Every Country with a Sandy Beach and a Blue Sky Wants Medical Tourism, but Few Are Prepared to Pay for it.
I've studied and advised on medical tourism projects for the past seven years on every populated continent except South America and Australia. And the biggest hurdle to success that I've encountered is funding. Interestingly, funding isn't just about enough money to start a new enterprise, but it's also about the source of the funding.Many of the more successful medical tourism projects are privately funded by physicians from and working in their native countries. These enterprises are driven by the value of the local economy, not the global economy and they derive much of their revenue from the local for profit sector (realize most developing and developed countries have some form of nationalized healthcare so basic healthcare is "on the house") and surrounding countries' citizens who see some quality or simple availability factor in the destination and the physicians. Most of these providers will also attract some, usually bargain hunting, North Americans and Europeans - but it is a price/fee driven group of patients.
With excess clinic or hospital capacity and a positive relationship with a local resort destination a local doctor can advertise online with a $1,000 web site and some ads in local and regional media and start a business that will be as busy as he or she can handle.
That's great for the physician, but not so much for the country. It does offer some bragging rights and perhaps a featured success story at one of the many Medical Tourism Conferences or Seminars.
But, it's not a growth industry that serves the host country.
If a nation is serious about medical tourism, and wants to establish a significant new economic sector, then that country must realize it is competing on a global platform for a multi-billion dollar industry and act accordingly. Many Medical Tourism destinations also rely on ordinary tourism as signifiant parts of their economies. If they needed a new airport to compete with their neighboring countries, they would not count on local pilots to build one, so why would you count on local physicians or hospitals to build a new Medical Tourism industry to benefit the entire country?
Public Private Partnerships (PPP or P3) represent a mechanism to properly fund a globally competitive Medical Tourism project that can utilize international brand access, sophisticated marketing programs and international funding support to establish new economic sectors that funnel Foreign Direct Investment, Foreign Exchange, new tax bases, increased employment and knowledge and technology transfers to change the entire posture of national healthcare both for a nation's citizens and for thousands of non-nationals willing to pay internationally competitive fees for sophisticated medical producers performed by some of the world's most recognized physicians. Many countries, from the U.S. and Canada to China and European countries with international ties, have international development funding to match or support local commitments and guarantees, just waiting to be asked for.
If you're interested in developing a new economic sector in your country, ask yourself if you're willing to participate aggressively in the funding. If you are, then you are on the verge of an enormous growth opportunity.