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© 2015 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.

Laura Carabello

Laura Carabello

Managing Editor
Megan Kennedy

Table of Contents

From the Editor

From the Editor: This week in Medical Travel Today, Laura Carabello

News in Review

10 Ways the U.S. Can Prevent Biological Threats, Infectious Diseases

Leapfrog Group: Across-the-Board Safety Improvements Remain 'Elusive'

Dubai Healthcare City Inks Deal for Big Medical Tourism Project

Seeking Better Healthcare, Russians Look to China

Thousands of Patients Travel for Medical Treatment

Spotlight Interview

Serap Celen, General Manager/Owner, PriMed Assistance


Out of Africa:  "Accidental Medical Traveler" on Safari

Medical Travel: My Firsthand Experience

Industry News

Executive Editor and Publisher Laura Carabello Talks U.S. Domestic Medical Travel

Successful Whipple Procedure for Pancreatic Cancer in Hyderabad, India

China International Health and Diplomatic Council Join Forces

When Will Medical Travel Get Real Traction?



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Volume 8, Issue 20

Dear Colleagues:

Editor's Note: While traveling in Africa last month, I was plagued by a severe upper respiratory infection and in desperate need of medical care. Not only did I receive high-quality, cost-effective care, but the entire visit - including wait time - was under an hour and a half. Read more about my very own medical travel experience in this issue!

To keep up with the growing ranks of the medical travel industry, PriMed Assistance - an international medical facilitator company based in Turkey - came to life in 2011. Conceived by Serap and Orhan Celen, M.D., PriMed Assistance strives to provide health concierge services to international patients visiting Turkey for cancer services, general surgery, and thyroid and weight loss procedures.

According to Serap Celen, general manager/owner: "The aforementioned treatment fields are where we excel, and have the best network in terms of specialized doctors. We are not aiming to become a Web-based search engine of hospitals and treatments offered in Turkey - but rather offering a very specialized healthcare advisory service."

This week, Serap Celen details the overall mission of PriMed Assistance, the complete patient process from start to finish, as well as what readers can expect from the company in the future.

We're starting to hear from many hospitals, independent surgi-centers and provider groups that want to be better positioned to serve self-funded employers offering medical/surgical travel options.  If you have a good story to tell us, please be in touch!  We want to boost opportunities for Centers of Excellence nationwide. 

Tell us:

What distinguishes your service offering in terms of cost, patient experience and satisfaction, outcomes, or other quality indicators. 

Send us your descriptor, including photos or charts, and we will evaluate for publication in this newsletter.

Please be in touch and let me know how you are surviving and thriving in this emerging marketplace.

Laura Carabello
Editor and Publisher
Medical Travel Today




Global Health Voyager

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SPOTLIGHT: Serap Celen, General Manager/Owner, PriMed Assistance


About PriMed Assistance
Prime Medical Assistance is an international medical facilitator company registered in Turkey. The company was established in 2011 by Orhan Celen, M.D., in Istanbul. He has more than 20 years of experience in general surgery and surgical oncology, and specializes in breast cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, thyroid diseases, and weight loss surgery.


Medical Travel Today (MTT): Tell our readers about your professional background.

Serap Celen (SC): I received my master's in Economics from Tufts University, and have since been in the finance industry for 25 years - 20 of which were at a not-for-profit organization that handled research, statistics and writing. The other five years I worked in a private bank handling corporate credits, project finance and management.

Individuals may wonder how a finance major got involved in a medical travel facilitator company, but the correlations are there. I have a strong belief in diversity, perfection, and most importantly, transparency.

I lack the concept of a trade-oriented mind, and have a weak aptitude of for-profit behaviors. Success is built on meaningful platforms, not just money.

MTT: Give our readers some background on PriMed Assistance?

​SC: In 2011, my husband, Orhan Celen, M.D., and I founded the startup company, PriMed Assistance. Originally, the operating field mostly concentrated on providing healthcare, but in February 2015, we extended our services to cover a medical travel offering by providing health concierge services to international patients visiting Turkey. 

