Deciding for medical tourism is never easy as it is a complex process. Lots of concerns and apprehensions play in the patient’s mind. Medical tourism facilitators facilitate the decision-making process.
They step in to form a bridge between the medical tourists and service providers offering impeccable services satisfying everybody’s requirements. It mandates meticulous planning, adequate resource pooling and maintain transparent communication to run a medical tourism facilitation business.
The consumer is always the king. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the requirements and concerns of medical travelers and form a strong all-encompassing provider-matrix.
A patient cannot simply rely on the information available on the net or in print. They need somebody trustworthy who is approachable and will provide credible information and support to make their medical tourism a successful venture.
Guide to how to start and manage medical tourism facilitation and other associated businesses along with key planning strategies
The all-inclusive support system of an ideal medical tourism facilitator:
A medical tourism facilitator provides a comprehensive support system, which goes far beyond the obvious arrangements such as travel, accommodation, medical services, pre -& post-operative care and tourism activities. Facilitators provide a combination of various services which often require meticulous planning in order for patients to have a pleasant experience during medical tourism.
In a survey, the role of the facilitator within the medical tourism industry was deemed to be significant by the respondents. Sixty-one per cent (61%) said that facilitators were ‘Very important’, 27% said that they were ‘Important’, 10% regarded them as ‘Optional’ and 2% said that they were ‘Not important’.
Integrated knowledge of medical services, tourism & travel facilitation and concierge services which form a three-dimensional support to the traveller are central to the business and a must for any medical tourism facilitator. So with such responsibilities resting on them, they play the important function of bridging the gap between healthcare providers and the consumer.
The support system of an ideal medical tourism facilitator can be summarized as:
- Arrange logistics
- Provide know-how and information
- Relationship management
- Credible representation
- Maintaining continuum of care
Importance of accreditation:
When a company is accredited or certified or authorised by a renowned institute it clearly suggests that this company follows all the basic guidelines that are required for a safe and quality service. The latest technology, expectations of the patients, world class quality, and standard procedures are followed by such accredited companies.
There is no hidden cost, legal problems or any miscommunication. Accreditation helps in building trust and confidence in the foreign travelers interested to take medical assistance beyond their home comfort.
Product development: The best-fit solutions to customers’ problems:
A medical tourist needs medical attention which is either unaffordable or unavailable or inaccessible in his/her home country. He/she is looking for quality treatment, care and post-treatment attention beyond the borders of home soil. He/she will also look for a supportive arrangement if something goes wrong abroad during the treatment.
Not only this. The destination selected by the medical traveler is totally unknown. He/she may not be aware of the place, people, culture and language. He/she may face trouble in making the right travel and accommodation arrangements.
The product development of a medical tourism facilitator should be focused on providing the right kind of solutions for the problems that the medical tourist is facing or are likely to face. A good medical tourism facilitator should be sensitive to perceive the customer’s problems. It should be able to answer all his/her needs and concerns beyond the periphery of medical support service and care.
The essentials in the arsenal:
Medical tourism facilitators are one-stop destination for medical travelers. They should take care of the following seven essential support services and other additional features to deliver the best medical tourism experience.
1.Managing the cultural and communication barrier:
Unless a good communication channel is set between the facilitator and the customer, there cannot be any good business. Patients from varied cultural backgrounds speaking different languages form a great fraction of the customer segment. To handle this, the facilitator must:
- Be well versed with the cultural background of the customers approaching them.
- Maintain a friendly tone in communication.
- Be prompt in attending and responding to customers’ queries
- Use certified interpreters and translators to help in overcoming the communication barrier.
2. Understanding of medical services:
This is the prime essential component since medical tourism is centered on healthcare, the most sensitive part of human life. A facilitator should have:
- A basic understanding of various medical topics and can confidently detail the customers about their offerings.
- A sound knowledge of ethical medical procedures, insurance policies, legal bindings and accreditation system that would help in easing the tension of medical travelers.
- Detail information of quality healthcare providers, package pricing and other associated facilities and guide medical travelers according to their needs.
- The capability to negotiate better with healthcare providers on behalf of customers to fetch them the best deal.
3. Understanding tour and travel activities:
Travel is an integral part of medical tourism. But a facilitator should be able to provide something more than conventional flight and accommodation booking and tourism guidance. The facilitator should:
- Have a good understanding of the cultural and political environment and safety and security of the destination.
- Develop personalized packages taking care of special needs of the traveler.
