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© 2013 Medical Travel Today

Medical Travel Today is a publication of CPR Strategic Marketing Communications, a public relations firm based near New York City that specializes in healthcare and life sciences, with an international clientele. CPR, its Partners, and clients are at the nexus of where medical travel is today, and where it will be tomorrow.

Publisher
Laura Carabello

Editor
Amanda Haar

Managing Editor
Megan Kennedy

 

Table of Contents

From the Editor

From the Editor: This week in Medical Travel Today, Amanda Haar

News in Review

Medical Tourism and Beyond

Survey Sees Robust Growth for Medical Tourism

A Comprehensive Business Solution for International Health Travel Organizations

South Korea Promotes Medical Tourism in Middle East Events

DNA Integrative Medicine and Wellness Center to be Launched on Saadiyat on May 14

Major Tourism Report Gives Pointers for Medical Tourism

Malaysia Now Listed on World Medical Tourism Site

Medical Tourism: High Tech Diagnostic to the Rescue?

Medical Tourism - Regulations

Spotlight

SPOTLIGHT: Sophia Quint, Media Relations Manager, Media Projects CEO, Head of Health Tourism, visitBerlin

Perspectives

Kathleen Peddicord: Why Medical Tourism Helps Retirees Overseas

Industry News

Medaway Health Expands Medical Tourism Market with Global Spa Planet Beach

Medical Concierge Services to Assist Nigerians and Africans Seeking Care in the US

China's Tropic Island of Hainan Plans Medical Tourism Zone

Global Healthcare Travel Council Launched in Monte Carlo

The Most Expensive Spa Experiences In The World --Spa Maven Previews Lavish Spa Services

New Initiative "Wellness Travel Journal - Travel Happy. Travel Well." Launched by Wellness Tourism Worldwide

Opinion

Traveling for Healthcare - What Should You Do?

Cash-Only Care on the Horizon

Upcoming Events

World Health & 3rd Age Tourism Congress

4th Medical Travel International Business Summit

2013 CMTR European Medical Tourism Research Symposium

International Board of Medicine and Surgery (IBMS) Mini Medical Conference

Global Connected Care Conference & 4th Meditour Expo

Indian Medical Tourism Conference 2013

Mexico: Global Summit on Medical Tourism Business

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Global Health Voyager

THIS WEEK IN MEDICAL TRAVEL TODAY

Volume 7, Issue 8

By Amanda Haar, Editor

Greetings,

Strength in numbers seems to be the prevailing theme of this week's issue.

Beginning with our SPOTLIGHT featuring Sophia Quint, Head of Health Tourism at visitBerlin, we learn how German care providers, hospitality organizations, and travel companies are pulling together to define Berlin as a medical travel destination, and create new business opportunities and better patient experiences.

In addition, there's an interesting new partnership between the leading franchise spa and medical travel facilitator aimed at promoting spa services to a broader audience and a new global council was launched at IMTEC with the intent of becoming "a standard setting organization for the promotion and delivery of healthcare services to all global citizens" and aim of involving 60 countries in the initiative.

In addition, we have an interesting piece on how medical tourism helps retirees overseas, which was penned by Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of liveandinvestoverseas.com. The item originally appeared in the money section of U.S. New & World Report, and is republished here with permission of the author.

As always, we welcome your comments, story ideas and press releases.

Amanda Haar, Editor
ahaar@cpronline.com 

Global Health Voyager

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Spotlight

Sophia Quint
visitBerlin

Sophia Quint, Media Relations Manager, Media Projects CEO, Head of Health Tourism, visitBerlin

Medical Travel Today (MTT): How long has visitBerlin been promoting Berlin as a medical travel destination?

Sophia Quint (SQ): It's relatively new. We started in earnest three years ago. That said, we did try it maybe 10 years earlier but stopped that effort when we realized our clinics weren't actually ready for international patients. Only a few clinics had international departments, staff or infrastructure, including VIP clinics that could organize visas, etc.
It was something we continued to track and monitor, and then three years ago we came to realize that the market was ready and Berlin was ready.

We saw that clinics were putting a big focus on the international patient, and the numbers of incoming patients was growing very fast.

So we built up a network that included the clinics, hotels, transportation companies so that we had a chain of providers. If a patient asks someone at the hotel the location of the clinic, they will know not only tell them but also arrange transportation. We wanted the hotels and clinics to be connected and work in collaboration to create special offers and packages.

MTT: How did you go about building that chain?

SQ: It was actually very easy. At visitBerlin, we already had a network of hotels in place. In fact, one of our shareholders is a corporation of hotels.

We held networking meetings and explained how a network might operate. Then we held workshops to develop the right products and packages. Basically, visitBerlin acted as a facilitator for discussion between the various players so that they could shape the best offering for the patient based on what they had to offer collectively.

We learned a lot through that effort. For example, the German Heart Institute was actually already receiving 10 percent of its patients from abroad. It's just that they didn't talk about it. Now they, and we, are able to discuss it with the inclusion of hotels and travel.

MTT: How has the network benefitted visitBerlin?

SQ: It's a big help for me because now I have concrete partners to reference in conversations. I have a heart partner, an oncology partner, and so on. Also, when I go to medical travel meetings and conferences I can say that getting care in Berlin is not just an idea, but there's a real program in place. The same is true for the German National Tourism Board, which does a lot of workshops worldwide. Their conversations with the press and different travel agents are now much more meaningful.

