Will Patients Come To Your Medical Travel Destination, Post COVID-19?

The natural reaction for countries, healthcare providers and medical tourism businesses is to wait out events, until they return to normal.

But expecting the flow of medical travellers to return to where it was before may be a major strategic and tactical mistake.

How much your country was affected, what your government did or did not do, and the post COVID-19 view of risk may heavily influence the potential medical tourist’s view of your country for the next few years.

For example, will people still want to fly long distances or will they prefer shorter trips? Will they want to leave their country at all?

Plan for the future now

This is now the time to plan for the future. You could do nothing and lock down the hatches and when things get back to normal, carry on as before. Or you could take time out, away from daily life, to make plans for how you can encourage your country, organisation, agency, or healthcare provider to get medical travellers to come to you in 2021/22, both new and existing customers.

WTTC proposals

Coronavirus puts up to 50 million tourism jobs at risk says the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). When the time is right, WTTC and the global private sector will be ready to help and support governments and countries to recover.

WTTC is calling for a series of measures to be taken, to enable the swift recovery of the sector once COVID-19 is under control. It will offer its support to all governments, and has made some suggestions:

  1. Improve travel facilitation. Remove or simplify visas wherever possible, reduce the cost and improve processing times where practical, accept other visas when appropriate and introduce more efficient technologies for seamless and secure travel.
  2. Remove barriers.  Ensure that unnecessary barriers are removed or relaxed to alleviate pressure at ports and airports and implement flexible working visas for the industry in some countries with existing limitations, especially in hospitality and tour operation. 
  3. Ease fiscal policies. Reduce and remove travellers’ taxes, which increase the cost of travel, e.g. air passenger duty and airport, port, and hospitality taxes around the world.
  4. Introduce incentives. Introduce relief and incentives to support business continuity for companies, which have been most negatively impacted by the virus. SMEs, in particular, will take longer to recover. 
  5. Support destinations. Increase budgets and assign resources for promotion, marketing and product development purposes in destinations when they are ready to welcome visitors again.

WTTC reinforces the importance of strong public-private partnerships and greater international cooperation to respond and overcome the challenges faced by the sector during the recovery from COVID-19.

The tourism sector has a proven track record of resilience in the face of crises and this ability to bounce back has improved significantly in recent years.

Medical tourism planning

Unlike the more short-term problems for travel caused by politics, terrorism, weather events or strikes, the COVID-19 problem is a medical one. It will be harder for medical tourism to recover than other tourism sectors.

Hospitals, clinics and agents may be able to use modern marketing techniques to help encourage new and returning customers. But they can only do that if customers feel safe travelling to the country.

Governments and national/regional medical tourism promotional organisations will have to work hard and spend money on tackling the following issues:

  • Smaller global market :  The medical travel market is expected to be smaller in 2020 and 2021 , so what medical tourism customers there are will have a wide choice of destination. Organisations will need to work out how to maximise the effect of their marketing spend to make sure they get a share of the medical tourism ‘cake’.
  • A permanent change? The big unknown is if any change in the behaviour of medical tourism customers will be permanent or temporary. Will they look to travel domestically or to nearby countries rather than go on long-haul flights?  Any plan you make must include allowances for different longer-term results.
  • Maximise spend : The medical tourism industry has many examples of spending marketing money in the wrong places (e.g. scatter-gun promotion tactics ; exhibition stands or attending unknown “international health” conferences ). But is that spending reaching the end consumer? Are you still using outdated websites and printed brochures, when most of the world has moved to different online options to research treatments?  Are you still blogging, when competitors have apps, Instagram pictures and remote tele-consultations?
  • Target market : Are the target markets you selected in your 2020 plan the right targets now? It is easy to get locked into a habit of targeting what was the best market five years ago, rather than looking towards what will be the best markets in a year’s time. Check out opportunities by country, location, age, and a range of other factors.  
  • Your offer : Is your offer targeted, logical and realistic, or more the equivalent of trying to hit a small target with a shotgun? Is the offer now right for you and potential customers?
  • Keep informed : As well as reading IMTJ, are you using up to date research produced by your country and others? There are many ‘copy-and-paste reports’ in the market that use historic figures but offer little or no analysis for the future.
  • Accreditation : Some medical tourism accreditation organisations suggest that accreditation is the answer to attracting international patients and some governments look like they are controlling rogue medical tourism agents by bringing in accreditation.  While accreditation may help improve the standard of hospitals and clinics, there is however no proof that accreditation alone brings in international business. It is likely that the average medical traveller is less concerned about whether  their medical travel agent has or does not have a certificate, and more interested in whether they are cheap and efficient.

Beware one size fits all solutions

There is no off-the-shelf simple plan for recovery that you can follow post COVID-19. Bespoke solutions for medical travel destinations are now vital. COVID-19 will move medical tourism into the next phase, where what works and makes money for Country A, will be irrelevant for Country B to adopt.

If you want to plan for 2021 and commission your own research or specialist strategy, you must set aside enough time to work out, in detail, what you want from it.  It will then take more time for a good analyst to work out the best action plan for your destination.

Source : www.imtj.com

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How Will COVID-19 Shape Medical Tourism Development?