- Include concierge services.
- Arrange for an interpreter if required.
- Have provision for prompt arrangements in case of any unforeseen event.
4. Relationship management:
A good facilitator with industry experience can provide comprehensive relationship management in case the patient needs to communicate with insurance companies, governments or their employer bodies that sponsor medical tourism activities. The basic idea is to build a comprehensive support system for the potential medical tourists.
5. Know how:
The medical tourism facilitators are expert in their field and are familiar with all the ways of handling different situations that may arise during medical travel. Except the medical service itself, they are efficient in providing all necessary help to the internationally traveling patients. A facilitator can provide the patients with information on the healthcare providers, treating physician or surgeon, local attractions, and the infrastructure.
6. Great negotiation skills:
Negotiations can play a major role in bringing down the costs of your medical journey. An expert facilitator will negotiate better on your behalf, and therefore might be able to reduce the costs where possible. Since a patient might not be able to understand additional expenses charged by a treating facility abroad, it is always better to seek the services of an experienced medical tourism facilitator who will guide you along the complex medical tourism process.
7. Providing customized luxury and support services:
All medical tourism facilitators need to be efficient in handling certain important things, such as the development of customized benefits with special needs arrangements, interpreter provision, and preparation for unexpected services in case of an unsuccessful medical treatment.
The concierge and destination management offer a range of services, which usually include the contact details of medical service providers, scheduling appointments with treating doctors, planning a medical trip, lodging arrangement, transfer facilities, and rehabilitation services. Usually, the medical tourism facilitator companies get in touch with local travel firms to provide the required services for the medical tourists.
These professional firms help organize all the necessary details of your medical trip. Moreover, such professionals also offer special services for patients with disabilities. These specialized professionals take care of a medical tourist’s entire trip, right from their airport pickup to booking hotel accommodation, from a hospital consultation visit and surgery to assistance in the post-op checkup, and finally delivering the patient back to the airport.
Understanding the challenges in medical tourism facilitation business:
- Lack of proper understanding of the role of medical tourism facilitators. Many medical travelers are yet to value the support provided by the facilitators that would fetch them the best medical tourism experience.
- Lack of government supported regulation in medical tourism has made this sector an easy ground for quick starters. Mushrooming of a number of facilitators lacking know-how and credibility has scarred the image of medical tourism facilitators underrating their services.
- As a new entrant, it would be time-consuming to build credibility in the market and win customers’ confidence.
Initiating a medical tourism facilitation business:
- Create a good business plan. Highlight the products and services that make you stand out in the crowd.
- Build a top class website appealing to the target customers. It should contain detail information about the products/services offered.
- Coordinate with reputed medical facilities, diagnostic centers and travel companies. Build a rapport with them through regular interactions.
- Appoint a destination program manager.
- Hire business development professionals to improve sales and product value.
- Adopt proper marketing strategies to build a brand image.
- Build strategic partnerships.
- Tweak the support services as per the travelers’ needs.
Key issues to take care of:
To ensure the best medical tourism experience for the patient, the facilitator should:
- Set right all the necessary health and travel related documentation beforehand.
- Get all queries of the patient sorted out.
- Do the necessary pre-treatment investigation to minimize the risk of complications.
- Maintain transparency while providing all sorts of information regarding healthcare facilities and packages.
- Provide adequate options to facilitate decision-making of patients.
- Have a legal entity to look after the documentation, contracts, signed consent and other unprecedented events.
- Never accept medical payments from patients. That should be paid to the clinic/hospital directly.
- Check for the loopholes that might exist in all arrangements.
- Maintain a proactive approach while helping in planning of the medical travelers.
Strategies to overcome business challenges and maintain the desired growth:
For a new entrant in the business, the situation is always challenging. In medical tourism, it is even more as it deals with the most valued asset of the customer, the health. It takes time to establish one’s identity in the crowded market. The following strategies will help in gaining a strong foothold soon:
- Create an impressive profile.
- Get high-quality professionals in the team. One or two recognized personalities in the team help in building brand image.
- Make sure the first few patients are non-profitable.
- Build a portfolio with those case studies and their words of mouth.
- Use social media platforms to establish your market value.
- Get certifications and accreditations.
- Create new products and marketing strategies.
- Create loyalty programs regarding health check and travel.
- Expand the service provider network.