MTT: And how has the effort played or paid out?

SQ: It's always hard to say what contributes to the growth of success of something like this.

But I can tell you that between 2007 and 2010 we saw a 40 percent increase in the number of medical travelers coming to Berlin.

On one hand, the market developed as a result of our partners being fully established with the infrastructure needed to serve the market. On the other hand there's no doubt that promotion and communication have helped to make us more popular.

In terms of what it's done for Berlin in general, it's been beneficial and will continue to be so. The average tourist to Berlin stays about 2.3 days. But the medical traveler, who often comes with family or friends, stays an average of 10 days. That's about eight more days of lodging and meals that an average person consumes a day.

MTT: From where is the bulk of the patients coming, and what kind of treatment are they seeking?

SQ: The biggest source of patients is the Russian-speaking market with a growing base of Middle Eastern patients right behind. The Middle East market is growing very quickly for both medical travel and general tourism. In fact compared to a year ago, tourism from Arabic countries is up 50 percent. In the past that market would think, "Oh Germany, that's Munich." Now they appreciate that Berlin is a desirable destination, too. In fact, it's the new place to be in Germany.

As for treatment, my partners tell me that care is most often sought for severe issues such as heart disease and cancer. And let me be clear: We are not cheap when it comes to cost of care. The choice is made more about the quality. The patients arriving have choices, and they have confidence in the quality of care we provide.

MTT: Do you have any new marketing initiatives in the works?

SQ: We are looking at ways to promote medical travel that goes beyond just talking about our partners. What we do at ITB Berlin, the expert Panel and the Health Tourism Battle are good strategies for developing quality discussions that aren't just advertising. I think we will pursue more of that.

We are also looking to focus more on wellness and prevention rather than just the severe care situations. Prevention is a good way to help control future healthcare costs for individuals and the country. But we need to find a way to get people to look at prevention as a necessity, to see the value in going to the doctor when they are well as much as when they are unwell. That is a challenge. But so was medical travel so we'll see!

About Sophia Quint
Sophia Quint joined visitBerlin (Berlin Tourismus & Kongress GmbH) in January 2006 and has been promoting the city of Berlin ever since. In 2010 she assumed responsibilities for international media relations and now heads the Health Tourism division of visitBerlin.

Perspectives

Why Medical Tourism Helps Retirees Overseas

By Kathleen Peddicord, Publisher, liveandinvestoverseas.com

If you're considering the idea of retiring overseas, here's an important fundamental to understand: Medicare doesn't cross the border, and the U.S. private health insurance you have now probably doesn't either.

Before you begin to panic, recognize that there are many options for medical care and health insurance overseas. In fact, these issues are not nearly as scary as they may seem at first. You have many good options for organizing both top-notch, international-standard health care and good, comprehensive and very affordable health insurance in many places overseas where you might consider retiring or reinventing your life.

These critical issues don't need to be causes for concern at all, because they present opportunities for improving the quality of your life and for reducing your overall cost of living.

In the U.S., health insurance has become a great, even overwhelming expense. Health insurance is one of the biggest parts of many peoples' budgets, costing sometimes many thousands of dollars per year. This isn't the case in many other countries.

A friend, Lee Harrison, has been retired outside the U.S. for about 12 years. In all those years living overseas, Harrison has had a number of occasions to seek medical care. In one case, he had to have the exact same procedure performed in Cuenca, Ecuador, that he also had performed, at about the same time, in the United States.

As Harrison explains: "My dermatologist in Cuenca is the best I've had in my 30-year experience with dermatologists. In fact, even though I have insurance in the United States, I still return to Cuenca (when I can) for this care." During a recent visit, he had a small, non-threatening skin cancer removed. The total cost was $90, which included the operation, office visit, local anesthesia, and supplies. In addition, he paid $20 for associated lab work, and the total bill was $110.

By coincidence, he also had the same thing done in Arizona. The total cost there was $5,190. Even after insurance, his portion of the bill was still $347. To put this into perspective, it cost 300 percent more to be insured in the United States than it cost to be uninsured in Ecuador.

But the cost of the medical care is only part of the story. The other, in fact, more important part of any medical care experience is the quality of the care. We're concerned about what it costs to keep ourselves healthy and well and to seek medical attention when we need it, but we're also concerned about how we're treated in the process. And Harrison says the care he got in Cuenca was better than the care he received in the United States. "I got noticeably better and more personalized attention," says Harrison. "In Ecuador, all the results and records belong to the patient. The doctor delivers them to you, along with any recommendation, and you can do as you please, easily going somewhere else for follow-up or treatment if you like."

Another friend, Stephen Helming, has a similar story to Harrison's. Stephen also had the experience recently of seeking medical care both in the United States (in Texas) and overseas (in Thailand) for the same condition. In Dallas, it took him three months to get an appointment, because he wasn't a previous patient. And his waiting time was almost five hours--3 1/2 in the main waiting room just to see the doctor, then another hour in the examination room. In Bangkok, a doctor visit was available within 20 minutes, no appointment required.

And the differences didn't end after the appointment. "In Dallas, after I'd seen my doctor, I went to fill my prescription. The first pharmacy told me I'd have to wait an hour. So I drove to a second pharmacy, where I had to wait 30 minutes. Total time, including driving, was 1 1/2 hours," says Helming. "In Bangkok, the pharmacy was on-site. My medication was delivered to me 10 minutes after I'd seen the doctor."

