Tag Archives: Medical Tourism Facilitators

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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    SURGICAL HOTELS: An Emerging Opportunity

    With more and more patients seeking care away from home, there is an opportunity for the hotel and hospitality industry to offer customized services to patients recovering from surgery and treatments and their companions. Neither a hospital nor a hotel, a surgical hotel is a place designed to provide a level of care below that required in a hospital, but yet accommodates the healing needs of patients in a comfortable environment.

    So, what does a surgical hotel offer?

    How does a hotel providing services to a postoperative patients and their companions provide value and differentiate themselves?

    A surgical hotel, part hospital-part hotel, would offer the following:

    1. location convenient to healthcare facilities
    2. transportation to facilities/airport/other
    3. availability of emergency medical care
    4. amenities
    5. sensitivity to the needs of specific postop patients; connected rooms.
    6. things to do for companions
    7. information and communication technology links with providers
    8. alternative/complementary services for postop patient
    9. security
    10. privacy/confidentiality in check in and exits
    11. disability accommodations in architecture, transportation vehicles
    12. medical concierge
    13. accommodate in-room stay by nurse or companion
    14. availability of equipment to take vital signs by medical professional
    15. availability of wound management supplies
    16. online medical education and postop care resources
    17. nutrition counselor, special dietary restrictions
    18. evacuation preferences
    19. brand awareness and snob appeal
    20. new design for bedding and furniture?
    21. allergy free environment
    22. medication reminder system (part of automatic wake-up call system?)
    23. mini-kitchen facilities
    24. real time patient feedback and request system
    25. panic button
    26. prevention of nosocomial (need a new word for hotel acquired) infections
    27. modified housekeeping schedule
    28. separate parking a minimal distance to room
    29. wheelchair management
    30. quiet
    31. bathroom amenities (antibacterial soap, hand lotion, etc)
    32. antibacterial surfaces on furniture
    33. billing and collecting interface with medical insurance ?
    34. disposable cell phones for companions
    35. pet accommodations?

    The global medical travel industry in rapidly growing and expected to reach $1B by 2012. Developers and the hospitality industry have an opportunity to participate and profit by offering differentiated, value added services to patients and their family members and companions that accompany them for care away from home.

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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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    Has Medical Tourism Gone Mainstream?

    A new reality show entitled The Health and Wellness Travel Show takes men around the world to explore alternative treatments in a variety of exotic locations. The show will take a look at a variety of ancient and modern treatments from a variety of practitioners ranging from traditional doctors to shamans. This premise has been given the Hollywood spin and dramatized for television since medical tourism connects patients to accredited and highly-trained medical doctors. However, the fact that this show even exists makes the case that global healthcare has become mainstream and the concept of leaving home for a cure is becoming commonplace.

    What do you think?

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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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    Five things will need to happen before medical travel gets real

    Despite the research reports, eco-devo white papers, industry analyses and industry marketing hype, medical travel/medical tourism is still an early stage industry looking for the right formula for success.

    In my view, five things will need to happen before medical tourism and global healthcare referrals get real traction: 1) the creation of a sustainable business model, 2)global healthcare IT connectivity and integration, 3) a physician generated global healthcare referral network, 4) a global regulatory, legal and socioeconomic ecosystem, and 5) patient awareness and acceptance.

    The creation of a sustainable business model
    Industry players including payors, providers, partners and facilitators are still looking for the the most successful way to make a profit and scale the business. With an eye towards what happened when Expedia disrupted the travel agency business, participants understand that margins for travel arrangement services are thin and that there is high price elasticity for global medical care. Few have found the magic key that fits the lock that opens the doors to profits. Payors and employers are hesitant to accept the value proposition without a better way to reduce their risk and demonstrate tangible, meaningful cost savings to their insureds and employees.

    Global healthcare IT connectivity and integration

    The US national healthcare information architecture is evolving. Eventually, the network will be a portal to the world and will allow for seemless, secure, confidential transfer of personal health information thus assuring some continuity of care and quality improvement. Similarly, it will take a while for health information systems to evolve in host countries that can talk to non-host systems. Short term solutions, like personal health records or mobile health applications, might fill the void temporarily.

    A physician generated global healthcare referral network

    Most medical tourism models connect patients to healthcare facilities, bypassing doctors in the initial stages. Doctors will get in the game when the model feels better, and they have the resources and ability to make referrals to consultants directly, like they do now. Since MedVoy was founded by an American doctor, MedVoy connects patients directly to doctors which is unlike other facilitators. Given the rise of international members, professional medical societies should be more proactive in building global referral networks, rather than seeing them as threats to existing domestic members.