PriMed Assistance is completely transparent. What do I mean when I say transparent? Of course, I mean the company offers transparent prices, but I also mean our clients know exactly who and what they are dealing with. When a patient visits our website, they can read about our backgrounds, see our pictures and even read our CV's - we are real.

The medical travel industry is growing rapidly, and there are a lot of individuals entering this marketplace with the motivation of high profit margins - and no regulations. Right now, there are no barriers to entry, no fixed costs and a serious lack of accountability regarding third party service quality. There is fierce competition in the Turkish healthcare market, but the greedy players that are willing to take advantage of this sector by providing low quality services will certainly taper off in the long run.

The number of international patients visiting Turkey for medical treatment is on the rise, and within the scope of the Turkish Health Tourism Development Program (2014-2018), the number of international patients traveling to Turkey is predicted to reach around 750,000 by 2018.

The Ministry of Turkish Economy has developed an enhanced incentive program for various parties integrated in medical travel - making it increasingly apparent that the medical travel market will continue to grow - and this is where PriMed Assistance comes in.


MTT: What services does PriMed Assistance offer?

SC: PriMed Assistance offers the following:

  • Treatment Options
  • Medical Doctor Consultation
  • Accommodation Arrangements
  • Flight Tickets
  • Airport Transfers
  • Ground / Air Ambulance
  • Translator
  • Visa Facilitation
  • Prepaid Mobile Phone
  • Guidance and Accompany During the first Doctor Visit
  • Skype Meeting Arrangement With Doctor

MTT: Does PriMed Assistance only offer weight loss and oncology services?

SC: At this point we are focusing on cancer, general surgery, and thyroid and weight loss procedures.

Our objective is to figure out the best treatment plan for the patient, not to direct high volume patients to Joint Commission International-accredited facilities.

My husband, Dr. Celen, has more than 20 years of experience in surgical oncology, and a tremendous network of highly qualified doctors that patients can contact for advice and follow-up care. The aforementioned treatment fields are where we excel and have the best network in terms of specialized doctors. We are not aiming to become a Web-based search engine of hospitals and treatments offered in Turkey - we are offering a very specialized healthcare advisory service.

PriMed Assistance plans to offer services in different treatment areas, and we have already started doing our research, and developed a model for specific plastic surgery procedures, including rhinoplasties and skin rejuvenation, to kick-off around 2017.

MTT: Can you detail the patient's process with your company from start to finish?

SC: Of course, I will detail the process step-by-step:

  • A patient will fill out our online application form  
  • A senior medical facilitator will get in touch with the patient via email and request current medical reports
  • Upon receiving the patient's medical history, PriMed Assistance will set up consultations with the medical doctors to discuss the details of treatment and an estimated cost of the procedure(s)
  • PriMed Assistance always shares the cost and treatment plan with the patient. We will even set up a video call with the medical doctor to make sure all bases are covered
  • If a patient opts to receive our health service, we will send a "Treatment and Travel Contract," which requests a down payment (to be deducted from total cost of procedure) to make necessary reservations and arrangements in the hospital. This contract contains detailed information regarding the cost of treatment, any prepayments, flight arrangements, local transportation, interpreter, etc.
  • An employee will meet the patient at the airport and a transfer car will take the patient directly to his/her hotel. The following day, an employee will accompany the patient to the first doctor visit.
  • Post Treatment & Travel: Depending on a patient's treatment and healing status, we offer various city tours. We will accompany the patient back to the airport for their departure and keep in touch regarding follow-up care.  

MTT: How does PriMed Assistance decide what facilities to partner with?

SC: To date, we have only networked with local providers - inbound medical travel - but in order to engage in international business development, we are in the final stages of a contract with a U.S.-based medical travel company that works with providers in Sub-Saharan Africa, India and the Middle East.  We will be the representative office of the company here in Turkey.

This partnership will unveil many opportunities in the future.

MTT: Do the facilities you work with offer transparent pricing and/or bundled rates?

