If there’s one key factor that changes the paradigm for a medical tourism program, it’s a commitment to delivering an outstanding patient experience on a consistent basis. Increasingly, traveling patients and other payers are prioritizing the patient experience in their decision-making as to which healthcare provider to choose.
Many medical tourists may have had to put up with struggling to find a good place of comfort to stay after a procedure in a medical travel destination or organizing transport for themselves so much so that the stress of the medical trip negatively impacted their clinical outcomes.
Patient experience is the new determinant of success for a medical tourism program and it starts from the first interaction with a prospective medical tourist. Traveling patients face unique challenges when seeking medical treatments outside their home region. These include accessing accurate information about their treatment and destination healthcare provider, potential cultural and language barriers and arranging travel logistics. Patients want premium value for their money, so when they call to find out about a medical procedure they are hoping to undergo, they want concrete information about success rates, potential complications, who’s performing the procedure, and what measures are in place to optimize outcomes and boost the overall experience.
Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) has developed standards and resources to support medical tourism programs in aligning their practices, policies, and procedures to meet global best practices in patient experience.
Bill Cook, Director of Business Development and Marketing, in a recent webinar (Include link to webinar) with Jonathan Edelheit, President of the Medical Tourism Association, talks about how GHA is changing the narrative and pushing industry stakeholders to redefine patient experience.
Bill noted that GHA, through its accreditation, certification, advisory services and trainings, offers medical travel businesses and organizations the resources, tools, and strategies to remodel their operations to prioritize patient experience.
These programs and resources offer practical and effective strategies for medical tourism programs across different phases of the medical journey, including pre-arrival communication and education, care and treatment services, and post-treatment follow-up. Some of the benefits for healthcare providers include:
Build cultural competence
An essential component of patient experience for the international health payer or buyer is cultural competence. Since medical travel destinations offer treatments to people with divergent cultural backgrounds, it requires specialized skill to be able to meet patient needs across these various contexts.
“You need to understand who are your patients and build a pathway for them from there,” Bill said.
How a patient from northern Africa sees appropriate communication may be different from how a patient from the U.S. or UK sees it. What a patient from the UAE sees as culturally appropriate food or tone or imagery may be different for a Nigerian. Therefore, understanding these unique contexts and meeting patient needs along these lines offers a competitive advantage for medical travel organizations.
In its standards GHA provides best practices for organizations to strengthen cultural competency. This starts with a commitment from leadership, adjusting policies and procedures, modifying hiring practices, performance reviews and focusing on including appropriate orientation and training.
Build Effective Marketing Strategies
Global Healthcare Accreditation provides gap assessment services to help organizations implement effective marketing tools and models to boost brand visibility and improve the patient experience. Many medical tourism destinations with solid offerings may still fall short in their patient numbers due to weak marketing strategies. For example, building websites without proper information, not clearly defining their target audience or not having a compelling value proposition.
GHA also works with its strategic partners to offer organizations innovative marketing resources, destination medical travel development strategies and support building strategic relationships to help fast track a medical travel program’s success.
Accreditation to Build Patient Trust
GHA offers accreditation for medical travel businesses, including GHA Accreditation for Medical Travel, Certified Medical Travel Professional, Certification for Excellence in Medical Travel Patient Experience, GHA Medical Travel Facilitator Certification and GHA WellHotel for Medical Travel and Well-being. These accreditations and certifications demonstrate to health buyers and payers that a medical travel business is committed to excellent patient experience and quality service.
In the post-pandemic era of healthcare, trust is the primary currency, and a way medical travel programs can build trust is by leveraging third-party evaluations of their policies, processes, and procedures. A medical travel program that has this seal demonstrates to health consumers that your operations align with international best practices.
Further, accreditation shows a constant commitment to improvement and continuous learning, as GHA’s accreditation is periodically reviewed to ensure that organizations remain compliant to quality and patient experience indicators.
Patients no longer need to rely on unverified reports or anecdotes to choose a medical tourism program, but can look out for GHA’s seal and accreditation as an indicator of a program’s commitment to quality and a high-quality patient experience.
GHA refocusing on the Medical Travel Patient Experience
Patient experience is essential for every point of the care continuum, from departure to discharge; patients want a seamless medical journey as well as quality medical treatment and a relaxing post-treatment recovery period. Meeting patients at these touch points is a key to unlocking success in the medical tourism industry. GHA has a team of global experts and healthcare leaders to redirect organizations and businesses to meet patients’ needs effectively.
To learn more about GHA, visit here.