Due to the huge proliferation in the medical tourism market, medical providers and facilitators wishing to increase their customer base and services should acknowledge the equally rapid growth of knowledge of the industry by consumers by adapting. Devising concepts and solutions for attracting, keeping and growing your customer base, creating an enhanced marketing edge over competitors and surviving and thriving in today’s increasingly competitive medical tourism market means medical facilitators have to step up to the plate in a number of areas. These areas include taking advantage of viral marketing, learning the latest in electronic medical records management and information technology, and most of all, understanding the consumer – what he wants and how to deliver those services for overall satisfaction.
Current Medical Tourism Environment
Medical tourism has gone through its early growing pains and has developed into a large and viable medical option for global travelers from countries around the world. The medical tourism market offers big industry opportunities for providers willing to take the time and make the effort to create sustainable, patient-centered resources that meet the needs of medical patients.
In order to do this, we also have to understand the growing competition between countries around the world, which currently involves over 20,000 providers in 60 countries competing for the same medical tourism dollars, which is projected to be upward of $100 USD billion. Due to this, the industry is currently facing a critical challenge of more supply than demand, which creates a highly competitive marketplace. Under these circumstances, the medical service providers must research and understand their specific market viability before providers can reap the full potential of medical tourism.
The medical tourism market is extending beyond the needs of early adopters market to the mainstream market, which requires special attention and focus to gain a competitive edge. As little as five years ago, medical tourism offered opportunities, though such opportunities offered often incomplete solutions to medical travelers. Today, the medical tourism market is changing. Healthcare consumers are becoming more educated, exploring the available global choices and looking for more structured environment, which offers knowledgeable people, seamlessly integrated processes, along with cutting edge technologies, research and medical developmental methodologies and tools when it comes to their medical care.
To attract these new mainstream customers one must take the time to learn, adopt and align your products and services to meet their needs. As medical providers enter the next phase of medical tourism, it’s essential to understand the different demands of every individual. Patient-centered care requires open communication, transparency in pricing and communication, technologies and procedures, and careful research and development when it comes to wining patients.
Therefore, the mainstream market is going to want a proven system for confidentiality, credible references and resources when it comes to information. Take advantage of interdisciplinary and variable information systems that includes not only competitive pricing, but electronic medical record transmission and information technology sharing in multiple languages and formats.
Mainstream Market Patient Acquisition
The patient acquisition process is a never-ending endeavor. Establishing a foothold in the mainstream market requires dedication, focus on details and the demands of the consumer market, as well as sustainable medical options and a willingness to adapt services to meet the needs of potential patients.
The supply chain of patient acquisitions follows a natural process of finding a consumer market, selling them a specific product, and profiting by your concept. Three basic phases are required in the patient acquisition process, including:
- Finding Your Customer Market Base
- Nurturing Relationships
- Ensuring Complete Customer Satisfaction in Services
Following the patient through the medical care process, from point of contact to post treatment or surgical care may also require the use of electronic medical record (EMR) technology involving telemedicine, documentation and report transactions facilitation, telemedicine conferences, and long-distance pre and post operative care offered to each and every individual patient. Doing so ensures a complete solution to a medical situation and encourages positive feedback and excellent customer satisfaction, not only with medical care provided, but also with care, attention, and courtesy provided by the medical provider facilitating the entire process.
In order to be competitive in this growing market place, medical providers must provide transparency in information.
Medical consumers want to know about:
- Surgical Procedures in Detail
- Price Ranges for Surgeries with Upfront Pricing
- Travel Packages for Consumer Viewing
- Issues Regarding Airport Arrival and Departure
- Transportation to and from Hospital or Clinic Facilities
- Access to Local Amenities and Sightseeing
- Language Issues/Translators
One of the most important aspects of facilitating global medical care is the transition from vertical styles of marketing to the exploding potential of viral marketing with multi-touch and mutli-mode marketing strategies. The Internet places competitive markets on more even footing than ever before, and therefore, competition for the same markets. Taking advantage of viral marketing, blogging, social networking and other creative avenues of marketing and promotion drives the mainstream medical tourism field today.
The Internet offers medical travelers from every corner of the world access to the availability, technology, and credentials and qualifications of surgeons, facilities, and other health care providers with the click of a mouse. Generation X and Generation Y demand and expect transparent information models. They know how to access information and have grown accustomed to it. Therefore, access to such information, resources and access to medical providers is the difference between success and failure today.
Understanding the customer, their concerns, and their focus directly affects sales efforts by providers. Consultation and easy yet confidential transfer and sharing of medical information is essential whether patients are looking for traditional surgical procedures or taking advantage of the growing field of telemedicine.
Viral marketing endeavors must not only attract and maintain contact and education with the upcoming “baby boomer” generation, but also offer the tools, knowledge base, and information systems that younger generations expect and demand.
Information Technology Leads the Way
The development of electronic medical records (EMR) and technology offers consumers and medical providers around the world a green, efficient and fast way to transport medical information from primary care providers to facilitators around the globe. Confidentiality and security of such information is a concern to medical consumers and facilitators regardless of their origins are destinations.
