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Economics & Investments

Perception of a Destination: Medical Tourism Index

Economics & Investments

Public and private stakeholders have demonstrated both an interest and investment in the development and promotion of sustainable medical tourism destinations. Measuring the success of such ventures has been, until now, demonstrated solely through elementary economic impact figures. The limited data that these tools provide is used to determine the effectiveness and impact of strategies aimed at improving services and brand management activities.

Developed by the International Healthcare Research Center in partnership with Global Healthcare Resources, Inc., the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) is a new and unique tool that enhances the way medical tourism destinations are assessed. MTI measures the performance of 30 countries in four primary dimensions — country, tourism, medical costs, and facilities and services — and 34 underlying items.

Meaningful differences between countries are indicated in the overall Medical Tourism Index score, not only on an aggregated level, but also on all four sub-indexes. Therefore, the MTI provides a useful benchmarking tool for stakeholders to measure and subsequently manage their medical tourism destination brands; the implications of which influence public policymakers, place marketers and underlying companies researching the healthcare and tourism industry.

The Medical Tourism Index measures the attractiveness of a country as a medical tourism destination in terms of overall country environment; healthcare costs and tourism attractiveness, and quality of medical facilities and services.

Index Construction

An index is a measurement — quantitative, qualitative or a mix – of a series of observed facts that reveal relative positions of countries for a specific phenomenon. MTI surveys people from a targeted country to obtain socio-demographical information and push-factors for medical tourism.

Composite indicators are one way in which to understand complex phenomenon and compare countries in a meaningful and manageable way. A mix of public or private and national or international institutions, such as the World Competitiveness Index (IMD), the Human Development Index (United Nations), and the Globalization Index (Foreign Policy Magazine), provides indexes for complex phenomenon.

Indexes, such as the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (World Economic Forum), or the Nation Brand Index (GfK), assesses a country’s image. These indexes offer a simple number for a complex phenomenon and allow a relative objective comparison across countries.

Traveling overseas in search of quality healthcare and well-being has been done for decades. However, medical tourism has grown exponentially in the last decade despite only a handful of hospitals and countries promoting their destinations. Today, more than six million patients are estimated to engage in medical tourism, creating an estimated $100 billion industry.

Despite the current size and notable growth, empirical insight remains scant. As a result, nations have failed to make the appropriate investments in medical tourism to keep pace with expectations. The good news is that, compared against the attractiveness of other medical tourism destinations, the MTI shows where and how countries fall short or lead.

Medical Tourism Index is a useful tool for multiple stakeholders, such as government ministries and agencies (e.g., health, tourism, economic development, foreign affairs, education, infrastructure), industry players (e.g., hospitals and clinics, hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, health tourism management), third-party players (e.g., insurance companies, employers), associations (e.g., chamber of commerce, hotel associations, medical and dental associations, ) or researchers (e.g., universities, market research companies) to measure and, subsequently, manage their medical tourism destination brands.

Practical Implications

The MTI is a platform upon which the attractiveness of a medical tourism destination or country can be measured. As it stands, a country’s services are promoted to a list of targeted markets comprised mostly of small tourism adaptations including health and wellness.

To gauge potential medical tourism markets and attract business, countries have had to rely on existing demographics without much understanding of how potential clients perceive their destinations. Subsequently, because of unattainable or inconsistent messaging, investments have not translated into revenues and many a country has ceased to promote its medical tourism services.

The MTI not only defines potential medical tourism markets, but measures the effectiveness of a country’s promotional strategies. Through the MTI, countries can evaluate chosen markets and, based on perceptions obtained, make adjustments before implementing marketing approaches.

By doing so, nations have a better chance to achieve goals and extend services to existing and emerging markets in both the short- and long-terms. The MTI also prevents nations from squandering their investments by providing data that reinforces consolidation of diversified demographics or the elimination of existing marketing approaches entirely. For more information or to purchase a copy of the entire report, please go to

About the Authors

Renée-Marie Stephano, JD, is president of the Medical Tourism Association®, the first member- ship-based international nonprofit trade organization and think-tank for the medical tourism and healthcare industry. The MTA provides strategic development programs for destinations seeking to create sustainable and attractive programs for foreign direct investment. The MTA provides advisory services to investors interested in the industry and matches these financiers with medical tourism-related projects.

Dr. Marc Fetscherin
is an Associate Professor of International Business and Marketing and a Cornell Distinguished Faculty at Rollins College, in the United States. He is also a Fellow at Harvard University (Asia Programs). His expertise is in international marketing with a focus on global brand management, corporate branding, human brands, consumer brand relationships, and destination branding.

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