But the biggest difference of all was in the bills. In Dallas, the cost was $150 for the doctor, $50 for an "extra services" fee and $150 for the medication. In Bangkok, the cost was $30 for the doctor, $10 for the "clinic fee" and $100 for the medication. "Bottom line, in Dallas, I spent six hours and $350 and was frustrated the entire way," says Helming. "In Bangkok, it took less than an hour to achieve the same result. It cost me $140. And I got fast service with personal courtesy to boot."

The experiences of Harrison and Helming aren't isolated instances. They're two examples of the current reality that seeking medical care overseas should not be a cause for concern but an important opportunity to enjoy superior and more personal care. There's also often less hassle and less waiting overseas, all at a perhaps drastically reduced cost.

Medical tourism is now the way of the world, and a sensible solution for many people. And this availability of advanced health care at affordable prices is very good news for anyone considering retiring in another country.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas--Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Industry News

Medaway Health Expands Medical Tourism Market with Global Spa Planet Beach

The leader in medical tourism, Medaway Health announces new business partnership with leading global spa franchise Planet Beach to promote medical, cosmetic and dental surgery holidays to existing clientele.

Medaway Health and Planet Beach - Western Canada (PBWC) have signed a joint venture to promote each other's services to clients in the Canadian market. This joint collaboration will allow Planet Beach to promote Medical Procedures, Cosmetic and Dental Surgery holiday packages to their existing customers.

Medaway Health, headquartered in Canada and the US with consultants located in most major cities, is regarded as one of the largest global facilitators of medical, cosmetic surgery and dental holidays, and widely known in the medical tourism industry for offering safe, affordable, cosmetic, dental and non-surgical surgery packages to exotic locations like Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Thailand. Medaway Health is a spin-off from Australian-founded company Gorgeous Getaways, established in 2004.

"We are very excited to work with Planet Beach," said Rachel Rowling, CEO, Medaway Health. "Teaming up with Business Partners like Planet Beach allows us to jointly focus on providing a 360-degree view of health and wellness, from prevention and maintenance to more complex solutions, including medical, cosmetic or dental surgery options."

Planet Beach customers will be able to pick up information at any Planet Beach store or inquire on-line via either website.

Medical tourism will be directly managed and coordinated by Medaway Health, which, has nine years of industry experience and specially trained consultants and service professionals in both home and destination countries to support medical clients. The intent of the long-term partnership is to grow internationally with Planet Beach - USA, and Planet Beach - International franchises.

"In the past three years we have seen substantial growth in clients accepting medical tourism as a viable choice," says Rowling. "This has been very noticeable in treatments that have long waiting lists, such as bariatric/weight loss or that are expensive, such as cosmetic surgery and complex dental work.

Mark Blaney, CEO, Planet Beach - Western Canada, adds, "Medaway Health is a great partner, and this joint venture exemplifies its dedication to providing complete full-service support. This partnership reflects our desire to collaborate with companies that share our vision to deliver high quality solutions for our clients in medical tourism, health and wellness, beauty, skin care, anti-aging and more."

 

Industry News

Medical Concierge Services to Assist Nigerians and Africans Seeking Care in the US

To support Nigerians and Africans seeking medical help in the US, there is something called Medical Concerige Services (MCS), says Adeola Akinremi, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based MCS.

"We feel pained that people come here and get stranded," says Adeleke. "It is not useful to travel miles and get to the US only to become stranded and not know what hospital to go to or what medical expert to consult - and in the process end up spending more for less."

MCS operates as a healthcare hospitality service for Nigerians and other Africans who seek medical help abroad.

"We started MCS as a response to bottlenecks of finding and establishing contacts with a specialist hospital in the US by foreign patients coming from Nigeria and Africa. It is the traditional model of international medical travel support where patients generally journey from less developed nations to major medical centers in highly developed countries for medical treatment that is unavailable in their own communities, without having to go through the trouble involved," he says.

MCS provides first-class healthcare services and has an excellent reputation for personalized services, custom-tailored to each patient.

Adeleke says, "All treatments are performed by the best specialist at state-of-the-art facilities. We help to find the most affordable quotes for our clients and also help to arrange their appointments. MCS is the one-stop resource for accessing premium medical services in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Our concierge approach helps reduce the stress of looking for a physician or waiting for a referral to see a specialist. We organize our clients' medical appointments to ensure a hassle-free visit to the physician/specialist based on our vast network of medical professionals, knowledge of the medical industry standards and experience. Other services we offer include airport pickup, transportation services to and from all medical appointments, as well as other ancillary needs. We offer assistance with logistics such as hotel accommodation and short-term lease apartments for clients who require such service."

In the US, healthcare remains complex, especially to those paying for these services out-of-pocket. MSC is committed to making the medical experience smooth and stress-free, offering various forms of medical packages that include: prenatal and delivery packages for pregnant women, executive health physicals for men and women, age and gender appropriate health physicals and cancer screening, annual physicals, job physicals, screening colonoscopy, and medical referral programs for specialist evaluation.

For Nigerians, improvement in healthcare services across the country is of major concern, as federal medical centers and teaching hospitals remain ill-equipped, under-staffed and under-funded. The increased burden of preventable diseases such as polio, malaria, cholera and heart- related diseases that have now over-stretched Nigeria's healthcare facilities, and lack of improvement in medical services is forcing more Nigerians, who can afford it, to seek better healthcare services abroad.