COVID-19, an unknown term six months ago, has become the greatest fear of individuals and companies. And while much coverage in the media has tended to spread panic, some posts and articles, like Reuters, are now taking a more pragmatic approach.

How might COVID-19 change the shape of the medical travel market?

Like most sectors, the medical travel market includes providers of many different sizes.  Here’s how they might be affected: 

  • The small and market-sensitive: Mainly medical travel consultants, startups and small agencies (facilitators). These individuals tend to have limited budgets and cash flow, and are most sensitive to fluctuations in medical travel flow due to ‘COVpanic’. They are likely to cut back on marketing and customer services immediately, dismiss personnel (if they have any) and potentially even disappear from the market. It may also be difficult for them to restart their business after the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The medium size medical travel providers: these professionals, mainly average size clinics or agencies, are in a better position. They might consider the COVpanic just as another crisis, possibly downsize their staff, reduce their spending, and cancel their participation in events. They will be more committed to maintaining their business through the crisis.
  • The large and well-established businesses in medical travel: these professionals, mainly large clinics, hospitals, hospital groups and the largest agencies have heavily invested in an international patient business which has, pre-COVID-19, generated high revenues. They are the most resilient to a business downturn due to COVpanic. It is likely they will continue to invest in this business, and will take a pragmatic approach to foreign patient cancellations. For them, this is just another crisis that will pass. 

There is one other provider group within the medical travel sector, who could be any sized, whom I call the “wise ones”.  They will use their time when there are fewer customer interactions, for preparation and reorganisation. They will update themselves about what is currently changing in the international patient market, train their people, rewrite their business plan,  apply healthcare protocols, and search for new markets. They will also try to identify the ‘where and when’ of future opportunities once the COVpanic subsides. 

Impact on medical travel events

Event organisers are as sensitive to the impact of COVID-19 as tourism providers. Many medical travel events, especially the ones that were scheduled during the first six months of 2020 have been cancelled or moved to a future date. 

This has been influenced by the personal choice of people not wanting to travel, but also in several countries there are now national restrictions on public gatherings.

Seasoned event organisers have downsized their events (and expenses) by booking smaller halls and anticipating fewer delegates, rather than stepping out of the market entirely. Medical travel exhibitions have proved even more sensitive than conferences, as they need a high number of anticipated visitors in order to be sustained. 

In this space, we might see live streaming and use of technology to facilitate knowledge sharing and networking by remote delegates, take a more central role in medical travel events in the future.

Planning recovery after COVID-19: it’s about patient perception 

The more pragmatic media articles predict that, like other flu, health or political crises, COVID-19 will pass.  We just don’t know when. 

Some physicians believe that it will peak soon, then decrease during the summer months.

To attract international travellers as tourism picks up again, flights and accommodation costs may be very competitively priced. Treatment costs will possibly follow, along with the other related services in medical travel. The first medical travellers after COVID-19 are likely to enjoy their treatment journey at very affordable prices and with no waiting time at all.

The established medical travel destinations, whose governments and health bodies have best managed to contain COVID-19 may be seen as ‘safer’ countries for patients looking at healthcare options abroad.  Medical travel providers in these countries who have survived the COVpanic are the ones who are likely to enjoy the first fruits of the post COVID-19 era.

Finally, lessons from COVID-19 are an opportunity for accreditation companies. Healthcare quality assurance is now an even hotter topic and so far, many hospitals with certifications from high quality accreditation companies have been well prepared to handle the crisis. A line of protocols that was applied to hospitals (mainly private) has played a significant role in identifying this virus early, so protecting the rest of the hospital patients. With other hospitals, maybe COVID-19 will be the motivation  for providers to improve and become safer for the patient.

Source : www.imtj.com

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Medical Travel Market Will Be Worth US $9 BN

The global medical tourism market will be worth US$54 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13% until 2025. India’s medical tourism market will be worth US$9 billion in 2020 and is the fifth largest medical tourism market out of 41 destinations.

These are the conclusions of India: Building Best Practices in Healthcare Services Globally 2019 by consultants Ernst & Young (EY India) for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

As healthcare becomes more expensive in developed countries, India’s medical tourism market is expanding. The key drivers of growth are affordability and accessibility of good healthcare services, availability of the latest medical technologies and accreditations, and minimal waiting time.

The report repeats a common claim that medical tourists can save up to 50% of the costs of healthcare in the USA.  TTEM’s analysis suggests however that the percentage of medical tourists travelling from the USA to India as less than 0.01%. Most medical travellers going to India are from Asia and Africa.

Key Indian city destinations

Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata are the preferred destination cities for medical travellers arriving in India. 27% of India’s medical tourists head to Maharashtra, out of which 80% go to Mumbai. Chennai attracts 15% of incoming foreign patients while Kerala has 5-7%.

Bangladesh 221,751
Afghanistan 55,681
Iraq 47,640
Maldives 45,355
Oman 28,157

Source Markets of Medical Travellers to India

According to the report, based on figures from 2014 to 2017, major source markets for India is the South-East Asian countries, the Middle East, Africa and SAARC countries. More than 50% of medical tourists are from Bangladesh. The report repeats the Ministry of Tourism 2017 figures:

TTEMS’s analysis challenges the number of medical travellers from the Maldives of 45,355; as the total population of the Maldives is only 530,000 people this is disproportionately high.

