Medical Tourism Model
Any Model Can Work in Medical Tourism, But if You're Starting with a Blank Slate, This is the Way to Go.Nearly every physical configuration, specialty focus and service concept has been tried in medical tourism, and most have failed to provide a sustainable and replicable model. As you read that sentence, I will challenge you to name one internationally recognized brand in medical tourism. There, my point is made. So, why not and what is that illusive business model waiting to be developed?
The answer is very simply. What does the market want? What is the market paying for today? Where is the market going to get the very best care?
What does the market want? The market wants a good outcome. Whether that is surgical, medical or even some "wellness" experience. The market wants its expectations of a positive outcome or better. Today, in medicine, a good outcome is expected and good is expected to equal perfect.
What is the market paying for today? The market is paying for three types of healthcare. First, the market is paying for necessary and lifesaving healthcare. Those with the funds will be whisked away in jets to have their heart disease, oncology treatments or other life saving from life threatening chronic and incidental disease tended to by the very best physicians and medical provides they can find. Second, the market is paying for necessary, but not life threatening, healthcare. For example, if my hips or knees are worn out, but the rest of my mind and body are in pretty good shape, I may not be willing to settle for a cane or walker to aid my walking. It's not life threatening, but it is life altering in a negative but reparable way. Likewise, my obesity may not pose a day to day health threat, but over time it certainly does. Addressing obesity through bariatric surgical procedures offers a new take on daily activities and better control over current and longer term health issues. Then, third, the market is paying for desirable services like plastic surgery and cosmetic dentistry, wellness experiences, etc...
So, where does the market go to get the best care? The market goes to the United States first, and when they can afford it, and then to destinations offering as close to "U.S." healthcare as possible. In other words, the U.S. is first and every other location is second at best.
What model these three questions point to?
Let's begin with outcomes. If you were going to get the engine tuned in your car what would you do? You'd look online for reviews of auto mechanics. Research clearly states that medical tourists do exactly the same. And were are you going to get the most complete information about outcomes and providers? Many web sites and data resources exist to tell a patient what physicians and where the best outcomes are provided. So, if my choice is between researching a half dozen physicians in the U.S. and getting outcomes information and patient ratings of their care and services, versus traveling to some unknown hospital in the developing world and being treated by the physician on duty... which will I ( or you ) choose? That's a clear answer.
Second, what services to provide. The demand for lifesaving services is contingent on the onset of life threatening events. It's interventional care sparked by often immediate or at least impending need. That is hard to manage economically from a business perspective. At the other end of the scale are those unnecessary but desirable services and like any "product" or "commodity" that is unnecessary but desirable, cost becomes a factor. And, most businesses would prefer not to have to compete on cost. It's low margin. So, the sweet spot becomes those necessary but not life threatening medical problems, hips, knees, weight loss, some vision services, restorative dentistry, etc.
Lastly, the where do they go question. Well, the challeng with coming to the U.S. for healthcare is that the U.S. has the highest priced healthcare in the world. Further, depending on the patients' origin, they may have difficulties entering the U.S. But, in a business sense, if you can't come to the U.S., why not take the U.S. to the patient. The magic of the U.S. is U.S. trained physicians and U.S. standards for facility operations. Those are both portable.
Therefore the model for Medical Tourism is to place U.S. trained physicians in facilities developed and operated to U.S. standards in easy to get to and attractive locations where necessary, but not urgent or lifesaving services may be delivered at highly competitive fees. That is a winning, sustainable and replicable model.