Starting a medical tourism business is not easy, but mounting changes and regulations in western healthcare systems have prompted a boom in medical tourism. In fact, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, the medical tourism industry should reach $131.35 billion over the next six years.
Medical tourism finds people traveling to foreign locales to receive medical treatment including (1) basic medical, (2) dental, (3) cosmetic, and (4) elective and prescribed surgeries.
The main reason for medical tourism is the cost differential, meaning the cost savings for the patient receiving treatment. In addition, in certain countries, such as Canada and the UK, the patient faces long wait times. Costs aside, medical tourists elect to travel for other reasons, too, including (1) Discretion, (2) Niche treatments or therapies, and (3) Hospitality.
Starting a Medical Tourism Business requires Credentialing, Certification, and Licensing
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the most prominent healthcare accreditation organization in the United States, formed the Joint Commission International (JCI) to help medical tourism businesses and their clients find reputable medical care around the globe.
Today, JCI accredits more than 1,000 medical entities globally, and hundreds of these have achieved the JCI Gold Seal of Approval®. The Apollo Hospitals, for example, was the first JCI-certified hospitals in India. Likewise, countries outside of the United States and Europe apply accreditation criteria to hospitals, from not within their borders, including the United States and Europe.
According to the Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQA), a certification seal on your website or materials tells tourists and clinicians that your medical tourism business is managed appropriately and that it has passed rigorous evaluations by MTQA.
When starting a medical tourism business, it is important to keep current on accreditations and certifications to build and maintain your reputation by keeping your clientele safe.
Starting a Medical Tourism Business Begins with Understanding Your Clientele and the Market
For this article, we will assume that you have secured financing, completed a market needs assessment and a financial feasibility study, and are at the precipice of starting your medical tourism business. You have mentored with experts and know how much to charge your clientele to stay competitive.
Starting a medical tourism business – following analyses, reports and mentoring – begins with understanding your clientele and having a pool of resources to tap into, based on client reasoning. Understanding why a specific client is seeking treatment outside his or her resident country is essential! What resources can you provide to satisfy these reasons?
Marketing Your Services in the Medical Tourism Industry
The good news is that most foreign locales embrace medical tourism as an economic booster. Destination countries market their care as low cost and high quality. When the goal is to seek international accreditation, services and facilities run parallel with this goal. It is common to find foreign hospitals and medical clinics hiring physicians with international credentials.
It is also important to remind American clients that many doctors in the United States have studied abroad. Additionally, many doctors abroad have studied in the United States. Further, several United States hospitals have offshoot clinics or facilities in destination countries, and many are directly addressing medical tourism.
You should also take steps to protect people who travel to receive “medical tourism services.” Make sure secure travel insurance is available, and you may provide help with medical visas whenever possible. Find out whether the patient’s medical insurance extends to foreign locales – sometimes it does.
Arguably the most important marketing tool for medical tourism is having a solid online presence. More than an attractive and professionally developed website, social media engagements of various kinds are essential also.
Unless the healthcare provider the patient is seeing has connections to locales in other countries, most people who use medical tourism-based services are finding the services online, if not referred directly. A careful review of experiences shared by people who have used the services identifies is what ultimately provides success and sustainability of the medical tourism services provided.