The Medical Tourism Sandwich-Satisfying Patient and Health Provider Demands
Medical Tourism is a fast moving and incredibly challenging market place. There are many organizations wishing to jump on the bandwagon and there are many too who are falling off very quickly! Success requires a thorough understanding of ever changing patient demands.
This is no easy ride but a nail biting rollercoaster that even the most experienced and seasoned professionals in our industry struggle with. It is about listening to what the market is saying, reading the trends and then reacting and adjusting your strategy to survive.
People entering the business need to be brave and smart. This market has been compared to the Gold Rush. There are lots of people falling over themselves to take a piece of the action with very high and arguably misguided expectations. But beware the fools’ gold! This is still a very immature emerging market and has to be treated with respect and patience.
Medical Tourism Comfort Zones
Medical Tourism is a term many use to describe the flow of patients across international borders. Our definition though is not so simple and black and white. As an organization committed to matching patients to healthcare providers around the world, we have our own insights into the market and what it represents. We believe Medical Tourism is a concept of patients travelling outside their neighborhood but fundamentally within their “Comfort Zone”.
Understanding these ever changing Comfort Zones is critical to keeping up with the market and delivering an effective service for patients and healthcare providers. We recognize that the comfort zones vary for every single patient.
What works for one patient may not for another. Some patients are frequent travelers and will think nothing of jumping on a plane and travelling across the world for surgery. Others will feel completely out of their depth but would be comfortable travelling within their own country.
Comfort Zones are like ripples. They are stronger near the source and get weaker and weaker. The further away you travel from your home, the less likely it is you will be prepared to have surgery there. Healthcare providers are all pitching for a piece of the market and if you are trying to reach people on the furthest ripple you need to recognize that the target market is significantly smaller.
There are often easier pickings nearer to home and there is still a massive market to explore for Medical Tourism within countries but these can be busy markets forcing people to push the boundaries along the ripples. This is a dangerous game and every provider has to decide which part of the market they want to operate in whilst recognizing that the market changes and it can change very quickly!
These Medical Tourism Comfort Zones continually shift and understanding these shifts and reading what influences them is important. Take the US market for instance. In recent years we have seen a general trend that the Comfort Zone for US patients has shifted.
There are still plenty of patients prepared to travel across continents but it is fair to say that there is a trend in US patients staying closer to home and travelling only as far as Latin America or staying within US borders. There are many reasons for this – more competitive pricing in the US, improved quality in Latin America hospitals, political unrest elsewhere in the world or general economic instability to name a few.
But rather than thinking the end is nigh for Medical Tourism it is simply a case of reading the opportunities. Some markets may shift in one direction, whether on a temporary basis or otherwise, but it is likely that opportunities will arise to compensate. Overall Medical Tourism is undoubtedly a growth market as a whole but you need to understand each individual market.
The Comfort Zone for some US patients may have shrunk but Comfort Zones for other patients around the world are expanding for different reasons. Patients from Africa for instance are actively seeking to travel for treatment, as the opportunities may not be available in their own countries.
We have adjusted our marketing not just to target familiar US and UK patient markets but also to seek out other patient markets around the world that may be less familiar but are craving to have access to Medical resources around the world.
Healthcare Provider Evolution
As an organization working with patients from all over the world and dealing with healthcare providers in over 40 countries we have an enviable position to evaluate the market place. Healthcare providers have to be very targeted in their approach and we have seen many multinational facilitators take radical and necessary steps to change their strategies to react to the market place.
Some have decided to move away from traditional procedures such as cosmetic surgery and focus in specialist areas such as stem cell therapies. Others have moved away from servicing certain geographic regions and grown their networks closer to home.
Others still have moved away from patients groups recognizing that certain patients are more difficult to convert than others! As a lead generator servicing these providers we have worked with healthcare providers to understand the market place and even in our relatively short 3-year history we have evolved significantly and will continue to do so.
Reacting to the market place is not just about understanding where patients are travelling to. It is equally about what they are prepared to travel for and why. Healthcare providers need to consider patient behavior as well as competitor behavior. It is a hugely complex world for those involved in Medical Tourism.
Prices are changing around the world and it is clear more competitive pricing in the US and UK is having an impact on patients travelling further afield. It is not changing the fact that there is a growing Medical Tourism market but it is changing where patients are travelling to.
Quality is also changing around the world and the improvement in quality and the work of accreditation and other bodies to promote this is opening up new markets. The accessibility of new cutting edge treatments around the world is also an important part in defining the market.
There will always be centers of excellence whether in the USA or China for example and these will dictate where patients will be prepared to travel to.
Healthcare providers are finding innovative ways to keep up with the pace and obtain a competitive advantage. In some cases doctors themselves are travelling to overseas clinics and hospitals and operating there to reduce costs for patients.
Many providers are offering consultations for patients in their home countries to give patients assurances before the travel. It is also refreshing to experience that the objectives are not always about making money but also about making affordable healthcare more accessible around the world.
This truly is a caring profession and Medical Tourism is now even evolving to doctors travelling to “outreach centers” in Developing Countries to treat groups of people locally that otherwise would not have access to their services.
Finding the Balance
We are caught in the sandwich between patients and providers and simply offer a dating service to match the two. Success for a lead generation company is about finding that balance between what patients want and what healthcare providers want.
People want information, they are curious about the Medical Tourism market and they crave information. However, this does not mean they are ready to travel and commit to surgery overseas. Healthcare providers on the other hand want quality patients who are ready to travel.
There is large area in the middle full of window shoppers! We act as a filter to separate the wheat from the chaff. We seek to satisfy the patients’ demand for information and ultimately, when they are ready we will introduce them to the most appropriate Healthcare providers that can satisfy their treatment needs.
We are evolving away from patients making comparisons based purely on price towards providing information to allow patients to research and make informed decisions about their medical journey. We recognize that this is a difficult and often-complex decision for patients and it is not just about price.
Price is just one factor and patients need information about quality, waiting times, new treatments and techniques etc. Patients will only be in a position to make a decision when they have fully understood all aspects. Travelling abroad for treatment involves risk and to keep them within their Comfort Zones they need information to help them manage this risk and provide the necessary assurances. Only then will they make a commitment to travel.
Understanding patients and their Comfort Zones is one thing. This is just the starting point. Attracting the right patients and giving the healthcare providers the best chances of converting patients is all part of the challenge…
About the Author
Adrian Myram is Chief Operating Officer of AllMedicalTourisem.com and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG. He has extensive commercial experience across many industries including Medical Tourism.
AllMedicalTourism.com is run by a group of Internet marketing experts. After a resounding success in the online travel industry they have brought the same web marketing knowhow to the Medical Tourism industry to help healthcare providers, from hospitals to facilitators, to find the patients they seek.
AllMedicalTourism.com was founded on a very simple concept: matching patients seeking care with healthcare providers offering the very services these patients are seeking. It’s simple, and it’s effective. It has grown into a truly international operation with an impressive portfolio of healthcare providers covering a wide range of procedures in over 40 countries and attracting patients from all over the wide.
They use highly targeted marketing techniques and a range of marketing channels to locate patients who use the internet to research their healthcare options for specific procedures. These patients are then matched to appropriate healthcare providers who can satisfy their needs on a real time basis. To find out more please visit their website at www. allmedicaltourism.com or join their patient community by searching for AllMedicalTourism on facebook.