According to a 2012 BGL report on Nigeria's healthcare system, infrastructure decay, brain drain, incessant workers' strikes and low investment in the sector are the norm. Collectively, all tiers of the healthcare system have suffered. In 2011, national spending on teaching hospitals and federal medical centers was estimated at N204 billion, approximately 79 percent of the government's health expenditure. However, only N20.25 billion (10 percent of total hospital expenditure) was allotted to capital expenditure in spite of insufficient medical equipment.

In the BGL report, the Federal Ministry of Health alluded to the fact that the human development indices for Nigeria were among the worst in the world. Nigeria shoulders 10 percent of the global disease burden, and is making slow progress towards achieving the 2015 targets for the MDGs on healthcare.

Instructively, healthcare delivery indices in Nigeria have largely remained below country targets and internationally set benchmarks due to weaknesses inherent in the system.

Chief medical director at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun, says medical tourism is a global phenomenon, stating that there are several reasons why people all over the world leave their countries for medical assistance abroad.

According to Prof. Osibogun, "Medical tourism is a global phenomenon. People travel from the United States to Cuba for medical assistance too. It is the human spirit, which is adventurous. People go on medical tourism trips for issues of privacy and preference."

Usually concierge physicians care for fewer patients than in a conventional practice, ranging from 100 patients per doctor to 1,000, instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 that the average physician now sees every year, especially in the US. The concierge physicians generally claim to be accessible via cell phone or email at any time of day or night, or offer some other special service above and beyond the normal care provided, and their annual fees vary widely for an individual.

Some concierge practices do not accept insurance of any kind. These are also referred to as cash-only or direct primary care practices. By refusing to deal with insurance companies, these practices seek to keep overhead and administrative costs low, thereby providing affordable healthcare to patients.

And they are called "concierge" only if the practice assesses an annual or monthly fee instead of, or in addition to, a fee for each medical service.

While concierge patients get a special contact number, dedicated appointment time, and various other benefits that enable the doctor to offer more advice and advocacy, the quality of the care, Adeleke says, remains the same for patients, and it is all about cost control.

Industry News

China's Tropic Island of Hainan Plans Medical Tourism Zone

nzweek.com-- The island province of Hainan has published a plan to build China's first special zone for medical tourism, an official said on Saturday at the Boao Forum for Asia.

Under the plan, the Boao Lecheng International Medical Travel Zone will be located near Qionghai City and Boao Town, covering an area of about 20 square km, said Zhu Huayou, vice head of Hainan's Development and Reform Commission.

The southern part of the zone will feature healthcare centers for the elderly, patients with chronic disease and those in poor health, while the northern part will focus on medical treatment and research, Zhu said.

Medical tourism, which combines travel with leisure and healthcare, is already popular in some Asian countries, like Singapore and India, and it is likely to boom in China thanks to rising living standards.

The zone in Hainan will make use of traditional Chinese medicine, the local tropical climate and world-class medical institutions the island aims to introduce, according to Zhu.

The official said that overseas medical institutions will be allowed to set up business within the zone. Other preferential policies will include lower taxes for imported medical instruments and medicines, and pioneering medical programs, like stem cell research, will be allowed.

Construction of the zone is likely to cost up to 100 billion yuan (roughly 16 billion US dollars).
The tropical island province, with its sun, sea and sand, is striving to build itself into an internationally famed travel destination.

According to the provincial statistics bureau, visitors to the island exceeded 33 million in 2012, with travel revenues hitting 37.9 billion yuan.

Industry News

Global Healthcare Travel Council Launched in Monte Carlo

A new global council has been formed to support, represent and promote the growing health travel and medical tourism sector.

The "Global Healthcare Travel Council" was launched on March 23, 2013, at Le Meridien Hotel, Monaco following the "International Medical Travel Exhibition and Conference" (IMTEC 2013), with the participation of representatives from 38 countries from around the world.

The new initiative was launched with the statement, "Our long-term vision is to become a standard setting organization for the promotion and delivery of healthcare services to all global citizens."

Healthcare Councils, Health Tourism Councils and Associations from a variety of the countries attended the inauguration ceremony. In the meeting, founding member states signed accession protocols, under the guidance of Founder President Emin Cakmak of the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC).

During the signing ceremony, the representatives of healthcare institutions, councils and corporate bodies from 12 countries were present. The Council has also been announced to a further 26 counties and 22 more countries have been invited to participate as founding members. The aim is to involve around 60 countries in the new initiative to create a truly representative international body for the growing health travel sector.

Turkey is the country driving the Council in its formative stages. Founding President Emin Cakmak will hold the post for one year. After that, leadership will transfer to one of the other founding countries. The GHTC Executive Board will elect a new President from one of the founding countries, and the Presidency will be transferred to that country. During the initial year the administrative center and the secretariat will remain in Istanbul.

Within a month, the legal process of establishing the Global Healthcare Travel Council will be completed. A General Assembly meeting with the first Founding Members, will take place in Istanbul later in 2013.

Industry News

The Most Expensive Spa Experiences In The World --Spa Maven Previews Lavish Spa Services

Spa Maven

From the $2,000 massage to a luxurious $10,000 spa experience, these are some of the high-priced services uncovered by Spa Maven in their preview of The Most Expensive Spa Experiences in the World.