SC: Each service provider has a different pricing model and strategy that changes according to treatment, especially the larger hospitals.

Again, we have the advantage of being in the sector, and we have the power to apply pressure on the prices.

To make one thing clear, we do not receive any commissions from the patients, and they have the ability to see an itemized cost of services on their bill.

MTT: How do you market your services to clients?

SC: We have a strong digital marketing campaign in place that consists of content management and multiple social media platforms.

PriMed Assistance brings trust and transparency to the medical travel sector with diversified treatment options and a network of high-quality service providers.


Out of Africa:  "Accidental Medical Traveler" on Safari
by Laura Carabello, Executive Editor and Publisher, Medical Travel Today and U.S. Domestic Medical Travel

When a treasured friend invites you to his safari wedding at the Singita Saskwa Resort in Tanzania, Africa, is there any rational RSVP other than "I'm in!"?

The adventure began with an over-the-top experience spanning game and balloon rides on the Serengeti, fabulous meals and an African-style wedding replete with an interesting question to both bride and groom:  Do you wish to commit to a monogamous or polygamous relationship?

On the final day of the festivities, however, I had a scratchy throat and runny nose, but assumed it was just allergies. We headed for the airport to make our way to Cape Town, the final leg of our African trip - a journey involving flights through Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Johannesburg.  My condition worsened to a full-blown upper respiratory infection, and by the time we landed in Cape Town, I was barely breathing.

It's pretty scary being out of the U.S. and without easy access to medical care, but that's the plight of the "accidental medical traveler."  Thankfully, a call to our physician friend in Johannesburg pointed us to the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital - a private hospital.*

"Go right from the airport to the Casualty Department and they will take good care of you," he suggested.  "It's not too far from your hotel (The Table Bay Hotel)."

I thought to myself, "If this is anything like an ER in the U.S., I am in for a nightmare."

To my surprise and delight, however, this proved to be one of the best healthcare experiences on record. After a quick check-in at 11 p.m., where we agreed to a $76.00 doctor fee and a modest hospital charge of $175.00 - the RAND is very devalued these days - I was whisked into a private room where a technician took my vital signs and medical history.  All in English.  All high-tech equipment.

Within minutes, they escorted me to the "ER" where I was one of three (yes, three) patients.  More history-taking and vitals, but within 15 minutes, the doctor appeared. A South African-trained physician, he quickly assessed my condition -- severe acute bronchitis -- and prescribed nebulizer therapy and meds. He even suggested some sightseeing opportunities.  Everyone spoke English.

The next day, I filled the prescriptions at the local pharmacy including the following:

  • Solphyllex cough syrup
  • Two, 5-dose packages of Tavaloxx 750 mg (Levofloxin; Levaquin)
  • Additional 5-dose packages - just in case I needed them for further travel.

Total Cost of Meds:  $96.00

The bottom-line expenses, coupled with rapid access to high quality care, resulted in a good outcome for me personally and high patient satisfaction.  The entire visit, including wait time, was 1.5 hours.

This is clearly a BARGAIN by U.S. standards and put me on the road to recovery.  Knowing where to go for care is the key, and it always helps to have a friend in the healthcare system - wherever you travel.

I also learned a good lesson:  Always travel with medications that may be needed and get some good medical contacts in the destination where you are traveling.

*Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital 
181 Longmarket Street
Cape Town 8001
South Africa
+27 21-480-6111
+27 21-480-6111 
email: info@netcare.co.za
web: www.netcare.co.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=250

The Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital is based in Cape Town, South Africa, and is part of the Netcare Group of private hospitals. The Netcare Group is one of the largest private healthcare foundations in South Africa, and is trying to promote health tourism to the region, building on the already established regular tourism industry. The hospital is a large facility, possessing 247 beds and 14 theaters, and performs a wide and varied range of procedures.1,2 The hospital was the first in South Africa to perform a heart transplant and is a major destination for health tourists from all over the world.8

