Medical Tourism Magazine sat down recently with Dr. Andrea Maggioni, a Pediatrician and Director of Global Health at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (formerly Miami Children's Hospital) to discuss his experience building a global medical travel program for Nicklaus Children's Hospital and how the hospital is becoming a global leader in child care. Dr. Maggioni also shares insights into the value of the Global Healthcare Accreditation for the hospital's global healthcare program and how it has fostered trust and credibility.
Tell us a little about yourself personally?
I am the Director of Global Health and serve as an Attending in the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami, FL, USA. I have spent the last 30 years serving in various leadership roles across a broad spectrum of pediatric hospital care, including clinical, financial, administrative, strategic planning, and business development.
Originally from Italy, I received my medical degree from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” where I completed a residency training in Pediatrics and a Ph.D. in neonatal nutrition. With a well-rounded educational background (MD, Ph.D., and MBA), I was also a pioneer of the Hospital Medicine movement of the late 90s, having initiated programs from scratch to full maturity both at Maimonides Medical Center in New York and Nicklaus Children’s in Miami. In 2004, I was called in to restructure the pediatric services for the Vatican health system in Rome, Italy. After almost two years of full-time service, I continued to serve as their international consultant for another 10 years.
How did you begin working in the area of Global Patient Services?
Upon my return to the US in 2006, I was appointed Director of Global Health at the Miami Children’s Hospital (now Nicklaus Children’s Health System). Over the years, I have gained extensive experience creating, implementing, and managing innovative and sustainable sources of alternative global revenue within the healthcare system. The success of the program has been substantial, with an exponential growth both in patient volume, as well as net revenue. In a nutshell, the program now serves patients from over 100 countries and has developed extensive international affiliations and operational agreements with foreign governments, payors, universities, and hospitals worldwide.
How long has Nicklaus Children’s Hospital had a Global Patient Services Department and what are the top treatments you specialize in for medical travelers?
I initiated the first formal Global Health program in 2006. Nicklaus Children’s Hospital was just ranked as the #1 children’s hospital in Florida by US News and World Report for 2022. Our top services pursued by international patients include Cardiology, Orthopedics, Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Oncology.
What support services do you offer pediatric patients and their families that travel from other parts of the US or abroad?
Our multilingual concierge staff is specially trained to serve the unique needs of patients and families traveling from around the world in search of answers and groundbreaking treatments for their children. Our expert care coordination begins with the first contact and continues throughout the child’s stay, follow-up care, and the transition back home, including coordination and follow-up with the local physician team. We are the liaison for all medically-related financial arrangements, working with international insurance providers and foreign government agencies, as well as helping families with self-pay solutions.
For the critically ill or injured child, Nicklaus Children's Global Health can arrange LifeFlight® Critical Care Transport via ground (ambulance), helicopter, and fixed-wing aircraft. Our team of medical transport professionals, including a physician, will coordinate the transport of critically ill or injured children from anywhere in the hemisphere to Nicklaus Children's Hospital.
As the gateway to the Americas, Miami offers an international flavor that makes most people feel right at home. The many languages spoken by our diverse, multilingual staff include Spanish, English, Creole, and Portuguese, as well as Arabic, French, German, Mandarin, and Russian. Additionally, Nicklaus Children's Hospital offers access to a Language Line that allows for translation via telephone in any language needed, it is available 24 hours, seven days a week. This service is free to our patients and ensures that language is never an obstacle to receiving world-class care.
At Nicklaus Children's Hospital, we will do anything and everything possible to make sure patients and their families receive the highest quality healthcare in a truly friendly, accommodating environment with doctors and staff who will communicate in a culturally sensitive manner.
What global markets do you receive patients from and are there specific markets you are looking to expand into?
The main referral regions come from the Caribbean Basin, as well as the Central and South America markets, but patients also come from as far as Ukraine, Russia, as well as Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates.
What sets your organization apart and makes it so unique?
All we do is take care of kids in all aspects of their childhood. We are very sensitive to the fact that in many cultures the entire family is involved in the patient care decision-making.
How do you see medical travel evolving over the next two years?
I do foresee a continuous growth of this market sector within the healthcare industry. New technologies are becoming ubiquitous, and this will facilitate a truly global exchange of expertise and talent. The adoption of standardized clinical protocols and the use of playbooks will guarantee the same outcomes leading to a shift of patients from the US, seeking more affordable care abroad.
Are you seeing pent-up demand from domestic and international patients for healthcare services due to the pandemic? Please explain
The COVID pandemic was an accelerator in the adoption of new remote technologies like telehealth in all aspects. Nowadays, it is almost the norm to schedule a Telehealth subspecialist to consult instead of “in-person”. The pandemic has changed the way we deliver care today and in the future
What types of global partners are you looking for?
We are always seeking partnerships and relationships with governments, payors, TPAs, and other hospitals who share the same vision of providing the best care possible to the kids we care for. We also look for innovative/alternative technologies and partners to help us provide more affordable and accessible care to the foreign community.
Your GHA Accreditation survey was held during the pandemic. Why was it important for you to continue investing in your Global Patient Services program during such challenging times?
The GHA accreditation is part of a larger cultural organizational philosophy of continuous improvement and standardization of the processes. Even a pandemic could not stop this!
Your organization has several accreditations. Why did Nicklaus Children’s Hospital choose to get accredited by Global Healthcare Accreditation?
GHA accreditation was a seminal event in the history of our program. The entire process was a great learning experience and was very informative for both sides. We realized there were plenty of reasons to celebrate and showcase our program, as well as some good opportunities for improvement. We strongly believe that the global health community has unique needs, which need to be carved out from the current domestic workflows. We are proud to have been the first free-standing pediatric hospital to be fully accredited by GHA. We are proud to share our stamp of approval and our current accreditation with the families coming to NCH from all over the world.
What value does GHA provide to your organization? What value or benefits does it provide to your medical travel patients? Does it foster trust among clients and health buyers?
The customers of today are different from those of the past. Shopping for healthcare is now no different than researching a good product to buy. Prospective patients and families read customer reviews and actively seek formal stamps of approval from reputable accreditation agencies. As it is, such agencies are limited in the global sphere, which is why GHA is so valuable.