Electronic records help boost efficiency in health care delivery options and offer increased use of telemetry, an increasingly popular mode of communication between patient providers, regardless of location. For example, a cardiac specialist in Rochester, New York, may discuss patient care with physicians in India or Brazil, sharing information found in patient’s records including but not limited to images and other valuable data. Telemetry engaged live conference calls that may or may not include the patient himself.
Medical providers and facilitators around the world should be ready, willing and able to inform consumers regarding accumulation of health information, how such information will be disseminated, and openly and honestly answer questions or concerns regarding confidentiality, security, effectiveness, and quality healthcare protocols in regard to such transfers. EMRs are the future of medical information and recording.
In this respect, it takes a well-defined and workable team of providers to cross multiple gaps in the medical tourism process, from contacting a provider, to arranging important documentation such as visas and passports, processing medical records and accessing multiple and sometimes-complex information systems and language barriers in other countries.
Defining your Customer Value Proposition
Defining your customer value proposition means taking the time to develop your own identity. It is essential to define how consumes will perceive your organization; whether you offer the best product, best total solution, or best cost. Today medical providers mix the three distinct value propositions into one message, which blurs the message and doesn’t offer a brand identity. The mainstream consumer relates to a distinct identity, which separates them and gives competitive edge in their category class.
Three major characteristics should be identified as you attempt to focus your marketing efforts on certain client characteristics, which include focusing on individuals, who:
- Prefer to Work with Market Leaders
- Don’t Like to Take Risks
- Are Price Sensitive
- Are Looking for Credible References and Complete Solutions in Regard to Their Needs
- Are Looking for Reputable and Global Standards in Patient-Centered Care and Established Business Standards When it Comes to Providers
To stay competitive in today’s market, medical tourism providers must integrate the people, processes and systems involved in the tourism market. That means tailoring sales and marketing strategies to meet the needs of the customer, not the other way around. Building strong brand awareness addresses the specific needs of your target audience and creates a sustainable, satisfactory and pleasurable customer experience.
When focusing your efforts on profitability, find out who your customers are and what’s important to them. Learn how to find them and help them to recognize your brand. Provide the ultimate in customer services and create a unique value proposition for you and your business.
Profitability in the medical tourism industry means creating excellent and sustainable treatment results in customer satisfaction and experiences that will encourage them to recommend your services to others. Without customer feedback and support, your efforts will go nowhere.
How To Market and Win the Mainstream Customer!
Medical providers today must focus on designing their services, networking, promotion and marketing endeavors toward the end user – the patient. Various marketing channels can be utilized to reach the mainstream consumer such as internet, insurance agencies, local medical provider referral base, print media advertising, TV/Radio advertising, and word of mouth. The specific channel strategy you choose should correlate to your specific customer value proposition as well as return on investment from that channel. The key performance indicator (KPI) of a channel depends on total patient acquisition cost. The smaller the cost of acquiring a patient is that the better profitability margin you can expect, and hence better business sustainability.
A medical provider may have the most advanced medical or surgical equipment at your disposal, but if you forget to connect to the patient’s spiritual, emotional, or mental needs, you may never get a chance to use it. Nurture and build trusting relationships with prospective patients and help them to understand what they’re facing, what their options are, and help them make decisions.
It’s All About the Patient
Understand your patient. Establish a foothold in the mainstream market. Focus on details and demands of the consumer market, with sustainable medical options and a willingness to adapt services to meet the needs of potential patients. Find your consumer market, sell them a specific product, and profit by your concept. Nurture relationships and ensure complete customer satisfaction in services.
Select the right marketing channel that meets your needs, which will enable you to reach your business goals. Create a distinct message that attracts customers, nurture communication through multi-touch and multi-mode strategies. Patient-centered care requires open communication, and transparency in pricing and communication.
Define your customer value proposition. Develop your own identity. Define how consumers will perceive your organization – whether you offer best product, best total solution, or best cost. The mainstream consumer relates to a distinct identity, which separates them and gives competitive edge in their category class.
Stay competitive in today’s market. Integrate the people, processes and systems involved in the tourism market by tailoring sales and marketing strategies to meet the needs of the customer, not the other way around.
The bottom line is to communicate with your customers. Communication is essential. Without communication, your marketing efforts will fail. When it comes to crossing the chasm creating the best in healthcare delivery systems abroad, communication was, is, and will continue to be the foundation of your efforts.
About the Author
Mr. Pramod Goel is president and founder of PlacidWay, a leading portal in an emerging market of health and wellness tourism. PlacidWay is the ultimate internet resource for the health and wellness tourism industry.
PlacidWay helps improve top line performance, enhance competitive position and achieve the most productive organizational alignment among people, processes, and systems. PlacidWay opens the door to an entire world of the finest in medical and wellness programs, presenting top experts in critical care, cosmetic procedures, complementary and alternative medicine and medical spa retreats. You can differentiate yourself in this highly competitive medical tourism market and gain competitive edge through PlacidWay. Mr. Goel may be reached at, firstname.lastname@example.org.