In 2001, this hospital was the first facility in the world to transplant an artificial Berlin heart into a patient, keeping him alive until a donor could be found.1 Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital is also a premier center for cardiac research, employing some of the foremost specialists in the world.1 It is a member of the International Heart and Lung Transplantation Society, which shares knowledge between some of the premier institutions in the world. The hospital also performs other types of transplant, having completed its 250th kidney transplant in 2005.8

The hospital does not appear to have its own website, instead taking up a section on the general Netcare site. Specific information is therefore a little lacking, but it does give a good general overview of the departments and facilities at the hospital. There is not a lot of information for international patients, but South Africa is a very easy place to reach by regular flights and find good quality hotels and guesthouses.9 In addition, some of the plastic surgeons based at the clinic have their own websites, which is full of useful links about plastic surgery, as well as places to stay in and around Cape Town.2,4

Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital provides most of the procedures that would be expected in such a large facility serving a large city. These departments include: dentistry, dermatology, plastic surgery, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics, pediatrics and a host of other procedures. As would be expected from the name, the hospital is a Center of Excellence for cardiology and heart surgery, being amongst the foremost establishments in the world. From checkups to full open heart surgery and transplants, CBMH provides a full and complete range of cardiac procedures.1

The facility possesses some ultra-modern equipment, including a skin laser, Fresenius dialysis machine and state-of-the art operating theatres and technology, for performing transplants.1,2,5 The hospital also possesses a Ablatherm® HIFU ultrasound machine for the treatment of prostate cancer.5 

There are a number of reviews and news items about Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. Chelsy Davy, girlfriend of Prince Harry of the British Royal Family, had an emergency appendectomy there.3  The hospital also saved the life of the world's most premature baby, gently nursing it back to full health against all the odds.6 One reviewer, suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, was delighted with the care and attention spent by all the staff at this hospital.7

(1)    www.netcare.co.za
(2)    www.plasticsurgerysa.co.za
(3)    www.rexusa.com
(4)    www.plasticsurgeon.co.za/prac.htm
(5)    www.dialysis.co.za/cbmh.htm
(6)    www.dailymail.co.uk
(7)    www.hellopeter.com
(8)    www.transplant.netcare.co.za
(9)    www.lonelyplanet.com


Medical Travel: My Firsthand Experience
by Michael Olesen

Medical travel was an intriguing idea.

I've had almost 30 years of experience in healthcare, 10+ of which were in the operating room and another 10+ years in risk, safety and quality. I had a healthy amount of skepticism about medical travel since I have seen firsthand some of the shortcuts that often occur in the U.S. healthcare system and the way that data can easily be gamed to the advantage of providers and facilities.

However, I wanted to be open-minded.

I had gotten to know Maria Maldonado from Trip4Care through a mutual friend, and came to respect her knowledge about the healthcare industry and passion for quality and improving the healthcare marketplace.

After many conversations, I was intrigued by the notion of pursuing a dental implant in Costa Rica. I have sufficient experience to be able to vett out a provider on my own, but felt comfortable enough with her thorough approach to place my trust completely in her recommendation. The only thing that I knew of the recommended provider was that he was trained in Loma Linda, California.

I was immediately surprised when I first met the oral surgeon in his office. It was a very modern facility and all of the staff were fluent in English. I think what impressed me the most was the interest he took in me as a person as opposed to just being a patient. We talked for 30-45 minutes before he even looked in my mouth. He wanted to know about me, my goals, and my recollections of my dental history in detail. I have held board certification in healthcare infection prevention and had a number of questions that were beyond those that most patients would ask, and he answered them all to my satisfaction

After examining my mouth, he sent me to an imaging lab within the building for a 3-D image of my jaw to ensure that there was sufficient thickness in all dimensions for the implant to properly get seated within the bone. I returned with a CD of the results, and he reviewed the images and told me that I was a good candidate for the procedure.

He paid a lot of attention to my main source of anxiety - pain - and carefully administered local anesthetic to ensure that I was comfortable before he began. In addition, I had asked about the need for narcotics after the procedure and he indicated that I wouldn't need them and would do fine with another type of analgesic. I was a little concerned but, given my experience to this point, I was relatively at ease about it.

