We are seeing a tremendous rise in the number of medical tourism facilitators developing internationally but how we go about delivering services to the patients is not provided in a handbook. So many facilitators gathered at the Congress for the workshops to gain some insight into how to develop their businesses and establish best practices for handling patients. Even in a competitive industry the desire to work together was evident.
Wouter Hoeberechts of WorldMed Assist is one of the leading healthcare facilitators headquartered in the US and a member of the Medical Tourism Association. When asked about unregulated growth of the medical tourism industry he replied &ldquoIn this type of industry such as medical tourism which is characterized by high growth measures should be in place to ensure wild growth is contained.&rdquo Hoeberechts believes that having ethical guidelines that shape industry are desperately needed.
&ldquoIn doing so our key message really is for all of us to work together in developing this medical tourism industry.&rdquo While competition exists the large market provides opportunity for all groups to work together rather than focusing on business competition. &ldquoWorldMed Assist has a lot of knowledge and we are willing to help out new players&rdquo adds Hoeberechts.
Wouter Hoeberechts participated in the medical tourism facilitator workshop where his objective he reported was to &ldquoultimately to help the medical tourism industry by giving and sharing information.&rdquo Another example of WorldMed Assist's efforts includes their survey of 150 medical tourists which was performed to give the medical tourism industry a sense of what drives the industry.
And for us it is part of the education commitment we have to the industry&rdquo states Hoeberechts.&ldquoLooking ahead the medical tourism industry will be phenomenal. In terms of what this means to individual patients here and now it offers alternatives. For example in North America on the issue of wait time we do not think medical tourism will resolve these completely but others may have a different perspective and a different approach to this.
Five years from now the medical tourism industry will have developed into a mature industry. We will see accredited bodies within the industry as a whole products being a standard part of healthcare benefits and standard offerings a part of individual insurance products&rdquo reports Hoeberechts. Another facilitator and member of the MTA is Premiere Medical Travel owned by Dr. James McCormick added to this concept.
Medical tourism presents a great solution for a huge problem down road. As baby-boomers retire tens of thousands will need great medical care in hospitals and we do not have enough locations or capacity. By looking at medical tourism as a solution and not a threat this is very beneficial to US population overall&rdquo he added. And that is where Premiere Medical Travel fits into the picture with their physician led organization which is looking to provide solutions to problems coming in three to five years time.
For example growing acute care needs will occupy most of our hospital bed space which will create quality of life issues for gall bladder valve not emergent hips procedures looking for hospital bed space. It is going to take several years to develop processes infrastructure for industry to work successfully&rdquo reports McCormick.
WorldMed Assist and Premiere Medical Travel work with the Medical Tourism Association during monthly teleconferences to help develop the industry in such a way that medical tourism is &ldquoone component of a fully integrated system of care rather than a small episode of care&rdquo states Hoeberechts. &ldquoThere are issues to resolve such as aftercare which is still an issue.
However it is not as much of an issue as it has been made out to be people do get aftercare. Education and awareness on aftercare will help resolve this issue. That is also where metrics come into play. If we can convince countries hospitals and doctors are up to par it would be easier to institutionalize aftercare&rdquo he adds. &ldquoIn terms of metrics and accreditation we see both of these as mission critical.
The industry as whole has a critical role to play here. For WorldMed Assist we deal a lot with insurance brokers. One of the questions that appear regularly is how does quality compare? It is not easy to answer that question thoroughly in a way that satisfies the question completely. One example is surgical outcome data where it is difficult to locate this in the U.S. but easier to find in overseas data&rdquo he reports.
Hoeberechts also believes that as quality indicators develop this situation will improve. With respect to accreditation Hoeberechts is happy to see recent development in this area and that although the media raises valid concerns of whether the medical tourism industry can address this effectively we are seeing certification programs and other comparable programs developing in a positive way to create a strong foundation for the industry.
He also stated that he feels it would be helpful for healthcare facilitators to have guidelines and established best practices and that the certification program being launched by the &ldquowould be very helpful as would guidelines for insurance brokers and other companies involved in medical tourism companies.&rdquoWorld MedAssist recently partners with Swiss Re four months ago &ldquowhich is the first time an insurance company is really engaging in medical tourism on a national level&rdquo boasts Hoeberechts.
We have seen players on the regional level but this is the first time we are seeing it on a national level. This combined effort going to market provides us with a good opportunity to get contracts with TPAs and employers and incorporate this into their benefit plans.&rdquoSaroja Mohanasundaram President of another well know facilitator called Healthbase and member of the MTA also believes in a seamless patient experience adding &ldquo
At Healthbase we feel that seeking care outside of one's territory should not be any different from seeking care at one's own home and that the patient should not be burdened even the least bit with all that it takes to make their medical travel trip a success. We are therefore organized as a one-stop source for providing complete door-to-door arrangements of medical travel logistics to individual consumers businesses insurance carriers and third party administrators.
Finally Mohanasundaram adds &ldquoWe are of the opinion that research is of utmost importance in overseas medical travel. And as a standard rule healthcare is one area where quality is definitely more important than price. Seeking care overseas is quite different from seeking care at home but the patient shouldn't feel the difference.&rdquoPremiere Medical Travel is also looking to attract the attention of insurance companies and TPA's but their focus will always be on the patient's choice.
People get the message that there are comparables outside the US. It is a challenge of changing mindset. What we have created at Premiere Medical Travel helps them understand the medical tourism choice and not the distance. Choice is time&rdquo states McCormick. &ldquoPremiere Medical Travel has come up with a clever way to tie in with friends and family who are their social fabric.
It enables the individual the opportunity to keep in touch with friends and family on a very personal level throughout the entire process&rdquo he added.When asked about this year's Congress Hoeberects McCormick and Mohanasundaram were very positive. &ldquoWe were very impressed with the conference: The number of attendees was unparalleled. Equally important those people represented organizations of key interest to us ~ insurance companies insurance consultants/brokers TPAs etc.
Because this conference was dedicated to the industry the energy level was incredible and everybody reached out to each other to network and learn more of the latest developments&rdquo reports Hoeberechts. &ldquoThe World Medical Tourism Congress was the first conference to be held on such a large scale and with amazing success. We found the private networking sessions very useful in understanding the market needs and in establishing new connections.
Thanks to MTA for giving us this platform to interact with other players in the medical tourism industry&rdquo states Mohanasundaram. &ldquoCongratulations Medical Tourism Association for putting this excellent conference together and thereby helping move our industry forward&rdquo added Hoeberects.