have no time conflicts for the duration of the tour. The person should also be savvy in the business ways of the destination host country. FAM tour attendees always have many questions, and the lack of answers can quickly render a FAM tour ineffective.
An effective FAM tour schedule is one that contains hospital and clinic visits, some government agency visits, opportunity for business discussions and some social activity, usually with a tourism component associated with it. The length of the tour depends on a number of factors. See the table below for an example of a three-day tour.
5. Secure appropriate housing
The lodging is central to the FAM tour and should be absolutely first class. First, the travel time between the host hotel and the hospitals and clinics to be visited should be minimized. Second, the host hotel should have some examples of the types of rooms that will be available to future patients including fully accessible rooms and fitness facilities. The cuisine should be international in flavor and availability, and room service should be 24/7. Remember that the attendees will be conducting business with their countries while visiting, and this may involve a time difference. Therefore, they should be able to access all the hotel services round the clock.
6. Narrow your marketing/hospital selection
Destination countries should focus on the one or two procedures that they have world-class reputations in and the lowest prices. It is not good marketing to advertise all the hospital and clinic procedures because it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the metrics that make medical tourism viable. Patients and buyers look for quality equal to or better than what is available in their home country and at the best price possible.
7. Include tourism activities
There are two reasons to included tourism activities in a FAM tour. The first is because most patients will be accompanied by a companion, and the companion may need to re-energize themselves during the patient visit.
The second reason is to advertise the destination country. The most popular and effective form of marketing is word-of-mouth. There is no better way to encourage repeat visits, whether for healthcare purposes or for tourism purposes, than to make sure that the visitors see what the destination country has to offer.
8. Plan efficient and effective business meetings
Of course, the main reason for the FAM tour to begin with is to motivate business and to do this via a relationship approach. This approach is not only a smart way to do business, but it also is an excellent marketing approach for the destination country and its hospitals and clinics. Some time has to be dedicated toward business and business activities. Careful consideration and planning should be undertaken. FAM tour participants should be given a schedule that clearly shows what all the activities are well in advance of them leaving their countries to start the tour. They should be clearly instructed on what business activities are going to take place, how to prepare for them and what their role is going to be. This will ensure a smooth business discussion.
9. Appoint a business meeting facilitator
In addition to the above recommendations, a business meeting facilitator has to be appointed. This person does not have to be the same person that facilitates the whole tour. This person should be trained and should know who the attendees are, their titles and responsibilities, the objectives of the FAM tour and the objectives of the business discussions. This will ensure an error-free business environment.
10. Follow up
Follow-up is essential to the eventual success of any FAM tour. Follow-up is the ultimate responsibility of the hosts. They are the ones that have made the financial outlay in order to achieve an objective and therefore, they are the most invested in the outcome. At the business meetings and other FAM tour meetings, milestones for certain activities would have been established. These milestones should be the focus of all follow-up activities.
Always prescreen your buyers and evaluate their position in the industry. There has been a growing trend of “Fake Buyers” on Fam Trips. They may be consultants and marketing companies that use the Fam Trip as a fully paid trip to market their services directly to the hospitals. If disclosed in advance, and if the host finds value in it, then the consultant may provide value to the host.
A FAM tour is a one-time opportunity for a host country and its hospitals and clinics to impress the tour attendees. This is a “can’t fail” proposition. In other words, everything must go well during a FAM tour, otherwise word-of-mouth communication will certainly cause future problems for the host country. All efforts must be made to ensure that the FAM tour is most impressive and that the attendees are supremely confident that the host country offers a viable short- and long-term solution for their healthcare issues. If all the above factors are addressed successfully, a FAM tour will provide just the jump start that a host country needs in the medical tourism industry.
About the Author:
Alex Piper is the President of OneWorld Global Healthcare Solutions, a consulting company committed to creating a worldwide healthcare solution.
With over 17 years experience in Insurance, Marketing and Employee Benefits Management, Alex Piper possesses extensive knowledge of the U.S. Healthcare Market and the influence that Insurance Carriers, U.S. Employers, Hospitals, Physicians, Physician Groups, Healthcare Professional Organizations and Government will have on the next generation of global healthcare.
As an insurance executive at a top Fortune 50 U.S. company, he spent eight years designing employee and customer benefits programs including healthcare programs for the large supplier and distribution partner companies of his employer. He was responsible for creating a benefits program that had over U.S.$140 million in assets and had over 1300 companies enrolled. His latest program grew from zero to $40 million in insurance premiums in less than two years!