I looked out the window over San Jose and the mountains in the distance while he did the procedure. He kept me updated as to what was happening along the way. I was very surprised at how comfortable I was the entire time.

When he was done, I was given detailed aftercare instructions and a prescription for all of the needed items, which I was able to pick up in the pharmacy in the adjoining hospital building. I was a little sore later that evening, but far less than I expected, even with a non-narcotic. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this was going.

A few days later I returned for a follow-up visit and everything looked well from his perspective. I spent a number of days conducting some business in the area after that as well as doing some sightseeing. I fell in love with the country and was excited for my return for the remainder of the procedure, which is essentially the addition of a crown. I'm expecting to do that in early 2016, which will be an ideal time to escape winter in Minnesota.

I have told a number of friends and relatives about my medical travel and have emphasized how GREAT an experience this was for me. I suggested that if any of them need any kind of oral surgery that they should contact Trip4Care to experience what medical tourism has to offer.

I think the most telling outcome of my experience from this is just how significantly I have become a believer in this industry. I find myself being somewhat of an evangelist to promote it, and am working with Maria to develop the business further. We are looking at this from a far larger perspective as a means to increase healthcare quality in the U.S. while reducing costs due to greater competition. In that sense, not only will clients benefit, but the greater population will benefit, as well. I think that is a great vision for the future.

Industry News

Executive Editor and Publisher Laura Carabello Talks U.S. Domestic Medical Travel

Executive editor and publisher Laura Carabello authored an article entitled: "U.S. Domestic Medical Travel: Making the Move toward Value-Based Care," which was recently featured in Accountable Care News (Volume 6, Number 11).

Read the intro below:
"In today's complex healthcare environment, self-insured employers and health plan advisors recognize that reining in healthcare costs is the key to long-term sustainability. "Medical Travel" or "Travel for Treatment" -- leaving one's home state or region to travel to a Center for Excellence (COE) for high quality, more affordable surgical procedures or episodes of treatment - has emerged as a key strategy for this type of value-based purchasing."

To read the full article, subscribe to the publication here: http://www.accountablecarenews.com/.

Industry News

Follow-up Visits After Surgery: Telehealth, Medical Travel and Workers' Comp
by Richard Krasner

One of the questions posed to me when I have discussed the idea of medical travel in workers' comp is what to do with follow-up care.

In an article this week from Reuters, Andrew Seaman wrote that people may happily, and safely, forgo in-person doctors' visits after surgery by opting instead for talking with their surgeons by phone or video. Seaman said this was the result of a small study of U.S. veterans.

The study, conducted by researchers in JAMA Surgery, said most patients preferred the virtual visits and that the doctors didn't miss any infections that popped up after surgery.

Lead author Dr. Michael Vella, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said, "These kinds of methods are really important in the climate we're in now...So I think anything you can do to save money, see more patients and improve access to care is really important."

Vella and his colleagues also wrote that there is interest in so-called telehealth to increase access to healthcare while also decreasing the costs associated with traveling to office visits.
Past research has found that telehealth visits may be useful in the treatment of chronic conditions and after surgery, but less is known about patients preferences for these types of visits.

The study team evaluated data collected over several months in 2014 from 23 veterans, Seaman reported, and all but one of them were men, who were seen three times after a simple operation that would require only a night or so in the hospital. One visit was via video, the second was via telephone and the third was an in-person office visit.

The researchers found that no post-operation infections were missed during the video or telephone visits.

Dr. Vella said, "The veterans were very good at describing their wounds...There was one patient who thought they were having problems, so we brought them into clinic and there was an infection."

Overall, the study found that 69 percent of the participants said they preferred a telehealth visit over the traditional in-office visit. Those who preferred the telehealth visit tended to live farther away from the hospital than those who would rather come into the office.

"I think (the study) challenges the paradigm that we need to see all patients back for visits," Vella said.