Spa Maven, President and Managing Editor, Sharon Brown notes things have changed in the spa industry, where spas are upping-the-anti by building wellness spaces that indulge guests with striking decor elements and signature curative treatments. There will always be a place for traditional massages and facials, but spa goers now expect to have a wow spa element that they can splurge on.

In the upcoming feature, Spa Maven paints a picture of decadent and lavish experiences, some of which include:
-- Ten people massaging you at once
-- $3000 spa membership fees that are paid on top of the spa service fees -- Exotic spa suites and culinary packages

Spa Maven's The Most Expensive Spa Experiences in the World Series includes highlights of pricey custom spa experiences. The feature will be available on www.SpaMaven.com starting April 15, 2013.

About Spa Maven

Spa Maven is a consumer spa and wellness site that gives insider spa reviews of the finest spas and treatments from around the world. Aimed at the discerning spa traveler, Spa Maven features the coveted Fine Spas & Resorts profile section of the very best spa and wellness destinations from around the globe. The website is quickly becoming the spa review authority, by publishing unbiased reviews of the hottest spa properties, trends, and treatments. For more information, visit http://spamaven.us4.list-manage.com/track/click?u=babc77e278e695f6293d2fcad&id=221690d97c&e=35cd3748eb.

Industry News

New Initiative "Wellness Travel Journal - Travel Happy. Travel Well." Launched by Wellness Tourism Worldwide



Los Angeles, April 10, 2013 - Wellness Tourism Worldwide, a leading wellness travel business, is pleased to announce the launch of its new initiative, Wellness Travel Journal – Travel Happy. Travel Well.

Wellness Travel Journal (WTJ) is an online platform providing monthly news on wellness travel experiences, vacations and retreats; showcasing destinations, insightful interviews, trends and travel tips for consumers, travel professionals and wellness providers.

More than one of the hottest trends, wellness tourism is a growing and lucrative market. Wellness vacations are used to jump-start a health regimen, detox from a digital word, de-stress and learn healthier behaviors.

Wellness Journal Editor and Founder of Wellness Tourism Worldwide, Camille Hoheb remarked, "Vacations are no longer a luxury -- they are a necessity. Everyone wants to be vibrant and healthy. A well-planned trip can be an investment that gives individuals, couples, friends and family a time explore, learn, decompress, connect, engage and transform.”

Adding, “We believe the Wellness Travel Journal brand provides consumers and businesses with a great way to connect and engage in wellness travel. Wellness Tourism Worldwide is constantly seeking ways to improving well-being and economic growth through travel by helping others achieve their personal wellness goals and professional success.”

About WTW's New Initiative: Selling Wellness Travel

Wellness Travel Journal - Travel Happy. Travel Well. is an initiative of Wellness Tourism Worldwide, providing monthly news on wellness travel experiences, vacations and retreats, showcasing destinations, insightful interviews, trends and travel tips for consumers, travel professionals and wellness providers. www.wellnesstraveljournal.com

About Wellness Tourism Worldwide

Wellness Tourism Worldwide (WTW) provides market intelligence and education including surveys and reports, seminars and workshops and study tours to destinations, travel sellers and traveler providers. WTW's mission is to improve well-being and economic growth through travel. Our team includes experts in healthcare and tourism who are responsible for global branding, spa operations, hotel management, hospital administration and healthcare marketing. We are a group of experienced speakers and together have organized, chaired, moderated and lectured at hundreds of events around the world. Among us, we speak English, Turkish, Arabic, French, Chinese and Malaysian. Visit us at http://www.wellnesstourismworldwide.com

Opinion

Traveling for Healthcare - What Should You Do?

By Stewart M. Hamilton, M.D., C.M.O., The Medical Travel Commission

The decision to travel to seek medical care is not insignificant and may well be life-changing! There are many reasons to go, many to stay. This article is a brief synopsis of some of the thoughts and considerations that should occur before making that decision.

Why go? Cost is often the principal reason. Do not forget that the cost of the procedure may be but the tip of the iceberg. There are travel expenses, often for yourself and a companion. What about post-operative recuperation? Is it a requirement of the surgeon that you stay close at hand in the initial days, or perhaps months, after surgery? Where do you stay? How much will it cost? What happens when you get home? Who will take care of any post-operative complications?

Do remember that physicians in your home area may not be willing to get involved in another physician's complications for reasons that include the malpractice risk, and because they might not know exactly what has been done and how it has been done.

Increased privacy is often a reason to go, as is the chance to take a vacation in a better climate. A shorter wait prior to a procedure may be another driving force. Each of these reasons has validity, but should always be added up and judged carefully against the potential problems that care overseas might bring.

Assuming that you have resolved any financial concerns, there are more potential issues to weigh. Let us try and address the ones that can significantly impact your care and which you should really try and resolve. Some would apply whether you choose to travel for care or remain at home.

What is the reputation of the hospital or clinic that you are considering? This should be easier to evaluate in your own country, but across international borders may be more difficult. Simply surfing the Internet may yield clues. Check newspapers close to the locale to which you are considering traveling, if they are available and can be translated / understood. A more reliable and objective means may be to look for accreditation by national or international bodies which have principal concerns related to quality and safety of care delivered in an institution.