The number of medical tourists on medical visas has increased from just over 10,000 in 2014 to around 480,000 in 2017. The Indian government estimates total medical tourism numbers for 2017 at just fewer than 500,000, and is expecting this amount to increase in future years.

The report says that there are 38 hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) and 643 accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH).

Key market growth risks for India

The report warns that there is a need to improve on post-operative care in terms of environment, hygiene and precautions required after a patient is operated on. India is also behind many countries on healthcare regulation; there is little to stop unaccredited hospitals, clinics or medical tourism agents from staying in business and attracting medical tourists. There is also a lack of regulation of the Indian medical tourism industry, and this lack of regulation could impede growth.

The Indian national government is criticised for its lack of support for medical tourism, particularly at government-to-government level between India and patient source countries.  Too much is left to individual hospitals. There is also no grievance or redress mechanism in place for international patients to raise  complaints. There is no policy arrangement in place to insure patients in case of unexpected complications in treatment.

Of the findings in the report, Gaurav Taneja at EY India says: “Government must form institutions for regulation and implementation of medical tourism. There is a need to build a robust platform for patients to interact with different stakeholders of the industry and define a code of conduct for medical tourism business.

With a branding and marketing campaign ‘Heal in India,’ I am sure the country will elevate its existing position in rank among the most preferred destinations.”

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10 Essential Factors to Choose Your Hospital in India

On September 2015, James Kariuki had a massive heart attack. It was crucial for him to have a bypass surgery and so he travelled to India from Nairobi, Kenya. By October end, his bypass surgery was successful and he was, thus, cured.

But choosing a hospital has not been easy for Kariuki and neither is it for anyone travelling from abroad to India for their treatment. It is obvious that India provides quality medical treatment at affordable rates but there are some factors which the patients should consider while travelling for their treatment.

Hospital Review

It is mandatory to go through several hospital reviews while taking a decision as to in which hospital you want to treat yourself or your loved ones in India. It is because through the reviews you can actually compare which hospital is better and which is not. That makes it easy for you to choose. You can go for Google reviews and also keep an eye on Google news to know which hospital is best for you.

Doctors

The most important thing that you have to consider while selecting a hospital is to check the specialization, qualification and experience of the doctors working in those hospitals.  When you are travelling from one place to another to subsequently recover from an illness, then you will have to be sure that the one who will be treating you is trustworthy. For this reason you will have to be well-informed about your doctor. It is, therefore, necessary to go through the doctor’s profiles and reviews.

Location

The other important thing that you should keep in mind is the proximity of the hospital from the international airport. It is because during emergencies, transportation of the patient has to be quick and comfortable. It is always a better option if the hospital is within your city or near the place where you are accommodated, especially at a close proximity to the international airport of that city.

Infrastructure

The infrastructure of the hospital is also very important. You wouldn’t want to treat yourself in a hospital that is unhygienic and lacks the newest medical technologies and instruments. The rooms, the hygiene, the beds and the newest technologies that are adopted by the hospital, the number of emergency units and ICU beds should be taken into consideration. Furthermore, you should also see if there is the availability of 24/7 pharmacies within or near the hospital.  Also check the availability of WIFI in the hospitals so that the patient as well as his / her attendant can communicate with their family and friends peacefully.

Treatment

While selecting a hospital, always go through the list of treatments that the hospitals provide to their patients. Also check how advanced they are in the specific treatments and the medical instruments and machines that are used for it. Look for accreditations of the hospital and check whether it is a multispecialty hospital that incorporates primary, secondary and tertiary care.

Access to Blood Banks

Having an access to the blood bank is one of the most essential things that every hospital should have. Even if the surgery is successful, due to excessive blood loss, a life may be lost. So, while selecting a hospital, check whether they have access to blood banks.

Medical Insurance

Before travelling from one place to another for medical treatment, it is very important to go through the medical insurance policies and the hospitals that come under them. Go through your medical insurance policies thoroughly to check the facilities that will be provided and the hospitals and the ailments that are covered under them.

Amenities

One of the most important things that you have to keep in mind while you are travelling to India or, in that case, anywhere in the world, is the easy availability of hotels, food and transport. Look for residential options and guest houses or rented accommodations near the hospital where you can stay and commute easily. That way your transport costs can be curbed and there will be no security or transport issues. If you don’t get an accommodation near the hospital, then book cabs to travel. Ola app or Uber app can be very helpful in these cases. You just have to download the app in your phone and use it. Furthermore, you should also check the availability of ATMs and money transfer facilities like Western Union and Money Gram in the vicinity of the airport or the hospital or where you are accommodated.

Interpreter

Though the Indian doctors don’t have any problem in communicating in English, interpreters are available at hospitals. Hence, if you face any problem to communicate, check whether the hospital provides an interpreter.

Airline Facilities

Check the airline facilities while you plan to come to India for your medical treatment. Enquire with the airport help desk of whether they provide wheelchairs and stretchers for the patients. You should also get a know-how of whether there are doctors and paramedics available in the airport. While travelling by air you should also check the flight connectivity as it can be difficult for the patients with chronic ailments to travel by air.

