Progress in Motion ~ Medical Tourism Congress Proceedings


In early 2000, Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times in his book, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” articulated for us that globalization had replaced the cold war system. He further elaborated that “globalization was here to stay and the world-at-large could look forward to an increasing level of ‘integration of capital, technology, and information across national border.”

Today, ten plus years later, we have all seen, experienced and been impacted by convergences and intersections of globalization and life as a single community. We are a global village, with widespread implications as to what that means and how to live within it. We are also a world comprised of different cultures, geographies and traditions which we somehow balance as a single community.

Globalization is transforming healthcare rapidly and visibly, ranging from life sciences, research and development, and pharmaceutical networks to the current medical tourism niche industry. Noted by U.S. World & News Report as “one of the top ten trends in 2010,” the medical tourism landscape is a hot area of development in many countries.

Globalization was a common point of discussion at the 2010 World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress as physicians, healthcare professionals and business executives from all over the world gathered to share ideas and perspectives.

The number of attendees focused on setting healthcare development goals and progressing forward within the medical tourism industry was inspiring.

“This is a room of people that are looking to the future,” said Dr. Kevin Fickenscher, Chief Strategy and Development Officer for Dell Services, during his keynote presentation on healthcare reform.

All the most pressing issues pertinent to medical tourism and its future – from the expansive organization of regional healthcare clusters to the specific set of standards that international hospitals must strive to meet – were tackled head-on at this year’s Congress. Some of the major topics of interest, conversation and industry development at this year’s Congress included healthcare clusters, branding, social media and online marketing, global benefits and the future of healthcare.

Though the overall adoption of medical tourism by insurance companies and corporate benefits plans is still fairly low, many industry players who presented at the Congress maintain optimistic outlooks. Entrepreneurs, insurance companies, brokers and employers are determined to look outside the box and step in the multi-billion dollars industry medical tourism industry portrays.

“Medical Tourism, if it can continue to provide access to significant pricing discounts and comparable quality to American medical providers, is going to be a part of every insurance carrier’s provider model going forward,” predicted Michael Bertaut, Senior Healthcare Intelligence Analyst for Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Other opportunities for healthcare sector growth and development within the medical tourism industry were discussed, including regional collaboration and the increasing involvement of the travel industry in establishing linkages to the medical tourism sector.

“Not only hospitals and other medical institutions see the opportunities of medical tourism,” said Dr. Mathias Goyen, CEO of UKE Consult & Management. “The tourism industry is picking up, too. Airlines and hotels are starting to realize that this is a growing business that is worth consideration.”

Due to the string of natural disasters and illnesses that have occurred abroad recently, threats to the success of medical tourism were another popular topic. From the logistics of a volcanic eruption to the avoidance of drug-resistant strains of TB, several sessions at this year’s Congress went into great detail on how international threats to travelers should be addressed and handled.

Stirred by the global trend of aging populations, Baby Boomers were a popular speaking point as well. In the U.S., the Baby Boomers will soon add 76 million older persons to the over 65 years old population. Medicare is providing health coverage for persons over 65 and health care reform is enabling more people to get coverage. However, what about elective surgery, cosmetic surgery or wellness? Medical tourism is definitely a new market opportunity where affordable prices and high quality meet the need of the elderly.

To support and promote medical tourism, social media is becoming a new trend. Marketing to expand and grow a business via the means of a social media is even more interesting on a medical tourism point of view. From any part of the world, a patient can find information on a hospital, an expatriate can ask for solutions immediately and buyers and sellers can get in contact.

Telemedicine also is becoming popular. In order to provide efficient after care, telemedicine is a way to incorporate health management into medical tourism. In that way, patients and medical staff can exchange information and concerns prior and after surgery.

The dialogue of ethics in medical tourism also remains important. Since every country approaches patients differently, standards must be set for governmental safeguards, pre-procedure information and patient follow-up care.

Around the world, ethics are beginning to incorporate sustainability. Sustainable hospitals are thriving from Europe to America, with green architecture and engineering fueling the new trends. Sustainability brings a healthier environment for patients and staff, permitting among others, natural ventilation, natural light and healthy food; in a word, a non-hospital atmosphere.

Another topic prevalent on the minds and agendas of the congress attendees was the U.S healthcare reform that passed into law in March 2010.

Healthcare has been reformed in the U.S. in an attempt to make health care coverage accessible to everybody. Nevertheless, the bill implementation will take several years to be put into practice and corporations are now looking to reduce expenses.

Medical tourism appears as an attractive market with high quality and cost effective surgery, and some self-funded companies and voluntary employee benefits programs already stepped foot in the medical tourism industry while some employers are investing in maintaining the health of their employees, promoting corporate wellness and health tourism.

Knowledge and expertise laid the foundation for the keynote speakers of this year’s Congress, featuring brilliant perspectives from all around the globe and all facets of the industry.

Learn about how you can become a Certified Medical Tourism Professional→