The Joint Commission International (JCI), based in the US but accrediting hospitals and clinics in some 60+ countries worldwide, is probably the best known and has the most accredited entities. But there are certainly others based in Britain, Canada and France, to name but a few countries. Only a handful of these however, visit and assess hospitals internationally. Accreditation, for example by JCI, demonstrates, at a minimum, an institutional commitment to quality and safety and a medical staff that has been carefully vetted, assessed and re-assessed as far as qualifications, quality of care and current competence. This does not, however, necessarily mean that an individual physician has carried out a large number of the particular procedure. Nor does quantity necessarily mean excellent and consistent outcomes.

As a prospective patient you need to be sure that your surgeon has the appropriate experience and that his or her outcomes are favorable in terms of survival, success, length of stay, complications and patient satisfaction. Any institution or surgeon should be more than happy to provide such outcomes, which can be compared to colleagues on a regional, national or international basis. I would avoid those institutions or physicians unwilling or unable to provide such data.

Note that patient satisfaction is also an outcome. Satisfaction, in a general sense, is achieved when expectations are met. What are your expectations when you visit a physician, clinic or hospital? I am sure that high among your expectations is a successful operation or procedure.

Incidentally, physicians rarely assume a successful operation, procedure or diagnostic work-up. They expect that it will be the case, but it is rarely assumed. In light of the fact that a successful procedure, operation or work-up is presumed by most patients, for many the "softer" side of medical care is what drives satisfaction, as long as the procedure/treatment goes as planned.

Ask yourself what would be your expectations beyond a successful intervention away from home. Were arrangements made for you to get from the airport to comfortable accommodations? Were your dietary needs met? Were you able to speak with your principal physician before you left home? Were your concerns and questions answered? Do you feel that you were listened to and treated with respect? Post surgery or procedure, were you able to contact your caregivers? How were your traveling companions treated? Were your doctors prompt? Did they examine you? Did the hospital or clinic make sure that you were able to communicate with them when away from home? Were you provided with a summary of your hospital stay and any tests as you were discharged? Were arrangements made to ensure your safe trip home? Were you given enough medication to ensure a pain-free recovery period, including the journey?

As a prospective patient looking at websites and brochures it can be difficult to assess whether such expectations are likely to be met. But they are the very things from which a patient will derive satisfaction.

While accreditation by JCI and other such bodies affirms a commitment by a hospital or clinic to quality and safety, accreditation by the Medical Travel Commission (MTC) assures that a hospital or clinic addresses each of the above "softer" aspects of care (and more). The MTC, founded and led by highly experienced international healthcare professionals, began accreditation activities in the US in hospitals that provide care to international and intranational patients in 2012, and is now expanding internationally. The MTC standards are rigorous - and all must be met to achieve accreditation. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Texas Medical Center - Memorial Hermann Hospital, the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York are prime examples of world-class institutions that have departments totally dedicated to the medical traveler. They are also examples of hospitals that have met all of the rigorous standards of the MTC, and as such, provide the very best of care to their patients who have travelled for care. Any institution that attains the MTC accreditation joins a group of world-class hospitals providing world-class care specifically tailored to the needs of those patients who travel for their medical care.

A comparable award might be that of a Michelin Star or Zagat rating. Passing inspection by the local Health Department by the local Health Department implies a certain degree of cleanliness and safety but a Michelin Star or Zagat rating implies a great deal more and, in particular, includes a superior ambiance, trained staff, and customer satisfaction along with great food. An MTC rating of a hospital that has been accredited by JCI brings the same implication of quality, safety, ambiance, communication and cooperation, and most important a dedicated department focused on the well-being and safety of the travelling patient

Beyond quality, safety and patient satisfaction what other questions need to be considered and answered? Where are you willing to go? Within your own country or internationally? If the answer is internationally then consider that there may be cultures and customs in some parts of the world that may make that country or region less desirable to some, more to others. Remember that you are most likely to be spending time in that country before and after your treatment. Are there significant language issues? If the worst occurs, would the staff follow your advance directives or the wishes of whoever has power of attorney for you? Is insurance available to cover unanticipated cancellations, returns or family issues? Will I need a passport and or visa? What, if any, arrangements will need to be made for your return with casts, implants and wheelchair? Do you intend to recuperate post-procedure close to where you had your treatment? If so, where do you plan to go and what are the available facilities? Does the medical facility take all comers or do they, in fact, really screen patients. You do not want to travel only to be rejected or to realize that your surgeon has only done a handful of the procedures that you need. You also really do not want to find a physician that does not know his or her limitations, and who is willing to take any and all patients.

All of the above are issues, ideas and considerations to be taken into account. Travelling for medical care should not be undertaken without plenty of thought, but can be, and is, undertaken by thousands of patients each year with great success. Having said that, there may be reasons making medical travel less desirable for a particular individual.

Generally speaking, if you are otherwise healthy and traveling for care of relatively simple and straightforward issues, aiming to reduce costs and or combine care with a vacation, then once you have considered the quality, safety, satisfaction and cost issues outlined above go ahead and make plans. However, if you have a complex medical history and multiple medical problems you really must give very careful thought as to whether it makes sense to seek care far from home and family, particularly internationally.

It is an unfortunate reality that there may be difficulty in finding a physician willing to take over your care at home should you be unlucky enough to return with complications from a surgical procedure for which you have travelled outside your own country. For the most part, physicians fear taking care of another physician's complications and being drawn into subsequent malpractice. Although perhaps for fear of hurting feelings, you may be reticent to discuss leaving your home medical community with your personal physician, it is extremely important when you have multiple medical issues and/or a chronic disease, such as diabetes or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), to speak to a medical professional before committing to medical travel.