These ten factors not only tell you what to do while choosing a hospital but also guide you how to make the correct choice. So, if you keep them in mind, then choosing the right hospital won’t be a problem.

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Insurers Changing the Game in Medical Tourism

Due to the availability of high-quality alternative healthcare abroad at affordable and highly competitive rates, there is a growing demand for healthcare across borders and employers, as well as insurers, are cashing in on this trend in a bid to save cost.

Employees have realized that seeking healthcare services abroad is more cost-effective than seeking same services at home. This is such that even after factoring in travel expenses, accommodation, and sick days off work, patients still get to save more money.

For example, a hip replacement surgery which would cost $75,000 in the US costs $9,000 in India. These financial benefits, according to Patients Beyond Borders, is responsible for the massive drift of Americans to other countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey to receive healthcare.

Medical travel, which hitherto was the territory of uninsured and under-insured patients, is now being considered by leading insurance companies including Aetna and CIGNA.

Health insurance companies over the world have begun to dive into the medical tourism industry experimenting with cross-border and international medical coverage. The idea of such plans is that insured persons can visit another country to receive specific medical care in a clinic provided in the insurance policy and have the medical expenses reimbursed entirely or partially by the insurance provider. Such programs give patients confidence about the quality of care in the destination country.

Insurance companies use a portion of the substantial savings made from such programs to provide incentives to patients who wish to seek medical care abroad. Some of these incentives include waiving the deductible and out-of-pocket health expenses and covering travel expenses for the patient and a travel companion. Many of these insurance policies have begun to incorporate collaborations with physicians in other parts of the world.

Employers are not left out in the current trend as several Fortune 500 companies, in a bid to cut down on employee healthcare cost, outsource expensive medical procedures to healthcare providers abroad.

One major factor contributing to this paradigm shift is the increasing number of South East Asian and European healthcare facilities that meet the healthcare standards of developed countries such as the United States and Canada.

The standard policies offered by medical tourism companies generally covers healthcare complications, medical evacuation, trip cancellation, acute illnesses, and injuries which may arise during the health travel for the patient and travel companion. However, the packages and coverage limits depend on the policy offered by each insurance company.

The four major insurers in the United States: Aetna, UnitedHealth, WellPoint, and Humana are already taking steps to expand their coverage to include international plans on the basis of affordability of healthcare in foreign countries.

BlueCross BlueShield, an insurance company based in South Carolina, has partnered with health providers in Thailand, Turkey, Singapore, Turkey, and Costa Rica to create low-premium, high-deductible insurance plans, targeted at lower-wage workers who are concerned about saving cost.

Aetna, the largest for-profit healthcare management company in the United States, made collaborations with Apollo hospital, India to create an insurance plan for Americans to receive healthcare treatment at the hospital.

This insurance coverage by Aetna sends employees of Serigraph Inc., a client of Athena WellPoint, to Apollo Hospital for specific routine procedures. The program is scheduled to begin with Apollo Hospitals in Delhi and Bangalore, then to its JCI-approved clinics. Under this insurance plan, all expenses accrued by the patients, including travel and accommodation, will be reimbursed by Athena Wellpoint.

UnitedHealth Group developed a similar program that sees over 200,000 Americans covered through fully-insured, and self-funded health plans travel to Bumrungrad International Hospitals in Thailand and Apollo Hospitals in India.

Blue Shield and Health Net in California also created an insurance program which covers healthcare in Mexican hospitals for US employers who hire a large number of Mexican employees. This program includes over 20,000 patients.

In addition, Blue Cross Blue Shield provides insurance policies to enable and encourage people to travel abroad for low-cost medical procedures that are expensive in their home countries. The healthcare management company has made collaborations with Bumrungrad International Hospitals to provide coverage for medical procedures organized through insurance company Companion Global. The program also covers two follow-up visits with doctors at Doctor Care.

In Europe, this trend has also been making a significant impact on the health tourism market in the continent. Currently, in Ukraine, the European Insurance Alliance offers a program where its insured patient can undergo a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and treatment in Israel under either the standard package or the VIP package.

In addition, the Ukrainian government has set up legislation to boost medical tourism in Ukraine today. The law notes that travel insurance, consisting of medical and accident insurance, is mandatory and should be carried out on the basis of an agreement between the subjects of such travel activities and their insurers.

In this case, there should be an insurance contract which must be presented to the travel agent before departure. The insurance contract, as stated by the law, shall provide medical care to tourists and reimbursements of the expenses accrued during the period of stay in the country.

One interesting response to this trend in medical tourism is that healthcare facilities in the US, for example, has begun accepting referrals from health travel agencies, providing discounted services to American and non-American patients.

This push in healthcare tourism has a significant impact on healthcare in participating countries. In countries where patients experience long waits before undergoing a medical procedure or treatment, medical tourism offers an initiative to clear such backlogs by referring their patients to international healthcare providers. This is the case with the British National Health Service which refers patients for elective medical procedures to neighboring countries.