    A global regulatory, legal and socioeconomic ecosystem

    The barriers to adoption and penetration of medical travel are many and include liability, reimbursement, quality assurance and impediments to continuity of care. As healthcare goes global, so will the rules and regulations that facilitate or obstruct its use. How about a World Trade Organization Treaty on Medical Travel?

    Patient awareness and acceptance

    According to the most recent polls, 50% of consumers understand the meaning of the term “medical tourism”, leaving home for care. Social network buzz and media stories find the medical travel story sexy, particularly given all the noise about escalating healthcare costs and consumers, employers and payors are hungry for more information. Moving patients from awareness to intention to decision to action, however, will take more time and use innovative marketing approaches directed towards granular market segments.

    Global medical travel is projected to be a $1B industry by 2012. While the bones are in place, it will take more time to add the flesh. Until then, to quote Karl Mauldin, people won’t leave home without it.

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    MedVoy receives Medical Tourism Association Certification

    MedVoy is one of  the first medical tourism facilitators/medical travel facilitators to be certified by the Medical Tourism Association’s, Medical Tourism Facilitator Certification /Medical Travel Facilitator Certification.  

    Medical Tourism Facilitators are organizations that are involved in the coordination of patient care for patients traveling from one country to another.  The certification process is a detailed process of evaluation which may take up to 120 days to complete. The standards have been developed by healthcare leaders from around the world in an effort to create best practices in the medical tourism industry.  The key to the MTA’s program is transparency in the services being offered to international patients.

    MedVoy is proud to receive the MTA certification and this certification has not only enabled us to put the right processes and procedures in place but also provided an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment towards patient safety and positive outcomes. 

    Patients all over the world must take the time to understand whom they are working with to avoid any surprises.

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    Medical Tourism Terms

    For the average patient seeking care, there is a confusing array of terms describing who participates in the healthcare referral process. Here are some terms and what they mean.

    Medical tourism: Seeking care away from home, either in the same country (like across several state borders in the US and sometimes called domestic) , outside the home country (leaving the US to go to Mexico) or to a home country (coming from the Caribbean to get care in Florida). Many industry participants are trying to get away from the term “medical tourism” since it tends to minimize the serious medical issues and risks associated with getting care away from your home location or region. Evolving terms are global or international healthcare referrals or sourcing, global care or transnational care referral. Also, how does traveling a few miles from your home, even if it means crossing a state border or a country border (Canada or Mexico) for care differ from domestic medical tourism? This lack of specificity contributes to the confusion about how many people actually seek care in different regions and that leads to inflated numbers of “medical tourists”

    Facilitators: Facilitators are those individuals or companies that help patients identify providers and make travel or care arrangements for a fee. They do not actually provide care. Facilitators can be country specific, regional or global and sometimes promote themselves as exclusive (the only company that represents care providers in a given country to inbound potential patients) or non-exclusive (multiple people or companies that can source providers in a given country).

    Transnational providers: These are, usually, large domestic providers with brand recognition, like the Cleveland Clinic , Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that have affiliation arrangements with hospitals outside of the US, for example, Panama,Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

    BOTTOM LINE: If you decide to seek care away from home, do your homework and understand the role of the different members of the chain of care.

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    Testimonials in Global Healthcare

    A few months ago, we blogged about finding a reputable medical tourism facilitator in How do I find the best medical tourism company?

    Another important factor is… a patient testimonial. Does the medical tourism facilitator have reference from past customers who were delighted by both the service provided by the company AND the doctor?

    If not, you may want to think twice….

    Anne Marie from Virginia

    Looking in the mirror I saw sagging cheeks and droopy eyelids and I knew it was time to do something to reverse the “old” look. I also knew I wanted to find a surgeon who was the best with no regard to where he or she was located.

    After searching the world, I was lucky enough to find, with the help of MedVoy, Dr. Edmond Khoury. He specializes in only faces so I knew he was performing the kind of face procedures I needed daily, not monthly. My experience with Dr. Khoury was incredible. Minimum pain, little downtime, totally natural look and, best of all, no one knows I had anything done! Friends and family just know I look great. Thanks to MedVoy for helping me find this fine surgeon.


    Anne M.

    To read more, please visit: http://mycommunity.in/medvoy/testimonials.php

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    Global Healthcare Speaking Engagement

    Due to his expertise, experience and invaluable insight on medical tourism, Dr. Arlen Meyers, MedVoy’s Co-founder,  President, and Chief Medical Officer will be an invited speaker for the upcoming Medical Fusion Conference to be held in Las Vegas, NV, November 5th-8th 2010.

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