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Research Partnerships Lead to Innovations in Medical Tourism and Wellness

Economics & Investments

Hospitals and luxury are two words that do not seem to work together; or do they? In a recent trend where medical recovery meets the comfort of a luxury hotel, the idea of “Hotels Bridging Health Care,” known as H2H, gained ground.

As a mixed-use concept, H2H creates a new and innovative business model for entrepreneurs to fulfill the unmet needs of patients and their families; all achieved in a hygienic, complementary and friendly environment that provides quality accommodations, upscale treatments and state-of-the-art wellness centers.

“Medical tourism and wellness tourism is a way for medical facilities to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” said Fred J. DeMicco, ARAMARK chair and professor in the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management at the University of Delaware. “Being able to stay and be pampered at the same place you are curing your ailment is the way many people with medical issues will want to go in the future.”

DeMicco said about 75 percent of all hospital services today are hotel and hospitality-related, which would run parallel to the growth of medical tourism and wellness tourism.

“Price is a real attraction,” said Ali Poorani, HIRM associate professor and director of Hospitality Associates for Research and Training at the University of Delaware. “The cost of surgery in India, Thailand or South Africa can be one-tenth of the rates in the United States. A heart-valve replacement that could cost $200,000 or more in the United States goes for approximately $10,000 in India, and that includes round-trip airfare and a brief vacation.”

DeMicco said as accrediting bodies in the United States recognize healthcare facilities overseas, more corporations and insurance companies will pay for medical travel abroad.

DeMicco and Poorani watch the growth of H2H worldwide and are situating the program at University of Delaware to play a key role in expanding the concept. In the past three years, they have joined Kathleen Matt, dean of the university’s College of Health Sciences, in round-table discussions, which have brought together constituents from the state’s healthcare and hospitality communities to share information and ideas about the alignment of the H2H concept with potential plans for the University of Delaware’s Science and Technology Campus.

Bad Ragaz

The Bad Ragaz, a leader in the H2H concept that bridges resorts with medical facilities, is a unique well-being destination defined by the seamless integration of healthcare and luxury. Located in Switzerland, the resort is part of the epicenter of medical tourism and wellness tourism , rooted in the nation’s century-old reputation for high quality healthcare and exquisite service.

The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has a long-standing experience in the care of convalescent patients, who have been using the therapeutic and healing thermal water from the nearby Tamina Gorge to relieve their complaints for centuries.

Peter Tschirky, CEO of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, said the resort has roots in medicinal hot springs discovered in 1242. Today, the hot springs have become a luxurious spa experience in two areas of the resort: the public Tamina Therme is a 7,300-square-meter area for hotel guests only and includes whirlpools, recliners, waterfalls, current channels, outdoor pools, steam baths and saunas.

The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has continued this tradition in its Medical Center, founded in 1957, for the areas of outpatient diagnostics, prevention, therapy and rehabilitation. Making history once again, the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is setting an important milestone for rehabilitation treatment in Switzerland.

In the newly opened clinic, Bad Ragaz patients gain a unique combination of first-class inpatient rehabilitation and exclusive five-star care services. The inpatient rehabilitation department, located on the first-to-third floors of the Spa Suites, is comprised of 26 beds that can be adapted to meet patients’ needs. The “Clinic Bad Ragaz – The Finest Art of Rehabilitation — comprises the following areas of inpatient rehabilitation:

• Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation

• Internal Medicine Rehabilitation

• Psychosomatic Rehabilitation (from 2015)

In addition, a number of doctors from the following areas of medicine are available to patients at the Medical Center:

• Check-up Diagnostics

• Rheumatology, Orthopedics & Rehabilitation

• Internal Medicine, Pneumology & Nephrology

• Nutrition, Workout & Metabolic Optimizing

• Movement, Sport, & Performance

• Mental Health

• Dermatology

• Dental Health & Implantology

• Gynecology

• Ophthalmology

• Complementary Medicine


• Rehabilitation combined with a comprehensive, optimal, and individually tailored service – all under one roof.