This disruption by health insurance companies in the medical tourism industry is taking a rapid turn as technology advances. Digitization has eased payment models and customer care services, allowing for information transparency which drives patients to determine where and how they receive health care.

With over 14 million patients traveling for healthcare yearly, medical tourism is still regarded as a growing industry. However, as advances in technology, as well as better collaborations from insurance companies, persist in global healthcare, medical tourism would grow into a borderless industry.

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7 Reasons Why You Should Opt for a Medical Travel Consultant

Travelling needs a lot of planning, especially when you are travelling to another country for your medical treatment. It does not limit to entertainment anymore but verges onto something serious as it dominantly involves your health. After several planning and research, you would also require an assurance of someone reliable who will tell you which doctors and hospitals are right for you. It is at this point that a medical travel consultant comes handy. Here are the reasons why:

All in One

Imagine you get all the information about the doctors and hospitals you are looking for abroad under one forum. This is what your medical travel consultant provides you. On the website or while discussions you can compare and choose the doctor and the hospital according to your preferences, share your medical records online which are later send to different doctors for assessment. A medical travel consultant is well aware of the strengths of hospital and doctors in their respective domains. They assist you best in finding them.

Savings

Whenever you have to go through a medical treatment, the first thing that bothers you is its cost. By travelling through a professional medical travel facilitator you will not only get the best price but also get a lot of services that make your entire experience comfortable, at no extra cost

Doctor Consultation

Your medical travel consultant will also help you to connect with several doctors. If you think that having a telephonic conversation with the doctor can help you understand your ailment better, then your facilitator will connect you to the specified doctor. During the treatment abroad if you like to go for Second Opinion or change the hospital. In that case the medical facilitators’ network comes handy.

No More Waiting and Long Queues

Your appointment with the doctor is pre-scheduled. As soon as you arrive your treatment procedure will start without any delay.  Your facilitator takes care of it.

Travel Made Easy

From the processing of visa to travelling by air to discounted hotel accommodation and food, your medical travel consultant is going to take care of every travel nuance that you would have to worry about previously. They even look after your transport facilities within the city and guide you accordingly with all the tips and tricks. If you require any further assistance then your Case Manager is just a call away.

Financial Assistance

In case you have a deficiency in your finances, then your medical travel consultant will assist you in the money transfer from your country through various available channels.

Friendly Environment

Apart from smooth medical facilities, under the care of a medical travel consultant you are also going to enjoy a friendly and amiable environment in an unknown country.  Just because they are medical travel consultants doesn’t mean that they will only guide you for your treatment. They also help you to go for sightseeing and shopping and provide you with enough tips and tricks so that you can go about the city at ease.

So, whenever you are travelling abroad for your treatment, make sure that you contact your medical travel consultant. It is a necessary option that will help you to travel comfortably and have your treatment done from a reliable health care centre.

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Here are 7 Things Which You Have to Check While Choosing the Right Doctor

Doctors are the ones who are responsible to provide us with the right treatment so that we get cured completely and fast. As choosing the right doctor can be difficult you should do some prior research about him/her. These are the factors that you should look for while you go through a doctor’s profile so that you make the right choice.

Education

It is inevitable that every doctor is educated. By the word ‘education’ what we mean is his/her expertise, alma mater and the degrees he/she has acquired during his/her practice in medical schools and colleges. The more qualified a doctor, the more is his expertise in his specialization. Here are some common medical degrees that a doctor has:

  • MBBS: MBBS stands for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. The degree is awarded to students who have graduated from medical schools or universities to enter the profession of a doctor.
  • MD: Stands for Doctor of Medicine. It is one of the two doctoral degrees acquired by physicians.
  • M.Ch: In Latin, the full form of M.Ch is Magister Chirurgiae which stands for Master of Surgery. The degree is bestowed on those who have acquired an advanced qualification in surgery.
  • D.M: D.M is the degree that is acquired when the doctor goes for some specialization in medicine after earning M.D.
  • M.S: Surgeons who after acquiring M.Ch goes for higher studies in surgery and surgical procedures earn the degree of M.S.

Specialization

While choosing a doctor, you should check his/her specialization. This bit of information lets you know which doctor you should consult for your ailment. Whether your medical condition falls under his/her specialization at all. Also by knowing the doctor’s specialization you come to know about the array of treatments he/she provides.

Years of Experience

While looking for a doctor, the years of his/her experience should be taken into account. Since, over the years, he or she has treated several patients, as an experienced doctor he/she is able to provide you a more comprehensive diagnosis and treatment than the one without.

Hospital where he has worked

While you check the experience of the doctors, also check in which hospitals he/she has worked other than the one he/she is working at present. Check the profiles of the hospitals as well as the designation he had.

The reputation of the hospital, be it a multispecialty, super specialty or tertiary hospital is important because of its infrastructure and patient care facilities. Search over the internet about the past hospitals he has worked in and go through them to get an idea about the hospital and what people are saying about them. You can also go through the media coverages of the hospitals and the doctor to know about the facilities, treatments and both of their reputation in the medical world.

Patient feedback

If you are skeptical about a doctor’s capability to treat you or cannot trust him/her even though he is experienced and qualified then the best thing you can do is to read or hear what his/her previous patients have to say about him. Patient feedback or testimonials not only give you an insight on his treatment procedures but also lets you know about his diagnosis.

