Stats and surveys are posting encouraging numbers about the stupendous growth of global medical tourism. Developing nations are fast coming up in the global limelight welcoming millions of medical tourists from economically developed nations.
When industry experts are going gaga about the bright prospects of medical tourism market, not much is being highlighted about the patient experience. Ultimately, everything would boil down to patient’s experience since they are at the receiving end. Patients have to bear huge stress of traveling abroad to avail the required treatment. When things go awry, it is the patients who bear the brunt of the outcome.
Identifying the concerns of medical tourists:
Medical tourists are primarily concerned with the following:
- The quality of treatment available in the destination country
- Ease of connectivity implying the ease of travel from the home land to the destination country
- Cost of the treatment including other miscellaneous cost related to travel, facilitator charges, food and accommodation apart from the treatment cost.
- Ease of access of the treatment
- Ease of purchase like payment terms to the hospital, facilitators and travel booking.
Experience matching expectations: Patient experience is vital in medical tourism
Patient experience is the most important thing that can make or break the image of a healthcare organization/clinic as well as the country. Good patient experience builds trust and reliability. It adds to the credibility of all involved in organizing a successful medical trip leaving a sweet taste from the start to end. It is the words of mouth of patients that spread fast bringing in more customers.
A high-end clinic/hospital may not be able to provide the best patient experience in spite of having state-of-the-art facilities and talented specialists unless it is well managed and coordinated to serve the cause of the patients.
A country known for its hospitability always tops the tourism destination chart and if the hospitals/clinics of those destinations extend their hospitability through quality service delivery and care, they are sure to win millions of hearts.
Stray incidents narrating horrifying patient experiences which hit the newsstands often greatly affect the tourism potential of the country. Rampant fraudulent practices are in vogue in many countries with unauthorized touts and agents engaged in earning quick bucks.
Underscoring the importance of patient experience:
Medical tourism destinations have realized the importance of patient experience. They are stressing on proper staff engagement, patient centered care, patient flow optimization, digitalization of healthcare service delivery, enhanced comfort in patient stay etc. Strict regulations are being framed to protect the abroad medical tourists from unscrupulous agents and facilitators.
The experience of a medical tourist largely depends upon:
- Ease of reaching the destination
- Competence of the medical staff
- Efficiency of the hospital administration
- Professionalism of hospital management
- Quality of service and care provided by the hospital
- Getting clear guidance from hospital regarding follow ups
- Quick disengagement from hospitals after settling the bills.
- Law and order of the destination country.
How to improve patient experience in medical tourism?
Improving patient experience is always a learning curve. Handling different patients from different countries throws up different situations which are often beyond the pre-assessed ones. But sticking to the basics do yield good outcomes.
Establishing a good communication:
According to a senior trainer of MTA (Medical Tourism Association), patient experience starts from the first contact with the hospital/clinic/medical tourism company/facilitator. The first call or email that sets the tone of communication should be welcoming. Prompt response of calls/mails also matter a lot. Delayed communication creates a negative impression.
Maintaining transparency in services and cost:
It is equally necessary to give a transparent picture about the services offered and related expenditures so that sudden unpleasant surprises do not bother the patients in the midst of the treatment.
Providing efficient pick up and dropping services:
Welcome gestures should be something beyond the usual smiling face. Everything is unknown in alien land for an abroad patient. Hence, a prompt airport pick-up and drop arrangement adds to the comfort level of the international patients.
Setting up help desk at airports:
Help desks at airport greatly enhances the experience of a medical traveler because most of their doubts/confusions get clarified there itself. Trained PR officers and managers take great care in guiding the tourists properly preventing them from getting into the trap of unscrupulous agents.
Taking care of language issue:
This is another area of concern which needs to be taken care of to enhance the comfort level of the patients. Translators and interpreters should be hired to assist the patients in having a clear understanding of the entire communication that transpires with the doctors and other associated people.
Displaying the best level of professionalism:
The hospital management must display its professionalism in every aspect by understanding the patient’s anxiety and concerns and should not create any unwanted obstacle. The patient care system should be streamlined to avoid long waiting hours enabling prompt support as and when required.
Being empathetic to the patients means a lot. Availing medical treatment in an alien land itself is quite stressful. Therefore, a cordial homely ambience in hospital would certainly be a good experience for the patients.
Patient experience goes a long way in uplifting the reputation of a medical tourism destination fostering the further growth of the market. At the end, it is everybody’s gain.