• Interdisciplinary collaboration among the individual medical specialists, care staff and therapists provides an optimal framework for rehabilitation. Qualified care staff guarantees personal, 24-hour care that takes the patient’s individual needs into account.

• Patients can take breakfast, lunch, and dinner in their room or in one of the five restaurants of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz – three menus are available daily, one of which is based on the resort’s own culinary health brand, “Cuisine Equilibree.”

• Spacious balconies and running thermal water are optimally tailored to the needs of patients undergoing inpatient rehabilitation in 18 luxury spa lofts.

• Direct access from the Clinic Bad Ragaz to the Tamina Therme, a place of relaxation and recuperation. Patients also have access to all thermal water and sauna facilities in the 36.5” Wellness & Thermal Spa.

• An additional person can be accommodated in the same room for a discounted price and also make use of all the facilities at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. In addition to the 36.5” Well-being & Thermal Spa, the resort is home to two golf courses and four tennis courts.


Patient benefits are clear; thanks to the highly qualified medical and professional treatment and care teams, every patient is guaranteed optimal, individual and lasting rehabilitation.

“Prevention is less expensive than treatment,” Tschirky said.

Some insurance companies are beginning to cover stays at these luxury wellness retreats. Yet, Tschirky also claimed “that good is not good enough anymore” when it comes to competition. The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz Wellness Areas and Medical Health Center strive to be on the industry forefront and remain steadfast to its four core values, the 4 Steps to Excellence — respect, progress, passion and sustainability.

A case-in-point, Switzerland has been able to engineer Swiss Leading Hospitals, one of the top health clusters in the world, bringing more than 27 influential hospitals, clinics, intermediaries and resorts to create synergy between top hospitals and quality infrastructure that serves the needs of medical travelers to Switzerland.

“It could be easier here [Switzerland] because a smaller system means more personalized and a better position to have those important details,” said Peter Kappert, president of Swiss Leading Hospitals. “This is why Switzerland is often the first choice for treatment of serious diseases. The Swiss hold high standards for themselves, getting the job done efficiently and extremely effectively which leads to their very prestigious reputation.”

Kappert hospital managers are in high demand to help improve the field and quality of service.

“There is a great need for incorporating the expertise of hospitality professionals to medical tourism and there is a need for more hospital management schools/ majors,” said Kappert. “The Swiss Leading Hospitals coordinates services, such as hotel accommodations, visas, family matters, and even entertainment.”

The continued expansion of hospitality and medical tourism and wellness tourism is further defining the multitude of benefits Switzerland will provide as a hospitality leader. Not only can Swiss resorts offer medical treatments, they can also offer high professionalism, room accommodations and advice regarding excursions. Furthermore, they can help provide interpreters for translating. Patients will be able to experience the beauty of Switzerland, its scenic nature, and its well-developed facilities.

Hospitality students do not need to be deeply informed about the medical field, but they should learn how the medical and hospitality fields relate and what opportunities they have when combined. Clinical and hospital manager positions are openly available for graduates. If hotels bridging healthcare continues to grow, there will be a need for qualified hospitality graduates. Therefore, adding a medical tourism and wellness tourism aspect to the hospitality curriculum would be a good investment.

About the Author

Fredrick J. DeMicco is the Aramark Chaired Professor in the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management at the University of Delaware. Formerly, he was Associate Director in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Recreation Management at Penn State University, where he was Professor-in-Charge of the HRIM undergraduate program (and graduate program for five years), and presently is a Conti Distinguished Professor at the Pennsylvania State University’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Recreation Management.  He has worked in Healthcare at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston and at Walt Disney World in hotel and restaurant management.

Dr. DeMicco’s interest is international strategic management, Hospitality Bridging Healthcare (H2H)/Medical tourism and innovation. He has worked on projects with ARAMARK at four Summer Olympics (Atlanta, Australia, Athens and Beijing).

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