Tag Archives: domestic medical tourism

How to make money investing in the medical travel industry

By now, you’ve heard all the hype about the potential growth of the medical travel industry and how US patients are fleeing the country to get affordable care. Unfortunately, the experts agree, that there are few reliable statistics about the size and growth of the market, there are no common definitions of a medical traveler, comparisons of revenues and costs are hard to make, and there remain persistent, nagging barriers to widespread adoption by patients, payers and physicians.

That said, investors are still clinging to the promise of big returns fueled by patients losing their health benefits because of high unemployment, the aging population requiring more units of care and exploding costs of healthcare. If you think the medical travel industry is set to explode, there are some areas of investment to consider:

Foreign Healthcare infrastructure

  • Hospitals and systems
    Ambulatory surgery centers
    Clinical labs and imaging centers
    Disease specific treatment facilities like cancer centers, stem cell centers, etc
  • Foreign Travel and hospitality infrastructure

  • Hotels and Surgical Hotels
    Airport development

  • Tools and support companies

  • Players in global healthcare information exchange
    Data analytics and business intelligence
    Quality, price and value determinations
    Companies offering alternative pricing mechanisms

  • Supporting global healthcare insurance and travel products

  • Trip cancellation
    Follow up care
    Emergency evacuation
    Professional liability
    Infectious disease management
    Geopolitical risk insurance
  • Firms in the medical travel supply chain

  • Travel medicine clinics
    Medical travel facilitators and specialty travel agents
    Medical concierge ground operators
    Currency exchange risk managers

  • Expatriate retirement health cities and communities

    Like other industry sectors, gold, for example, you can invest in the product itself, the people who create the product, or investments that pools risks, like mutual funds or exchange traded funds.

    Look for companies in markets where the supply of care does not meet the demands of a growing middle class, that provide products and services delivering low, cost high volume care, and that provide platforms and infrastructure designed to reduce transaction costs for billing and collecting and value-based information.

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    Medical Travel is Maturing but Patients are Still Confused

    The medical travel industry is maturing.  Researchers have created centers to study it, like the Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas (http://www.uistx.edu ) and doctors have created organizations to professionalize it , like the International Board of Medicine and Surgery (http://www.ibms.us ). Conferences, seminars and trade associations are sprouting up all over the world and medical travel bloggers litter the medical tourism landscape.

    Despite it’s growth, I think patients are still confused  about the multiple products and services that all seem to be the same. If you are considering offering medical travel benefits to your employees or are  considering leaving home for care, here are three questions you should ask  that might help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Who do you get connected to?

    The traditional referral model is your doctor, someone you trust,  refers you to another doctor for  specialty care or consultation. In most instances in medical tourism, however,  a facilitator or other intermediary  connects you  to a hospital or ground agent partner in another country who connects you to a doctor on the medical staff of the overseas hospital. All those steps can be confusing, add middle-man costs, and create opportunities for errors.

    How do you establish some kind of relationship with the consultant before leaving home?

    Since it is impractical for you to see your foreign consultant preoperatively face to face, take advantage of facilitators, like Medvoy, that can help connect you to your doctor using telemedicine communications technologies.

    What’s the difference between one facilitator and the other?

    As the market matures, industry players are creating ways to differentiate themselves and break from the rest of the pack. In general, facilitators compete on price, access, service, experience and their product. Just as Hermes sells quality, Wal-Mart competes on price and Nordstrom’s is know for service. Decide what’s most important to you and pick a facilitator that will deliver.

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    New Year – New You

    Happy New Year! The New Year symbolizes a time of renewal as we reflect on 2010 and the ways to improve in 2011.

    Some of us will turn inward and will seek ways to set goals and fit more into our ever hectic schedules. Many will be trying to fight the holiday bulge and race off the gym holding steadfastly to our resolutions. The holiday retail numbers were strong, economic indicators are improving and even the typically droll economists are optimistic about 2011.

    • Will 2011 be the year that you take care of those lagging health problems? One in five Americans put off going to the doctor due to the economic climate, so demand for procedures such as knee arthroscopy or a hip replacement is likely to increase.
    • Will this be the year that you finally get over the fear of the dentist? Prothodontists can help restore your smile through implants, bridges and fixtures, while Cosmetic Dentistry deliver an entire “smile makeovers”- filling in gaps, veneers, whitening teeth, etc.
    • Or will this be the year that you will finally has that cosmetic surgery procedure done? Newer methodology for facelifts and eye lifts (Blepharoplasty) utilizing a laser can significantly lower downtime and get you back to work looking refreshed in no time.

    The year has just begun – what do you want to with it?

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    Medical Tourism Evolution

    Medical tourism used to be tiny and only for the wealthy. Now it’s ‘Medical Travel’ and it’s growing, fast.

    Leaving home for care is nothing new. People have been traveling around the world for treatment since the beginning of time. Now we call it medical tourism, and it is growing quickly.

    Patients seek care away from home because it is cheaper, unavailable in their home location, can be accessed without waiting for a long time, can be combined with a travel experience and can be kept secret. Despite the talk of healthcare reform, patients and employers are paying more for care with no forseeable decreases and they are looking for safe, affordable alternatives to care in the US.

    There are several serious barriers to adoption and penetration of the notion of leaving home for care. In fact, we’re not even sure what to call it these days. “Medical tourism” has morphed into global healthcare referral or medical travel, underlying the fact that we are talking about healthcare in a different place, not sipping Margueritas by the pool. The growth of the industry is being fueled by mostly medical outsiders who see the commercial potential of opportunities that have resulted from medical cost inflation, globalization and cheap information and communications technologies.

