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Ministerial Summit: Strategies to Move Forward


One of the much-anticipated events at the Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress each year is the ministerial summit. This invitation-only assembly is a unique opportunity for select health care industry stakeholders – from Ministers of Health, Tourism, Economic Development and beyond, government officials to employers and insurance companies – we bring the VIP’s together to collaborate and network within a global healthcare interface common to all – health, tourism, development, sustainability, legal issues and developing partnerships necessary to achieve each countries respective goals.

Our agenda is defined by the participants so they maximize their time with us. Our prearranged networking assures the meetings to bring like ideas to fruition. We’ll provide a summary of each topic discussed at the last conference and breakdown the key points in each presentation for a synoptic, though detailed look at this year’s ministerial summit, moderated by William Rowland of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which recently launched a medical technologies Initiative.

Public-Private Partnerships

From left to right- Hon. Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o,Minister of Medical Services Kenya, Jonathan Edelheit,CEO, Medical Tourism AssociationTM and Fred Hagigi,Director, Executive Education Programs Professor of Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health Of extreme interest to developing nations, the discussion of public-private partnerships (PPP) was led by Fred Hagigi, professor of healthcare management and director of global health initiatives in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Anderson School of Management.

PPP describes the cooperative arrangement between public (government) and private sector entities in the investment of public infrastructure, community facilities, etc., whereby such agreements dictate both parties share the investment, risks, responsibility and rewards of public sector projects (which are typically large-scale initiatives).

In many cases, PPP can enable projects to move forward in circumstances where resources are insufficient to be delivered solely by the public sector.Other leading examples of PPP in medical tourism include the government of India, which legislatively recognized combining tourism with world-class medical expertise as a governmental policy in 2003.

The rise of PPPs internationally provides a solid platform for information exchange, technology exchange, continuum of care, and in many cases will result in the escalation of the quality of healthcare services to the public and private sector.

It may generate great investment growth in healthcare, greater confidence in healthcare and more options being extended from the private insurance sector.

Trade and Investment Opportunities in Health Care

The aftermath of the global financial crisis had a severe impact on health care. Yet the medical tourism industry managed to sustain growth, and the expansion of trade and investment opportunities in health care continues to rise – though some economic aftershocks, for instance, have manifested in tighter controls and added requirements placed on the funding of new medical ventures.

Hence, in this presentation, Don Williams, CEO of the global consulting and advisory firm Princeton Healthcare, Inc. talks about what it takes to embark on a health care project now in the current recovery state.

Williams stressed three main areas when it comes to trade and investment opportunities:

comprehensive development of the initial concept, establishing a strong tie to market demand and creating a realistic business and financial model. Case study examples from the speech included the implementation of a new hospital system in Chennai, India.

There, a leadership and management team was formed and planners in this venture developed an all-encompassing business plan to overcome their challenges of being new to the market, making the venture profitable in its early stages.

Overall, part of having a successful health care project in a staggering economy, maintained Williams, is creating a competitive profile and assessing market risk, developing partnerships with global advisory and support teams –then scoping out proper investors and lenders – and finally securing investments. After that, operating at optimal levels of performance is key.

Value-based Insurance Design

Tracy Swinburn, who manages the University of Michigan’s V-BID Center, led a summit introduction on value-based insurance design, an enterprise that removes barriers to essential, high-value health services. The concept developed around a concern that it’s not about how much we spend on health care – it’s about what we spend it on.

One big factor in the push for V-BID is that there’s a substantial underutilization of high-value health care services in the areas of wellness, screening, diagnostic testing and more. V-BID also looks to counter the one-size-fits-all approach to patient cost sharing, stated Swinburn:

“The basic V-BID premise is to align patients’ out-of-pocket costs, such as co-pays and premiums, with the value of health services. This approach to designing benefit plans recognizes that different health services have different levels of value.

By reducing barriers to high-value treatments (through lower costs to patients) and discouraging low-value treatments (through higher costs to patients), these plans can achieve improved health outcomes at any level of health care expenditure. Studies show that when barriers are reduced, significant increases in patient compliance with recommended treatments and potential cost savings result.”

V-BID has already been adopted by various companies, including JP Morgan Chase, L.L. Bean, Wells Fargo and Sprint.

International Health Care Legal Issues

From left to right- Dr. Brad Beira, Sr. Vice President,Marsh Risk Consulting, Africa and Bernard Merkel, MinisterCounselor, Head of Food Safety, Health and ConsumerAffairs section of the Delegation of European Union.

Other issues such as local licensing requirements for professionals and facilities rendering the services as well as surrogate decision-makers – where if a patient becomes unable to voice his or her care preference at some point in the process – make up other valid legal concerns and issues to think about as a medical tourism patient.

Payment and transfer of insurance benefits overseas along with patient privacy, dispute resolution and controversial treatments and procedures need to also be taken into consideration as a patient.

While medical tourism can be often an advantageous venture in terms of cost-benefit and individual wellness, one thing that Tracy Mabry of the international law firm Greenberg Traurig focused on in his presentation was the abundance of legal issues that may impact a medical tourism patient’s experience internationally.

When it comes to informed consent – whereby a patient is informed of the risks, benefits and treatment alternatives – Mabry highlighted that some questions should be kept in mind such as: ‘Are providers required to have interpreters available?” “Must the informed consent be provided and documented in the language that is the patient’s primary language?”

International Humanitarian Efforts in Health care

Another area of medical tourism that may often be underemphasized is charitable service. Dr. Robert Rey, the minimal scar plastic surgeon and reality TV star addressed the summit on the importance of giving back.

As an active member of the American Red Cross and Hershey’s Smile Foundation, Dr. Rey has traveled to parts of Brazil and Africa on humanitarian missions to perform surgical procedures such as cleft lip and palate repair.

Part of this munificent medical approach is striving to provide high-grade care to patients who would otherwise not have access to it. By volunteering specialty surgical techniques, surgeons such as Dr. Rey are working to improve health care access.

Summit Synergism

In the world of medical tourism, there are shareholders and investors at every level, and while the ministerial summit does place an emphasis on the industry’s government officials, ministers and medical tourism facilitators, the general esprit de corps of this gathering and others at the Congress is pervasive beyond the summit session.

It is a choice mechanism for one of many networking opportunities and it brings together some of the top leaders in the medical tourism industry.

About the Authors

Renée-Marie Stephano is the President of the Medical Tourism Association™. Ms. Stephano is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Tourism Magazine, Health Tourism Magazine and Healthcare Development Magazine. Having a background in international marketing and relations, health law and litigation, she provides a valuable service to the Medical Tourism Association™ in these fields. She may be reached at

Brandon Samuels is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a contributor to the editorial staff for the Medical Tourism AssociationTM. Developing an early interest in health, Brandon completed a four-year Medical Magnet Careers program, which led to experience working in areas of nursing, radiology and dermatology.

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