Strategies for planning and managing a successful medical tourism business
If you were intent on building a successful medical tourism business, then you would need to adopt strategies for planning and managing the business properly. In addition to setting up the company with adequate funds, you would need to promote it on a grand scale in order to get noticed by the top players in the industry. Hopefully, the information given below would be of some help to you in this matter.
Let us have a look at the following.
Statistics state that the medical tourism industry is all set to become a multi-billion dollar industry in the next few years. Upscale clients from the western countries would increasingly look for procedures and treatments in developing countries owing to skyrocketing healthcare costs in the former. As such, there is great scope for your medical tourism business company to grow, provided you put in some extra effort and dedication.
More and more upscale medical tourists are opting to travel overseas for cosmetic or elective surgical procedures. Rather than spending a ton of money back home for the treatment alone, these tourists prefer to get treated in developing countries for just a fraction of the cost and use the saved up money for a holiday in the same destination.
In some cases, these tourists would travel with either another individual or a group of family and friends. As a medical tourism company, you would need to be ready to cater to these preferences and offer these medical tourists the best options for a vacation in the provider destination.
Understanding the broader aspect of medical tourism business
Medical tourism is a well-defined concept where medical health checkups, different forms of surgeries and medical treatments can be availed even when one is on a vacation or on a tour. Seamless programs and facilities related to medical tourism services are challenging, but in a way address the profitable return on investments.
This arena deals with the surgeons, medical admissions, revenue cycle, medical records, patient relations and other objectives related to medical treatments and administration.
Popularity of medical tourism business:
The Medical Tourism Business has become immensely popular within a short time span and has become a recognized phenomenon the world over. The services offered by the medical tourism providers are undoubtedly a great boon for people who are in search of top healthcare options accessible across the world. Huge savings, best quality healthcare and superlative services are the three key reasons behind its soaring demand.
Varied business opportunities
Countless opportunities exist in this business.
Dedicated Travel Desk
Qualified healthcare and medical providers namely large-scale clinics and hospitals that look forward for marketing medical tourism must possess a travel desk solely for such type of services. Those sitting at the desk must perform the role of a coordinator amid the hospital services as well as the services provided by the external players such as tour operators.
Medical tourism company
The most popular business owing to the healthy requirement for travel agents exclusively sufficing to medical tourism. The list also includes medical tourism consultancy. This is a budding industry and there lies an urgent pre-requisite for those who can offer creative insights and academic training.
Software development specialists
Software development specialists are also an integral part of Medical Tourism Business. Having the much-needed expertise in the domain of medical tourism, these specialists are capable of creating tailor-made solutions particularly for this budding industry.
Key strategies for planning and managing medical tourism business:
Focus on your patient-oriented products and services:
As a medical tourism company catering to a medical tourist, you would need to ensure that all the necessary arrangements for the patient’s trip would be taken care of by your company, right to the last possible detail.
This would include arranging initial consultations between the patient and the overseas facilities via phone conversations, all the travel arrangements, and contacting with the medical provider for the actual medical procedure. In addition, they also have to stay in touch with the patient’s family members back home on a constant basis and make the financial arrangements by being in constant touch with the patient’s medical insurance provider.
Promoting your medical tourism business among the big market players would require you to get in touch with and collaborate with the leading medical facilities and service providers in several medical tourism destinations around the world.
You would need to invest in a quality website that would appeal to medical tourists who visit it to get more information about your products and services. You would need to develop brand awareness by advertising on publications, medical brochures and even the social media.
Hiring a reputed PR firm to do these jobs for you would help your company get the exposure it needs to attract medical tourists. Keep in touch with patients who have used your services before in order to generate positive word of mouth publicity for future clients.
You would need to hire a strong management team to back your company’s products and services. The team can be split into two branches, Marketing and Services. While the Services group would ensure that clients get appropriate products and services, the Marketing team would promote the company and its services in the target market. These two teams would need to work together in order to help your company get noticed in the highly competitive market.
Practices supporting the business objectives
Managing a successful medical tourism business depends a lot on certain key practices. Seeking the help of a well-experienced consultant would be able to ensure the proper facilitation of the set strategies and help in setting up the performance based objectives within the set timelines.
A well-defined set of processes helps one to establish a lucrative patient relationship, which is profitable in both the ends. Staff trainings in regards to the medical tourism ensure the best optimization of the medical program, which helps to increase the efficiency level largely.
Coordinating the different operations associated with the medial tourism business is an important responsibility that needs to be taken care by an experienced professional coordinator who has the communication ability and is well versed in this domain.