Tag Archives: medical tourism statistics

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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Three Things to Know about your Doctor

A recent Deloitte report on medical tourism predicted that outbound medical travel from the US could reach upwards of 1.6 million patients by 2012, with sustainable annual growth of 35 percent. If you are one of the many potential patients seeking high quality, affordable care outside of the US, you should know three things about your provider before boarding the plane: who they are, how and where they practice, and what are their results and outcomes.
The first question, who they are, probes the provider’s education, qualifications, experience and reputation. Most of this information is usually accessible on the doctor’s website and can be verified on accreditation organization websites or professional association resources. Check to see whether the practitioner is board certified by a reputable US or foreign specialty board and if they are a member of the national specialty society or association.

Secondly, ask how and where they practice. For example, plastic surgeons and dentists are likely to practice and operate in private clinics or ambulatory surgery facilities removed from a hospital setting. Some may even own the clinic and they should divulge that information to you. If something goes wrong during a procedure, make sure you understand how and where you would get emergency care, how you would be transported there, and who would pay for it. In addition, unlike more and more hospital facilities that are being accredited by the Joint Commission International, (click for a list of accredited hospitals) the organization responsible for making sure hospitals adhere to acceptable practices and procedures, independent, free-standing facilities frequently are not similarly examined or accredited.

Finally, and perhaps the most difficult information to find, is the outcome and results of a given procedure. Ask ” How many of these operations do you do in a week, a month or a year ?” Also, inquire about the number of cases that result in complications, the need for revision surgery or significant morbidity i.e. something that unexpectedly doesn’t work the way it should after surgery, or postoperative death. Most doctors, including those in the US, will be unable to give you an accurate answer because they don’t keep good records or have an unreliable system to keep track of results. Sometimes the best you can do is to talk to someone who has had a similar procedure.

Getting information about a doctor and his or her results in not easy, wherever they practice. The more information you know, however, the better you can determine whether surgery away from home makes sense.

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Healthcare Open Enrollment Period

It’s that time of year again… open enrollment for your health benefit plans. Most Americans are frustrated because their healthcare care bill is increasing… yet again… and this is exacerbated by the global recession and the confusion surrounding healthcare reform. Colorado is projected to see a healthcare increase of 14.4% in 2010 – slightly higher than other states due to the large number of small businesses in the state.

Large employers with 100 or more employees will often receive utilization and cost data and are in a much better position to manage their health care cost through aggressive plan management strategies and tactics. Small employers (and individuals) generally do not receive utilization and cost data plus often rely on the pooling of risk since they have a higher probability of costing the system more than the dollars they contribute through premium payments – since “everybody pays for a few”.

The misperception in healthcare is that cost and pricing for the same clinical procedure is relatively the same from provider to provider yet clinical costs vary significantly from zip code to zip code, state to state, and country to country.

Domestic and international medical tourism introduces transparency and helps to lower healthcare cost. There are scores of articles on lowering your out-of-pocket healthcare cost in 2011 that may help marginally.  However, MedVoy is in a position to help individuals, employers and employees save real money on healthcarecontact us for details.

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The next wave in medical tourism

As anyone following this industry knows, medical tourism is evolving rapidly. Some of the biggest changes are:

1. Movement from an emphasis on “tourism” to “medical”, with some questioning whether the term “medical tourism”should be abandoned in favor of descriptors like “global and domestic healthcare facilitation or aggregation”
2. A shift from international travel to US domestic referral to an ever expanding base of “centers of excellence”
3. Domestic price and quality transparency leading to value comparisons
4. Global competition forcing US providers to lower their charges
5. An emphasis on regional referral networks rather than long distance networks
6. Increasing IT interconnectedness because of HITECH incentives in the US
7. Increasing telehealth and mobile health options
8. Industry consolidation and elimination of marginal players
9. Higher barriers to entry as companies develop difficult to build networks
10. Initial attempts at costing the true benefits of various business models.

BOTTOM LINE: Buckle your seats belts. We’re in for a rough ride.

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Medical Tourism Continues to Grow

According to research performed at the Center for Medical Tourism Research in San Antonio, Texas, medical tourism continues its relentless growth. In fact, the triple digit growth rates arguably make medical tourism one of the fastest growing industries in the US.

Now that healthcare reform legislation is passed, the economy is gradually recovering and the unemplyment rate is stabilizing, pundits are polishing their crystals balls and predicting the impact on the future of the industry.

The disparity in the supply and demand for services, the aging population and more costly technological advances will continue. In response, look for the continuing growth of online care/telehealth, global information networks and transportability of personal health records and continued transparency in quality, price and outcomes. These are all positive steps towards making care better, cheaper and more accessable in the US and around the world.

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Medical Spa MD Interview with MedVoy Cofounder, CMO, President

MedVoy’s Chief Medical Officer, Cofounder and President, Dr. Arlen Meyers, was recently interviewed by Medical Spa MD.

In this interview, Dr. Meyers defines medical tourism as “leaving home for care. It can be inbound, (someone from Mexico coming to the US), outbound (leaving the home country to go to another country) or domestic. There are local, regional, national and international medical tourism clusters developing throughout the United States and around the world.

It is estimated that global medical tourism is a $100B global industry expected to grow significantly over the next few years. While no one can know for certain the effects of the recent US healthcare reform bill, rising costs, lack of supply of physicians and the demand for technologies and treatments continue to expand and fuel the growth of the industry.

The most common procedures sought by patients considering medical tourism are cosmetic surgery and dentistry, bariatric surgery, IVF and short stay procedures in urology, orthopedics, ENT and ophthalmology. That said, because of the onerous costs of some procedures in the US, patients are seeking life-saving cardiac surgery in India, proton beam irradiation in South Korea and living donor liver transplants in Asia.

The entire interview may be found here.

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