Papers published

Well experienced, qualified and skilled doctors continue their research even after they start working as professional surgeons and specialists. So, till now if you thought medical journals were too heavy to go through, then you should rethink. It is because to choose your doctor wisely, you should know what he or she has researched upon and written on till now. This gives you a vivid idea about his expertise in his field reassuring you to trust the doctor.

Doctor’s Team

If you are going for any surgical treatment, then it is best to go through not only the profile of the surgeon but also his or her team. As surgery is a collective medical treatment, it is necessary to cross check the qualifications, experience and expertise of the doctors in his or her team as well.

References

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8 Valuable Tips to Choose a Good Medical Travel Facilitator

Medical travel facilitators are of great help when you are travelling abroad for your treatment. But it is up to you to choose the right facilitator. For that you cannot just rely on any medical travel facilitator and would need someone who is the best in this field. We, therefore, provide you with these eight tips that are going to help you to choose a good medical facilitator for your treatment.

Check their website 

Go through the website of the medical travel facilitators while you are looking for one. That way you can get a detailed insight about their company and what they do. Check the various specific ailments and their medical treatment descriptions in it.

Certification is Reliable

While you are planning to contact them for your tour, make sure that they are certified or registered consultants or facilitators. Verify whether they are ISO certified.

Patients’ testimonials 

Look for patients’ testimonials in the medical travel facilitators’ websites. Patients’ testimonials are a proof of the services that they provide. It also validates how good they are in it and what are the cases that they have handled.

Service Fee

Medical travel facilitators do not charge their clients any money for their services. Even if they do so they mention about the extra charges clearly on their website. So, you should also confirm that they do not charge you anything extra other than informing you about the cost of your treatment and accommodation in their country.

Networks and Connections

A good medical facilitator will have connections with the best doctors and hospitals of their country. Look up in their websites to see which hospitals and doctors they have contacts with. Also check the qualification and experience of the doctors and see whether the hospitals are well accredited. Ask them which state or city of the country has the best doctor and hospital to treat your ailment and how can they make you contact the doctor if you were required to speak to him or her.

Experience of the Facilitator

The professional experience of the medical travel facilitator is a must. So, while you look for a favorable medical travel consultant check for how long they are there in this field and how adept they are in their work.

Compare and Choose

The best advantage that you get with a medical travel assistant is that you can compare and choose the best hospitals and doctors for your treatment. There are lists of innumerable qualified and experienced doctors and well certfied hospitals in their websites. This not only increases your chances to get the best treatment but also within the most reasonable budget.

Further Assistance

When you are contacting a medical travel facilitator, you should ask about the other services that they provide. Always put forward your queries and ask questions about the extra services that they are going to provide to you.

If you follow these eight tips while you look for your medical travel facilitator, you will not face any problem in choosing the right one.

References

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Things to Remember Before You Start Your Medical Trip to India

Travelling to another country for a medical treatment requires a number of documentations that include certificates, medical reports, permits and other nuances. Apart from the standard requirement for documentation like the visa application form, passport, doctor’s certificate, medical invitation letter and reports, there are certain other formalities that are required to be fulfilled. This document will help you out in proceeding with such official nuances so that you get a smooth medical travel to India.

Fit to Fly

A fit to fly certificate of the patient is demanded by all the airlines to certify that the patient’s health condition is stable enough to fly from one country to another within the stipulated span of hours without any deterioration in his / her condition mid-air. Only the applicants who have applied for a medical visa require a fit to fly certificate during their travel.

Some airlines demand it in the form of a letter from the doctor of the patient in which the current health condition of the patient is mentioned and a permission to fly back to his / her own country is sanctioned, whereas, some other airlines constitute of a stringent procedure in which the patient is provided with an official form known as the Medical Clearance Form that is to be filled by the doctor concerned and the patient himself.

A fit to fly certificate will be required for both boarding the flight from the patient’s home country as well as during departure from India after treatment. Patients and their medical attendants will not be allowed to board the flight if they cannot produce the certificate.

Therefore, it is a necessary document which you should remember to produce during your medical travel.

Airlines that we know provide their own Medical Clearance Form



Name of Airline Name of Airline
Ethiopian Airways Singapore Airlines
Emirates Etihad Airways
Fiji Airways Lufthansa
China Airlines Swiss International Airlines
Qatar Airways Austrian Airlines
Air New Zealand Kenya Airways
Virginia Australia Etihad Airways
Cathay Pacific Air Arabia

*Irrespective of the above list it is always advisable that you check with the airline you are opting to fly in during your travel.

