Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Medical Tourism is a Search for Value not Low Prices

Complementary & Alternative Medicine
From my perspective I saw synchronous business expansion reports of increasing traffic and a future that holds healthy steady growth. Significant capital investments in facilities and capacity were evident at all the facilities. Those who plan and execute their business models and imperatives skillfully will have an opportunity to earn a healthy return going forward.

After returning from a trip through Asia these past few weeks I can happily report that the future for medical tourism and travel looks very promising. My thanks go out to all the providers and facilitators/concierges who were extremely gracious with their time. We were able to visit active facilities and ones undergoing new construction. Government officials executive leadership in private institutions and leading facilitators all expressed convincing arguments for a favorable future.

From my perspective I saw synchronous business expansion reports of increasing traffic and a future that holds healthy steady growth. Significant capital investments in facilities and capacity were evident at all the facilities. Those who plan and execute their business models and imperatives skillfully will have an opportunity to earn a healthy return going forward.All the facilities offer clear value propositions (high quality care and customer services for lower prices) to clients now and are improving such services for the future.

As both a physician and an MBA student I wondered about a focus on pricing and cost savings. In my view value propositions are a much better method of conveying what is offered to patients. Slashed costs and Internet pricing pages may not be the best method of transferring value propositions to the public at large. If anything we sell ourselves short. When I see &lsquolow price' an immediate question arises: what was trimmed in order to achieve that price?

The answer for this industry is complex but involves structural differences that do not cut quality corners. This equates to value propositions not simply lower prices. Alternative marketing messages may likely yield better receptivity in the viewers' mind.From a country perspective challenges exist but they appear to be getting attention. In the country itself the front door (airport) the best that it can be? Do the streets en route to facilities ensure peace of mind as you approach the buildings?

Almost as important is the hospital's immediate exterior surroundings. Would the exterior surroundings opening into an oasis revealing the exotic nature of these destinations yield more favorable impressions? Urban centers appear to have a greater challenge here.Understanding how the visual experience of entrances impacts new client arrivals may improve the reception. Do the surveys cover these components of the patient's experience? Improving these variables would likely have a positive effect.

Collective dialogue within countries should lead to coordinated improvements in infrastructure. Some gaps may be due to fragmented areas of responsibility and unclear oversight. There appear to be several constituencies that if aligned would reduce barriers and obstacles. Internal cooperation to improve a particular country's image can lead to robust and healthy competition for the entire region. This becomes a win-win proposition for providers consumers and governments.

We heard stories of solitary patients searching the Internet and happening upon a facility making selections due to financial pressures and then venturing abroad for very significant and invasive medical procedures. This may not be the best marketing story. I wholly and actively support this industry but these scenarios of an Internet flight of fancy can be a high-risk proposition for everyone involved. These relationships can result in bad experiences adverse public relations releases and generally negative media reports.

These cases can be very difficult to unwind the public relations damage resulting in restrained growth and more costly media rebuttals for each case that surface. No doubt prevention is more effective and less costly than the cure. In healthcare bad experiences and outcomes can be overly magnified. Constituencies who do not support this industry take advantage of such outcomes in media releases. They maximize the effect of incorrect assumptions about poor quality misguided attitudes of fear and pre-existing negative bias.

The effects of such releases on the mindset of the tentative healthcare traveler can be difficult and costly to reverse.The consumer's psychological state should be moved carefully and methodically from an existing state of concern fear and hesitancy: to positions of acceptance enthusiasm and hopeful anticipation. I believe that this mechanism can fully accelerate the growth rate of traveling US patients.

Solutions are complex and require a careful analysis of many factors. Assumption about US patients and about international providers can lead to both parties not fully understanding the customer base and marketing approaches. The market is vital and provides an essential service that will grow. Engaged discussion understanding cultural gaps in viewpoints and continued dialogue will only continue to grow a brighter sustainable future.

Dr McCormick is originally from New York and now lives in Los Angeles. He is a practicing Emergency Medicine physician in Los Angeles. He has remained Board Certified for the last 10 years. Prior to that he served for over 20 years in pre-hospital emergency services both ground and air based operations. He graduated from medical school at the State University of New York Downstate in 1993. His residency in Emergency Medicine at the prestigious LAC+USC Medical Center was completed in 1997. Dr McCormick is a founding member and co-inventor of the NuMask IntraOral Mask a breakthrough medical device for ventilating patients. His next direction is a more strategic solution to the US healthcare challenges with the launch of a medical tourism business called Premier Medical Travel this fall. He is convinced that combining his MD and MBA will help to unleash the tremendous benefits this industry has to offer: our patients our payers our country and our future generations. He may be reached at

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