Medical tourism is a phenomenon that is gathering speed especially with increasing information access and relatively easy means of travel. People are continuously getting themselves in foreign countries to seek medical attention for various reasons. The practice has its own benefits as well as barriers that its proponents must overcome to be successful in the venture, either as marketers or as patients. This discussion will focus on the benefits and barriers to medical tourism, marketing strategies that can be used to overcome the barriers, and the importance of the barriers and benefits to medical tourism.
Benefits and Barriers to Medical Tourism
Medical tourism attracts patients for different reasons. First, medical tourism allows patients to leverage from lower costs of medical care in foreign countries as explained by Hanefeld, Smith, and Noree (2016). Some procedures in the United States are prohibitively expensive and are not covered by medical insurance in the U.S. Such procedures include cosmetic procedures and other selected procedures not included in insurance coverage. Second, the speed of execution of medical procedures in the United States might be slow as shown in the case of Maria. To fasten the speed of acquiring the procedure, medical tourism should be considered. Third, medical tourism allows foreign nationals access luxury and private nursing in hospitals at considerable prices. Staffing ratios allow the patients access to medical attention round the clock. Fourth, medical tourism allows patients to bypass stringent rules and regulations in the U.S, often set by the government, insurance companies, and hospitals. Fifth, medical tourism allows patients’ access to talented medical professionals
Medical tourism has its own share of barriers. To begin with, the quality of service and surgery cannot be guaranteed especially if it is the very first time or one is operating without sufficient information. The quality of staff, equipment and service might compromise the entire operation. Second, language barrier in a foreign land is a possibility. It might be difficult for one to communicate in a country where English is not the first language and this might present the patient with a significant challenge. Fourth, the flight time involved might be too strenuous to a patient. For instance, a patient travelling to India, Thailand, or Vietnam might be forced to put up with significant flight times.
Overcoming the Barriers
To overcome the barriers, an institution should meet quality parameters in terms of its staff, equipment, and facilities. First, facilities need to ensure that being time sensitive is critical to capture patients with a sense of urgency. Accreditation of the facilities and staff should be done to ensure that confidence with the institution is preserved as explored by Crooks, Ormond, Jin (2017). The other strategy to overcome the barrier is ensuring that patients pass through a medical travel accreditation to ensure that patient medical travel care is enhanced pre and post-treatment. The Global Healthcare Accreditation Program accredits healthcare providers. Costs should be at the heart of medical healthcare facilities targeting medical tourists. The infrastructure possessed by hospitals and their associate partners should be high end and should meet international standards. Hospitals should also have international departments that are exclusively dedicated to international patients.
When such strategies as described above are instituted, facilities with an eye on international patients will derive from the international traffic of medical tourists. Patients on the other hand need to be careful with where they are contracting services. The importance of accreditation of facilities and providers should not be underestimated. Getting the advice and experiences of third parties is critical to ensure that there is full disclosure of possible happenings. Reviews from previous customers are necessary to ensure that there is no doubt in the mind of a patient with regards to the quality of service that is being sought.
Crooks, V. A., Ormond, M., & Jin, K. N. (2017, July). Reflections on ‘medical tourism’from the 2016 Global Healthcare Policy and Management Forum. In BMC proceedings (Vol. 11, No. 8, p. 6). BioMed Central.
Hanefeld, J., Smith, R., & Noree, T. (2016). Medical tourism. In World Scientific Handbook of Global Health Economics and Public Policy: Volume 3: Health System Characteristics and Performance (pp. 333-350).
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