    There are lots of opportunties for physicians in the medical travel industry. Substantial challenges to the traditional notions of face-to-face care, continuity of care, itinerant surgery and global healthcare information exchange are but a few of the issues that the medical provider establishment will have to confront as medical travel continues to grow around the world.

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    What's hot

    By now you know that the landscape of medical tourism changes on an almost monthly basis. Geopolitical eruptions, natural disasters or the latest headline about US healthcare reform changes the industry on a dime. Here’s what’s hot this week:

    1. The person sitting next to you on the plane is your surgeon-off-shore health communities are looking for US- based surgeons to participate in foreign offices to do surgery, and bring their patients, for less cost in the host country. Grumpy doctors in the US are interested.

    2. The person you see on your computer is your doctor- information and communications technologies are providing a way to deliver follow up care at minimal cost

    3. Click to see your record anywhere in the world- global healthcare information exchanges are growing as more doctors around the world adopt and connect electronic medical records.

    BOTTOM LINE: Global healthcare referral coordination is more about moving information than moving people.

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    Enrollment in High Deductible Health Plans Increased in 2010

    According to the survey from Benefit Research Institute, the 2010 EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey showed that enrollments in high deductible health plans increased in 2010 – from 13% in 2009 to 14% in 2010.

    Large deductibles mean that patient will pay out-of-pocket for many of their medical expensive. As more and more Americans are tightening their belts, they will be looking elsewhere to lower their medical cost. This will raise demand for diagnostic tests (colonoscopies, endoscopies, CT scans, MRI), overall health screenings (Executive Wellness Exams) as well as other procedures, such as orthopedics, ophthalmology and others. Global healthcare can help to fill in the gaps to provide solutions to help families struggling with rising healthcare costs.

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    A Looming Doctor Shortage?

    America will lose an estimated 46,000 primary care physicians by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This has created a perfect storm stemming from three factors:

    1) Rising cost of US medical school tuition, ($156,456 in 2009 according to the American Medical Association). Hence, debt-saddled graduates are financially bound to more lucrative careers as specialists.

    2) The first crest of Baby Boomers is reaching retirement age – increasing doctor demand and further straining these thin resources. According to the American Academy of Anti Aging, Baby Boomers accounted for 26.1% of the US population in 2006.

    3) Healthcare reform will soon insure 32 million previously uninsured Americans.

    Scary statistics indeed, however, as with all business, times of great challenge stimulate innovation. Some trends indicate a rise of: nurse practitioners, telemedicine, walk-in clinics, global and domestic healthcare. One such example of filling in the gaps through global healthcare is the Executive Wellness Screen/Executive Wellness Exam, originally designed for busy executive as an efficient über-physical with a host of diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) and bioscans. Other trends are emerging…stay tuned!

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    Global Healthcare Is Not Just About The Cost

    3 Million people spent $76B on care away from home in 2010.
    A recent Frost and Sullivan research report on the medical travel business predicts that medical tourism will come a $100 B business by the end of 2012 and that hot spots to watch will be: the Middle East, Asia and Germany.
    While most believe that cost is the main driver this is not true across the board. A McKinsey and Company 2008 report emphasizes that 40 per cent of medical travelers seek advanced technology, 32 per cent seek better healthcare, 15 per cent seek faster medical services and only 9 percent of travelers seek lower costs as their primary consideration. Click to view the full report.

    As reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare continue to decrease and increasing numbers of US doctors indicate they will cut back seeing patients insured by these government insurance plans, or stop seeing them altogether. This will fuel access, rather than cost, to the forefront of medical travel.
    Inbound tourism is the flip side of the same coin – as US healthcare continues to get more expensive and more difficult to access, hospitals are looking for ways to fill the beds. Foreign patients are attractive market and also pay in cash.
    As I””ve pointed out before, these market eruptions present entrepreneurs with big opportunities. Healthcare reform might change the rules, but I don””t think significantly, given the big picture patient demographic and manpower supply and demand challenges.
    Global referral communications, coordination and care is a growth industry begging for talent and $100B is likely to get a lot of attention. It certainly got mine.

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    Former VP of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Joins MedVoy

    MedVoy announced today that they have added Lew Emanuelson to its advisory board to support and develop strategies for the employer benefit marketplace. MedVoy will now have an additional 32 years of specialized insurance experience in underwriting, sales and consulting for group health insurance plans and insurance brokerages in order to provide invaluable insight into the increasingly complex insurance vertical. It will enable MedVoy’s partners to draw from a new pipeline of patients to increase revenue streams, while also fulfilling MedVoy’s mission of connecting patients to domestic and international healthcare providers that administer the highest quality of care and accessibility at an affordable cost.

    Read the full press release

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    Mommy Makeovers at MedVoy

    You may be wondering… what exactly is a “mommy makeover”?

    Pregnancy takes a toll of a woman’s figure and a mommy makeover is designed to help restore the pre-baby body. Women gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy and unfortunately, there are changes to the body, such as stretching of the stomach and fatty tissues stored in the hips and abdomen which is difficult, if not impossible, to lose through diet and exercise alone. A mommy makeover combines a variety of cosmetic surgery, such as tummy tuck, butt lift, breast lift/augmentation, liposuction, cellulite removal and other treatments. As every woman is different, these are customized to each woman’s needs.

    Medical Tourism helps to provide high quality services at an affordable prices, keeping the savings  for more important things (like sending your little one off to college).  Contact us for a complimentary quote.

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