Risks are all relative, but without adequate background medical knowledge it is very difficult for the average lay individual to make a rational decision as to the degree of medical risk.

For example, poorly controlled diabetes greatly increases the risk of post-operative infection; severe COPD greatly increases the chance of respiratory failure and the need of ventilator assistance; co-existing cancer and/or immune deficiency can significantly complicate care; anticoagulant use and significant coronary artery disease can bring significant issues.

In any of the above circumstances you would be foolish to travel without discussing it first with your caregivers.

I certainly do not intend to dissuade anyone from traveling for care, but it is important to consider all angles before embarking on a journey outside your home area without some serious thought. Nonetheless, many thousands have gone before, and the majority would go again!

Opinion

Cash-Only Care on the Horizon

Editor's Note: Just before heading to the virtual press, this quick opinion piece from The Wall Street Journal caught my eye. Thought it was worth sharing.

Upcoming Events

 

World Health & 3rd Age Tourism Congress

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April 19-23, 2013 - Kaya Izmir Convention Center, Izmir, Turkey

The World Health & 3rd Age Tourism Congress will serve as a panel presentation featuring industry leaders including Ilan Geva, professor of branding and President of Ilan Geva & Friends; Keith Pollard, Director of Intuition Communications Ltd; Irving Stackpole, President of Stackpole & Associates; and Elizabeth Ziemba, President of Medical Tourism Training. The presentation will specifically focus on optimal marketing and branding tactics used to ensure further advancement for the medical tourism industry.

To learn more or to register click here.


4th Medical Travel International Business Summit

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April 24-26, 2013 - Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort, Herradura Beach, Central Pacific, Costa Rica

This year's summit will focus on connecting US healthcare companies such as insurance companies, self-insured companies, third party administrators and managed care organizations who are focused on being able to decrease their healthcare costs in the face of Obamacare, while maintaining a high level of care for their members and employees. Directors from the Costa Rican Health System, government representatives, investment agencies, trade commissioners, medical associations and tourism operators will gather to share best practices and further promote and expand health tourism in the region. Attendees will be provided with information about existing programs and show diverse opportunities for new activities related to medical tourism and retirement living.

There will also be guided tours of Costa Rica's top hospitals, breakout sessions to discuss topics of interest, such as new procedures to solve vexing health problems, medical travel and the US perspective, opportunities and challenges facing medical tourism for companies, presenting a medical travel option to employees, and many other hot medical tourism topics.

To learn more or to register click here.


2013 CMTR European Medical Tourism Research Symposium

April 26-27, 2013 - Heidelberg, Germany

The Center for Medical Tourism Research (CMTR) examines the business, clinical, economic, ethical, legal, marketing, operational, policy, social justice and societal impacts of the medical tourism, medical travel, dental tourism, health tourism, wellness tourism, fertility tourism, transplant tourism and retirement tourism industries worldwide.

The 2013 CMTR European Medical Tourism Research Symposium is open to all interested stakeholders in this emerging global industry.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Dr. Melanie Smith, Budapest Business School, associate professor and researcher in Tourism at the Budapest Business School in Hungary
  • Dr. Laszlo Puczko, managing director, Xellum Consulting, LTD, and teacher at the Budapest College of Communication and Business in Hungary

A conference fee of 50 Euros is due onsite. Government and student fees are 25 Euros with valid verification of government or student status.

To learn more or register click here.


International Board of Medicine and Surgery (IBMS) Mini Medical Conference

April 29-May 1, 2013 - Tampa Bay, FL

The International Board of Medicine and Surgery's (IBMS) Mini Medical Conference in Tampa Bay, Fla., will feature key speakers Dr. Sharma, executive director of IBMS India in Mumbai, and Dr. Rai of the India Medical Association.

During the conference, IBMS will meet with various institutions in the Tampa Bay area to share information about medical tourism.

To learn more or to register click here.


Global Connected Care Conference & 4th Meditour Expo

June 5 and 6, 2013 Hyatt Regency - Orange County, CA

This two-day international conference will bring together professionals from all over the world to discuss the latest trends and opportunities in global healthcare. The conference will include presentations by some of global healthcare's biggest decision makers and thought leaders. Conference themes include:

  • Global Physician Referral Networks and Patient Care-The Next Generation of Care
  • Self-Funded Insurance Groups-Providing Healthcare Travel Alternatives
  • Business Processes and Advanced Global Healthcare Marketing Strategies
  • Integrating Global Healthcare Technologies with Medical Travel
  • Legal Issues in Global Care
  • Accessing the US healthcare market: both inbound and outbound
  • Dental Tourism
  • M-health, Telemedicine and Electronic Healthcare Information Platform

To learn more or register click here.


Indian Medical Tourism Conference 2013

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October TBD, 2013 - Bangalore/Ahmedabad, India

The Indian Medical Tourism Conference (IMTCA) will showcase the need, progress and opportunities in medical tourism, and engage in conversations about Best Practices and Ethics in Healthcare. It will also showcase how innovation in healthcare is playing a key role in the development of mid- to smaller-sized organizations that face fierce competition from their corporate counterparts.