Dr. Vella cautioned that the study was small, and they could not say that telehealth visits won't miss problems. The study also cannot assess how telehealth visits would work for patients who have undergone more complex surgeries, according to Dr. Vella.

An alternative opinion was given by Dr. Sherry Wren, who was not involved in the new study, and also cautioned that not all patient preferences will align with the telehealth model.

"There will be patients who want to be seen, be reassured and want a doctor to check something out," said Wren, a professor of Surgery at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System in California.

Still, she said, many patients will like the option.

"There is a subset of patient that it's not going to be appropriate for, but I think it's a great alternative for the vast majority of patients."

Dr. Vella said future research showing the results of the real-world implementation of telehealth will provide more information on its safety.

"I think it's just really important that people continue to look at it," he said.

What does this mean?

It means that when medical travel is ever implemented into workers comp, and that day grows ever closer, after a patient goes home to his/her country, they will still be able to get follow-up care from the surgeon who performed the surgery, without having to fly back to the medical travel destination several times.

Will it work for everyone? Both Drs. Vella and Wren indicated that there are people who will not want it, and that there are subsets of patients that it will not be appropriate for, but overall they were both very positive about the future of telehealth visits after surgery.

If it worked for American veterans, it can certainly work for injured workers covered under workers' comp. Veterans, especially those from our two ill-designed, ill-planned, and ill-conceived wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, certainly have wounds more serious than most injured workers would suffer as a result of a work-related injury.

The only thing that stands in the way of introducing telehealth into workers' comp, with or without medical travel, is what is between the ears of the leaders and "so-called" experts in the industry who have thus far gone and done the same things over and over again, and expect different results.

And you know what that is? Crazy, stupid, ridiculous, without any credibility, and without any traction in logic, which, I suspect is where the stuff between their ears are in.

To view the original article click here.

Industry News

Successful Whipple Procedure for Pancreatic Cancer in Hyderabad, India

If you need Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer, you also need skilled doctors who have experience in performing this operation. This is one of the reasons why you should travel to India!

The Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy) is a complex operation most often used to treat pancreatic cancer. After performing the Whipple procedure by removing part of the pancreas, part of the small intestine and the gallbladder, surgeons work to reattach the remaining portions of the digestive system so that the patient's body can digest the food and expel waste normally. The Whipple procedure may also be used to treat tumors and other abnormalities of the pancreas, small intestine and bile duct.

Best candidates for Whipple procedure

Pancreatic cancer usually grows and spreads long before it causes any symptoms, and only about 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for the Whipple procedure. Because this operation continues to be one of the most demanding and risky procedures for surgeons and patients, specialists recommend you to have it done at a hospital that performs at least 15 to 20 pancreas surgeries per year. The best candidates for the surgery are:

  • patients with localized cancer, whose tumors are confined to the head of the pancreas and haven't spread into nearby major blood vessels, distant lymph nodes or other organs, such as the liver, lungs, or abdominal cavity
  • patients with pancreatic cancer, duodenal cancer, bile duct cancer and cancers involving the ampulla of Vater (where the bile duct and pancreatic duct insert into the duodenum)
  • patients with benign tumors involving the mentioned organs, and for conditions of the pancreas, such as chronic pancreatitis
  • non-obese patients, having BMI's less than 30
  • patients who do not have previous radiation or chemotherapy

Successful Whipple procedure in India

There are three types of surgeries that are commonly done to treat pancreatic cancer: Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy), distal pancreatectomy, and total pancreatectomy. India's top surgeons treat a record number of foreign patients, including advanced stage pancreatic cancer.

Basavatarakam Indo American Cancer Hospital & Research Institute in Hyderabad, India, is a non-profit generating organization, offering attention and treatments comparable to global specifications of quality at affordable costs, while developing a qualified workforce by increasing the knowledge and abilities of employees and making sure that they deliver patient-friendly services to all sections of the community.

The hospital's package for pancreatic cancer surgery includes the Whipple procedure for prices ranging between $12,500 and $14,100. The patient will need hospitalization for 12 to 15 days.

