Marketing is a critical component of most businesses; whether or not your organization offers high- quality products or services, your client volume and overall success depend, in a large measure, on the quality and effectiveness of your marketing strategies. The pattern is similar in medical travel. With shifting paradigms in patient expectations and choices for medical travel destinations, medical tourism and health tourism organizations need to rethink strategies to enhance their brands and visibility and improve how they communicate their offerings.
In marketing a medical travel program or business, there are some common mistakes to avoid:
Websites are often the first point of interaction between businesses and clients or potential customers; thus, your website could be the beginning or the end of a potential business opportunity.
A few important points to consider with websites are user experience, relevance to your target audience, and cultural competence. Being the first point of contact between clients and businesses most times, your website should optimize these metrics or it risks sending your prospective clients somewhere else.
Just like almost any platform, user experience is a determinant of the platform’s usability. A client is unlikely to engage with your business if they find your website difficult to navigate. If a prospective client has to click through several pages to get the information they need, they might abandon the process entirely. If your contact details, for instance, are hidden away beneath layers of web pages, a customer may perceive your medical tourism business as distant and unable to truly connect with their needs.
Similarly, website information that is relevant to your target audience is a key metric in driving in more potential international health tourists to your program. If your program offers weight loss surgeries for medical tourists, can they easily find information about the cost, procedure, success rates, complications, and potential risks of various weight loss procedures or does the website just contain information about the history and beauty of your healthcare facility?
Undefined target audience
Another mistake with some medical travel programs and businesses is that important information is being marketed to an unclear demographic. You risk not being relevant in marketing to patients if you do not have a clearly defined patient profile.
If your program focuses on patients with orthopedic conditions, your website design as well as the international patient department must provide robust information about the array of orthopedic procedures offered in your program and what to expect during and after surgery. Generic information about surgery may be inadequate to compel a patient to contact you.
If your target population are patients who seek weight loss surgeries, your information services also need to be able to address concerns about psychological support, post-operative nutrition, and other offerings to help them deal with post-operative complications.
Further, knowing your target audience helps you communicate information in ways that meet the cultural needs of the target population. If your target audience for gynecological services is women or couples in core Muslim nations, for example, marketing may be more effective with images and symbols that are culturally sensitive to this community.
Your program may include the best-trained healthcare providers offering state-of-the-art care, but if you are marketing this information through the wrong channel or channels, the results may not meet expectations
With everyone within seconds of the other with smart devices, it is important for medical travel businesses to be easily visible on smart devices. Is your medical travel business accessible on digital platforms? Is your website mobile friendly? If your target population is young people who seek cosmetic procedures, are you readily reached via social media messaging or does your prospective client have to wait all day for email replies or for you to ring them back?
To determine what channels work best for communication, it is also a good idea to conduct a patient experience survey and find out from past and present patients what worked best for them or what would work best for them.
Not understanding patient needs
You cannot meet patient needs if you do not understand them. In your first interactions with prospective clients, are you able to provide relevant answers to their questions or do they have to check back for answers?
The needs and expectations of medical travel patients are changing and have shifted significantly since COVID-19 hit. Patients are now looking beyond the quality of bedside treatment in your facility to the quality of services across the continuum of care. What are your offerings for accommodation, transportation, post-recovery, and wellness needs; essentially, the quality of the experience from departure to discharge?
Patients also want to know the experience post-discharge; would the patient be followed up virtually? Would there be a smooth transfer of care to a local healthcare provider or would the patient be caught in the center of it?
In addition, given the enormity of the challenges that came with the pandemic, patients are now more wary of contagion. What is your facility’s strategy for containing COVID-19 and mitigating the risks of other infectious diseases? What measures are in place to safeguard the health of other patients when one patient contracts a highly contagious infection?
Patients want answers to these questions now, before they book that return ticket.
No third-party accreditation
Now more than ever, patients are being intentional about their health. The pandemic drove a shift in healthcare that is seeing patients move towards providers and medical tourism businesses that show commitment to patient safety, quality of care, and well-being. Patients no longer want to depend on hear-says or self-promotional reports, but on an objective evaluation of your program’s commitment to these indicators.
Accreditation has, therefore, become a key differentiator and an essential marketing tool in the post-pandemic medical tourism landscape. Global Healthcare Accreditation has launched a series of certification and accreditation programs to raise the standard in the industry and help your program and business meet global best practices.
With Global Healthcare Accreditation for Medical Travel and the Medical Travel Facilitation Certification, stakeholders can have their policies and protocols validated against recognized best practices in medical travel, building patient trust in your organization. Moreover, with effective training and support by industry leaders, medical tourism programs and businesses are able to redesign their business frameworks and restructure their policies, processes, and procedures to meet the needs of today’s medical travel patients.