Speakers will include:

  • Dr. David G. Vequist, CMTR - New research development in medical tourism
  • Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava, scientist, founder of CCMB - Ethics in healthcare
  • Rajeshwar Rao, AP Chamber of Commerce - Incentives from the government
  • Dr. Michael Guiry, UIW -- Marketing medical tourism - best practices
  • Dr. Shruti Ram - Growing need for cost-effective, quality life for the aging
  • Dr. Siddharth Bhalerao, orthodontics and facial cosmetology
  • Dr. Glenn Cohen, Harvard - Legal aspects in medical tourism
  • Josef Woodman, Patient Beyond Borders
  • Armando Polanco - Corporate insurance in healthcare
  • Dr. Marcia Inhorn, Yale - Fertility tourism
  • Dr. K. S. Nayak, Nephrology -- Reverse medical tourism Dr. Udai Prakash - Innovation in orthopedics
  • Dr. Ravi Birla, University of Houston -- Biotechnology in healthcare
  • Varsha Lafargue, One HealthCare Worldwide and i-Transition The growing need of cost containment and quality enhancement in medical tourism.

To learn more or to register click here.


Mexico: Global Summit on Medical Tourism Business

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October 16-18, 2013 - Mexicali, Mexico

Taking place in Mexicali, Mexico, the Global Summit on the Medical Tourism Business will spotlight international companies specifically pertaining to medical tourism, health insurance, travel agencies and significant international brokerage opportunities.

This conference will offer attendees the opportunity to engage and interact with international, leading industry experts who wish to extend their expertise and share their visions regarding the future of medical tourism.

To learn more or to register click here.

 

 

Medical Travel Today: Opinions and Perspectives on an Industry in the Making

Medical Travel Today - the authoritative newsletter for the worldwide medical travel industry - is pleased to announce publication of a new book, "Medical Travel Today: Opinions and Perspectives on an Industry in the Making.

Featuring 40 of the newsletter's most compelling interviews from the first five years of publication, the volume chronicles the explosive growth of international medical tourism as witnessed and experienced by some of the key stakeholders and players. A must-read for anyone interested or involved in the industry.


News in Review

Medical Tourism and Beyond
Dentistryiq.com -- As "distasteful" as it sounds, medical tourism seems to have gained a foothold in the marketplace. Until recently, it was almost equivalent to "enlargement" and "beauty" therapy, mostly driven by elective treatments or for non-medical reasons.

Survey Sees Robust Growth for Medical Tourism
Travelmarketpost.com --The medical travel sector is seeing solid growth in international patient numbers and expects the momentum to keep building in the months ahead, according to a new survey of 400 clinics, hospitals and medical tourism facilitators in 77 countries.

A Comprehensive Business Solution for International Health Travel Organizations
Prweb.com -- Experts in the international health travel sector announce a collaboration doing business as Medical Travel Insight to offer a full selection of business services to medical travel organizations.

South Korea Promotes Medical Tourism in Middle East Events
Yonhapnews.co.kr --South Korea has successfully hosted events aimed at promoting its medical tourism industry in the Middle East, with a leading Hallyu actor taking regional cities by storm, a government agency said Friday. The events, held in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from March 11 to 14, were intended to publicize South Korea's national brand Medical Korea, as the nation strives to attract foreign tourists to take advantage of its thriving medical industry.

DNA Integrative Medicine and Wellness Center to be Launched on Saadiyat on May 14
Ameinfo.com -- A landmark medical treatment center that could turn the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into a key curative tourism destination will be launched on Saadiyat Island on May 14, according to its operators. DNA Integrative Medicine and Wellness Centre will be based at St. Regis resort on the Island which has been undergoing major development to turn it into one of the most attractive business and tourism centers in the region.

Major Tourism Report Gives Pointers for Medical Tourism
Imtj.com --Countries that are attractive to tourists are often very attractive to health and medical tourists, while the problems that affect some countries can also hold back medical tourism. The fifth Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report ranks 140 countries according to their attractiveness and ability to develop their travel and tourism industries.

Malaysia Now Listed on World Medical Tourism Site
Thestar.com -- Malaysia has been listed as a medical tourism destination on MyMEDholiday.com, a portal that provides tips and features for foreign patients seeking comprehensive healthcare services. The portal and ratings site, which has offices in San Francisco and Bangkok, has detailed profiles of over 400 healthcare providers in Asian countries known for their advanced medical care centers.

Medical Tourism: High Tech Diagnostic to the Rescue?
Vanguard.com -- All over the world medical tourism has become a major source of income. Saudi Arabia, India, Germany and even Dubai earn very high revenue from medical tourism as a result of the huge investments their governments and individuals made in constructing and equipping hospitals, laboratories and other medical centers with state-of-the-art facilities.

Medical Tourism - Regulations
Globalpost.com -- The number of foreign tourists visiting South Korea for medical purposes lagged far behind global peers in 2011 due to the government's regulations on local hospitals, data showed Tuesday.

Editor's Note: The information in Medical Travel Today is believed to be accurate, but in some instances, may represent opinion or judgment. The newsletter's providers do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of the information and shall not be liable for any loss or damage caused - directly or indirectly - by or from the information. All information should be considered a supplement to - and not a substitute for - the care provided by a licensed healthcare provider or other appropriate expert. The appearance of advertising in this newsletter should in no way be interpreted as a product or service endorsement by the newsletter's providers.