What to expect

Whipple surgery is the only procedure that has the potential to cure pancreatic cancer. It can be stressful to your body, so if you are malnourished prior to surgery, your doctors may need to start a program to improve your nutritional status. After the surgery, your intestine will need time to recover and begin functioning again. This usually occurs after the seventh day in the hospital.

Although pancreatic cancer is very difficult to treat, at PlacidWay you will find a dedicated team ready to help you anytime!

To view the original article click here.

Industry News

China International Health and Diplomatic Council Join Forces

The China International Health & Medical Tourism Association (CIHMTA) and the Diplomatic Council, a United Nations accredited Global Think Tank, have entered into a comprehensive and far-reaching strategic partnership. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by CIHMTA President Jia Xiao Fang and DC Secretary General Hang Nguyen at the Temos Conference in Berlin, Germany, which is organized by Temos International, a global certifier and longtime DC partner. This annual medical conference with focus on global healthcare also offers the great opportunity for the Diplomatic Council to award its prestigious "DC Preferred Partner Hospital" certificate. For the third year in a row, more than 40 hospitals located worldwide were ceremoniously handed their certificates.

The areas of collaboration between CIHMTA and the DC includes the International Healthcare Industry, Health Tourism and Medical Tourism Industry as well as the Financial, Investment, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Industries. The MoU signed by both parties comprises the regions Greater China, including China Mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

As stipulated in the MoU, the headquarters of China International Health & Medical Tourism Association in Shenzhen will become the official representation office of the Diplomatic Council in China. CIHMTA President Jia Xiao Fang is appointed the official Diplomatic Council Permanent Executive Director for Greater China. 

"We are very delighted to welcome Jia Xiao Fang, who is one of the leading personalities in the healthcare industry in China, to our global leadership team," says DC Secretary General Hang Nguyen.

The China International Health & Medical Tourism Association (CIHMTA) is China's LARGEST and LEADING International Health Tourism and Medical Tourism Industry Platform. CIHMTA's Mission is to set up a bridge for leading healthcare providers, major stakeholders in international healthcare industry and tourism industry, to create and contribute to a high quality, ethical and economically sustainable International Health & Medical Tourism Industry.                                              

The Diplomatic Council (UNO reg.) is a United Nations accredited, global think tank which serves as a bridge between diplomacy, economy and society. For this purpose, it links a global economic network to the diplomatic communication level of its members' states. As members, diplomats and personalities from the economy and society alike are welcome. In forums, such as the DC Global Healthcare Forum, experts treat professional content with high priority on a global level.

Other Information: Diplomatic Council (UNO reg.),
E-Mail: info@diplomatic-council.org
Web: www.diplomatic-council.org

Industry News

When Will Medical Travel Get Real Traction?
by Arlen Meyers, M.D.

Despite the research reports, eco-devo white papers, industry analysis and industry marketing hype, medical travel/medical tourism is still an early-stage industry looking for the right formula for success.
If we accept the definition of an inbound or outbound medical traveler as anyone who travels across international borders for the purpose of receiving medical care, then the estimated 2014 market size is USD 38.5-55 billion. That does not count domestic medical travelers.

In my view, five things will need to happen before medical tourism and global healthcare referrals get real traction: 1) the creation of a sustainable business model, 2) global healthcare IT connectivity and integration, 3) a physician generated global healthcare referral network, 4) a global regulatory, legal and socioeconomic ecosystem, and 5) patient awareness and acceptance.

The creation of a sustainable business model
Industry players, including payers, providers, partners and facilitators, are still looking for the most successful way to make a profit and scale the business. With an eye towards what happened when Expedia disrupted the travel agency business, participants understand that margins for travel arrangement services are thin and that there is high price elasticity for global medical care. Few have found the magic key that fits the lock that opens the doors to profits. Payers and employers are hesitant to accept the value proposition without a better way to reduce their risk and demonstrate tangible, meaningful cost savings to their insureds and employees.