Constituents of the Medical Clearance Form

You and your doctor will have to fill up the following credentials in the form:

  • Your name, gender, age, flight pnr no, requirement of wheelchair or stretcher, weight.
  • The name, contact number, hospital clinic affiliation of the doctor concerned.
  • Your diagnosis in details, date on which diagnosed, symptoms and date of surgery / operation.
  • Results of the medical reports.
  • Doctor should tick on fit to fly option in the form.
  • Please specify whether the patient has any contagious or communicable disease.
  • Specify if the medical condition of the patient is going to affect the fellow passengers.
  • Additional clinical information regarding the patient: anemia, psychiatric and seizure disorder, cardiac condition, normal bladder and bowel control, respiratory condition.
  • Whether the patient can sit upright without anyone’s assistance in the normal aircraft seat, walk without assistance.
  • Whether the patient can understand and respond to the instructions of the cabin crew.
  • Whether the patient can take care of his/her needs on board without anyone assistance.
  • Requirement of an escort.
  • Type of escort required: travel companion / nurse / doctor / nurse and doctor both.
  • Requirement of oxygen: period of usage, flow rate of oxygen, continuous or not, estimated amount of oxygen, need of any oxygen devices.
  • Need of any medication: is the medication to be administered by the patient himself or by his escort?
  • Does the patient require hospitalization during transfer of flights?
  • Does the patient require hospitalization on arrival?
  • In case of pregnancy: number of weeks and days, EDD, gestation.
  • Specify if any other arrangements are to be made.
  • Enter date, place and attending physician’s signature and passenger’s signature.

Vaccination Certificates

It is said that when one travels he gathers a lot from the experience and leaves behind something as one start for home. But the world does not only constitute of all things wonderful but also dreadful, for instance, viral diseases like yellow fever and polio whose contagious factor has to be kept in check. Therefore, while you are preparing for your journey to India for a medical travel it is important that you remember to keep yellow fever vaccination certificates and oral polio vaccination certificates with you. Although, not every country member require such documentation, depending on the intensity of the disease in some countries the two certificates (yellow fever vaccination certificate and oral polio vaccination certificate) are a mandatory document to be produced during check in at the airport.

Countries that require Oral Polio Vaccination Certificate are: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Somalia and Syria.

It is to be noted that the Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificates should be sanctioned 10 days before travel. The list of countries that require Yellow Fever Vaccination certificates are provided below:



Name of Country Name of Country
Angola Ghana
Argentina Guinea
Benin Guinea – Bissau
Bolivia Guyana
Brazil Kenya
Burkina Faso Liberia
Burundi Mali
Cameroon Mauritania
Central African Republic Niger
Chad Nigeria
Colombia Rwanda
Congo Senegal
Cote D’Ivoire Sierra Leone
Democratic Republic of Congo Sudan
Equador South Sudan
Equatorial Guinea Togo
Ethiopia Uganda
French Guiana Panama
Gabon Paraguay
Gambia Peru
Suriname Trinidad and Tobago
Venezuela

Currencies Accepted in India

Another important factor that medical travellers need to keep in mind is the currency and the amount of money in that currency that they have to carry while they are coming to India for their treatment. The maximum limit for an individual to carry cash while coming to India is USD 5000 or its equivalent, exceeding which one has to declare it in the Currency Declaration Form at the Customs Authorities in the airport.

Here is a list of currencies that are accepted in India and for which a currency exchange is available:



Name of Currency Name of Currency
US Dollar New Zealand Dollar
Euro South African Rand
Sterling Pound Saudi Rial
Thai Baht Qatar Rial
Singapore Dollar Omani Rial
Canadian Dollar Norwegian Kroner
UAE Dirham Swedish Kroner
Malaysian Ringgit Danish Kroner
Swiss Franc Jordan Dinar
Australian Dollar Bahrain Dinar
Hong Kong Dollar Kuwait Dinar
Japanese Yen Egyptian Pound
Chinese Yuan Syrian Pound

Other things to remember

  • During immigration, you may be asked to provide the address of the accommodation you will be staying in, in India. Therefore, it is advisable to note down the address of the hotel / guesthouse / service apartment you have booked in the country.
  • If you are applying for e-visa, make sure that you carry a printed copy of the e-visa application form.
  • Please carry all the medical reports and medical summary of the patient.
  • Please share a picture of the patient and the medical attendants as they start their journey so that there is our operations manager can identify them easily when they arrive at the airport.
  • Contact your case manager / operations manager / Our leadership team if you face any trouble in locating the exit in the airport or seem to be lost.

Sources

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Marketing Strategies in Healthcare Tourism

Attracting international patients is at the core of the medical tourism market, and as the industry becomes more competitive, the big players will be distinguished by their ability to attract foreign medical travelers.

Marketing is the central factor for success in the health tourism industry, and leading hospitals and countries with a huge influx of medical travelers are those with strong marketing strategies which meet the needs of these patients.

Top destinations for medical tourism today include Thailand, India, Mexico, South Korea, Malaysia and more, which combine strategies for affordability and quality of healthcare with the availability of attractive sights to offer patients a relaxing ambiance during recovery. In Europe, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Poland are gradually becoming choice destinations for medical tourism, according to the 2016 Medical Tourism Index Report.

The strategies for building a successful brand in the medical tourism market center on meeting the needs of the typical international medical traveler and most of these strategies require a strong public-private collaboration.

Quality of Healthcare and Accreditation

One of the drivers for medical travel is the quality of healthcare. As competition in the market of health travel becomes fiercer, players in the industry have adopted a number of strategies to increase their service value and quality in order to distinguish them from their competitors.

