In our recent study conducted by a very efficient team, we discovered that many healthcare organizations charge higher prices to international patients, and practice inconsistency to price transparency. While many price studies are conducted based on general prices for national patients, there is a need for a new study, which gives a clear picture.
It is extremely important that Medical tourism providers and facilitators should adhere to standard guidelines and ethical practices to provide the best value and quality and inconsistency and escalated prices will cause severe damage to the medical tourism industry.
Though there is nothing wrong in charging international patients extra to compensate for the additional work performed (only if it is) but such a thing should be made transparent. Running a dual pricing system—offering lower prices to domestic patients and unreasonably higher prices to international patients will keep medical tourism at bay.
Why transparency in pricing is important for the medical tourism industry?
There is a need for better practices and protocols. Else it would drive away medical tourists. I think price transparency is one of the important topics in medical tourism ethics. Overcharging foreign patients brings ill repute not only to the provider organization but also to the destination. Foreign patients may develop the perception that unregulated and unethical medical practice is the norm. Not only the affluent class but many average-earning patients seek overseas medical services owing to inadequate provision or lack of it in the home country.
Need to stop drilling holes in pockets:
Although a destination country may help in saving 80-90% treatment costs for a foreign patient, it cannot justify over charging foreign patients assuming them having deep pockets. For example, a patient has to shell out $30,000 for all medical tourism requirements covering both treatment and travel instead of a whopping $1, 00,000 that he might have to bear in his home country. The same treatment and associated services could be provided within $25,000 by the same provider without hurting the profit margin.
This unregulated escalation of a few thousand dollars may not make much difference to that concerned patient. But can this be ethically acceptable? Such cost escalation practices do not remain under cover for long but ultimately surface leading to undesirable outcomes. The reliability of the provider/destination gets tainted.
What is meant by transparency in prices?
Many providers claim of maintaining transparency in prices but without understanding it from the patient’s viewpoint. What the providers view by transparency may not be viewed in the same way by the foreign patient. Transparency in pricing implies that the patient is well-aware of the treatment cost and other associated ones before giving the approval of being charged. Few of the key factors may be:
- Providing the detailed break up of services including tax implications
- Zero hidden cost
- Quality assurance, this is a really tricky point as there is no fixed benchmark
- Offering price comparison
But are medical travelers are always willing to check other websites for price comparison? Not always. So why not specify clearly the basic costs that are unavoidable? The variable costs can be included in the listed pricing with proper justification. Additional costs for non-medical or concierge services should be provided in detail. The patient must be given the option to make choices. No service should be imposed to inflate the bill.
Counting on the “Trust Issue”
Trustworthiness is a great factor in medical tourism. You lack in it you lose business. How about setting up special regulations in maintaining cost transparency that should commensurate with the service quality? Establishing standard operating procedures can go a long way in curbing the practice of overcharging international patients.
Stay tuned, and please feel free to share your views.