Global healthcare IT connectivity and integration

The U.S. national healthcare information architecture is evolving. Eventually, the network will be a portal to the world and will allow for seamless, secure, confidential transfer of personal health information thus assuring some continuity of care and quality improvement. Similarly, it will take a while for health information systems to evolve in host countries that can talk to non-host systems. Short-term solutions, like personal health records or mobile health applications, might fill the void temporarily.

A physician generated global healthcare referral network

Most medical tourism models connect patients to healthcare facilities, bypassing doctors in the initial stages. Docs will get in the game when the model feels better, there is more in it for them, and they have the resources and ability to make referrals to consultants directly, like they do now in local referral networks. Given the rise of international members, professional medical societies should be more proactive in building global referral networks, rather than seeing them as threats to existing domestic members.

A global regulatory, legal and socioeconomic ecosystem

The barriers to adoption and penetration of medical travel are many and include liability, reimbursement, quality assurance and impediments to continuity of care. Payers are still not convinced about the value proposition or the risks involved. As healthcare goes global, so will the rules and regulations that facilitate or obstruct its use. How about a World Trade Organization Treaty on Medical Travel or a no-fault system to resolve international malpractice claims?

Patient awareness and acceptance

According to the most recent polls, 50 percent of consumers understand the meaning of the term "medical tourism," leaving home for care. Social network buzz and media stories find the medical travel story sexy, particularly given all the noise about escalating healthcare costs and consumers, employers and payers who are hungry for more information. Moving patients from awareness to intention to decision to action, however, will take more time and use innovative marketing approaches directed towards granular market segments.

Global medical travel will continue to grow but will not get widespread adoption and penetration until we resolve the barriers across the chasm. In addition, patients are motivated to seek care away from home because of a push-pull dynamic reflecting global disparities of quality, cost and access.

While the bones are in place, it will take more time to add the flesh. Until then, to quote Karl Mauldin, people won't leave home without it.

About the Author
Arlen Meyers, M.D., MBA, is the president and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org and LinkedIn group at ceo@sopenet.net.

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Upcoming Events

6th HTI Health Tourism Industry Conference

March 03-04, 2016 - Vienna, Austria
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Medical Fair India

March 11-13, 2016 - Bombay Convention & Exhibition Center, Mumbai, India
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ELAJ - International Health & Medical Treatment Expo

March 13-15, 2016 - Oman International Exhibition Center, Muscat, Oman
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23rd Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition

March 23-26, 2016 - Expocenter Fairgrounds, Moscow, Russia
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4th Global Health and Medical Tourism Congress

April 14-20, 2016 - TBA
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IMTJ Medical Travel Summit

May 24-25, 2016 - Madrid, Spain
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IMTJ Academic Conference on Medical Travel and Cross Border Healthcare

May 25-26, 2016 - Madrid, Spain
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EHMA Annual Conference 2016

June 14-16, 2016 - Istanbul, Turkey
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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

10 Ways the U.S. Can Prevent Biological Threats, Infectious Diseases

Fiercehealthcare.com-A new bipartisan report outlines the nation's vulnerabilities to growing biological threats and provides recommendations on how the United States can defend itself against biological weapons and infectious diseases.

Leapfrog Group: Across-the-Board Safety Improvements Remain 'Elusive'

Fiercehealthcare.com- Hospitals are improving in eight key measurements of safety but declining in six others, according to hospital safety scores released today by The Leapfrog Group.

Dubai Healthcare City Inks Deal for Big Medical Tourism Project

Arabianbusiness.com-Plans have been revealed for a mixed-use development comprising apartments, luxury hotels, retail and leisure facilities as part of Dubai Healthcare City's Phase 2 expansion project.

Seeking Better Healthcare, Russians Look to China

Marketplace.org-Every seat in the waiting room of the Northeast Asia hospital in the small Chinese city of Hunchun is taken by Russian patients. They come from Vladivostok, Lake Baikal, and dozens of cities throughout Russia's far-east.

Thousands of Patients Travel for Medical Treatment

BBC.com-Thousands of patients from the south of Scotland have to travel to another part of the country for medical treatment.


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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.