A few of these strategies include the availability of state-of-the-art medical infrastructure, expanding training and expertise in specific medical specialties, building strong collaborations with leading hospitals and healthcare institutions, and investing in technology and precision medicine.

Building expertise in a specific field has placed hospitals like Asklepios Clinic Barmbek on center stage in Europe’s health travel industry. The hospital received an award for its quality healthcare services especially in the areas of breast cancer surgery and surgical oncology.

Its specialized Breast Center as well as Intestine and Pancreas Center has attracted medical tourists from other parts of Europe who require highly specialized surgical procedures. In addition, Asklepios Clinic Barmbek is one of the leading centers in cancer therapy, providing cutting-edge services in surgical oncology as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and it has become a hub for cancer patients across Europe.

Accreditation, which validates the quality of healthcare service provided in an institution, is another factor which determines the trend of the medical tourism market. Hospitals which have received a stamp of quality service by international accreditors such as the Joint Commission International (JCI) tend to attract more medical tourists.

These accreditors evaluate healthcare services provided in healthcare facilities, as well as the quality and competence of healthcare professionals in these facilities, and compare it with pre-established performance standards.

Medical Travel Accreditation

While ensuring high-quality healthcare services is fundamental to any marketing or branding strategy, hospitals must not overlook the importance of the patient experience in medical travel and how it will impact marketing and competitiveness. In 2016, the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) Program was established as the first and only independent accrediting body focused on the medical travel patient and enhancing the Medical Travel Care Continuum (all touchpoints including pre- and post-treatment). GHA accreditation helps healthcare providers improve their competitiveness and visibility by enhancing the patient experience, improving business performance, and connecting providers with buyers of healthcare services.

Individuals across the spectrum from buyer to provider to patient all recognize the value of accreditation. In the last six months, GHA has accredited top performing hospitals around the globe including Cleveland Clinic, USA, Bumrungrad International Hospital, Thailand, and St. Catherine Specialty Hospital, Croatia.

Cost

Countries and hospitals that offer high-quality healthcare services at affordable and highly competitive prices are taking a higher share of the health tourism market.

For example, as of 2016, the cost of hip replacement surgery, which is one of the common orthopedic procedures, was quoted at $40,364 in the United States, while in Thailand and India, patients could undergo the same hip replacement at the same quality at a price of $17,000 and $7,000 respectively.

These price differences have encouraged patients – particularly from North America and Europe – to travel to these countries to get medical treatment in a bid to save money while still maintaining the quality of healthcare received.

Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand has become a hub for international medical travelers who need surgery for complex diseases. Serving more than 1 million patients every year, over 500,000 of which are international patients from over 190 countries, Bumrungrad International Hospital has become a significant player in the medical tourism market.

In addition to the quality of its services, Bumrungrad offers transparent and affordable pricing packages, being one of the few hospitals that post their price packages online. Through its program, REALCOST, patients can view price packages on the internet for over 70 procedures performed at the hospital.

Governmental support can also contribute to incentivizing health tourism. For example, Turkish Airlines, the country’s national carrier, gives discounts for flights to medical travelers as a way of boosting the influx of international patients.

Healthcare Professionals and Infrastructure

Patients want to feel confident about the competence and qualifications of a facility’s healthcare professionals. International medical travel is also driven by the availability of cutting-edge technological infrastructure in the chosen destination.

A major marketing strategy in the health tourism market, therefore, is improving the quality of healthcare personnel and infrastructure. A case in point is Malaysia, a country that has experienced phenomenal growth in the health tourism market over the last decade.

According to a report by Global Risk Insights, the Malaysian government invested $5.2 billion (approximately 10% of its annual budget) into healthcare in 2016, with the investment largely funding growth in medical technology, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare services. One of the major achievements is the country’s transition from importing medical devices and equipment from foreign companies, to establishing a state-of-the-art medical equipment manufacturing company in Penang, ultimately boosting its potential as a hub for medical tourism.

Another strategy employed by leading hospitals is to display the number and qualifications of their health professionals on their websites. Bumrungrad, for example, displays over 1,200 physicians and surgeons, more than 220 of whom are US trained and board-certified. This factor alone has contributed enormously to the influx of medical travelers, especially those from western countries.

International collaborations may also help professional mobility, promoting the influx of healthcare professionals from world-class partner hospitals.

International Medical Travel Department

Medical tourists travel to countries which provide not only quality and affordable healthcare services, but also a comfortable experience. Hospitals must provide strategies that promote a stress-free experience for the patient to attract more international patronage.

A hospital’s international medical department is the easiest way to reach target customers. The services of this department include providing prospective medical tourists with valuable information about the services offered and preventing communication barriers by availing trained staff who speak multiple languages to ensure easy communication with patients.

Other marketing strategies used by international travel departments include liaising with patients directly or through medical travel agents to provide medical transportation into and within the destination country. Providing online immigration services, one-to-one nursing care, Wi-Fi services, hotel reservations, recreational and tour services during recovery, and restaurant services to ensure a smooth experience for the patient are also becoming the norm.

As in every industry, success in the medical tourism industry depends on knowledge and proper execution of key strategies which must center on the need of the prospective consumers. Building a viable medical tourism market, therefore, requires collaborations between the public and private healthcare sectors.

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