Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences
212 Adriance Lab Rd.
College Station, TX 77843-1266
Medical Travel Today (MTT): Give us some details about your professional background.
Y. Alicia Hong (YAH): I’m currently an associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health.
I conduct research on telemedicine, mHealth intervention, and comparative research. Additionally, I have a Master’s Degree from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.
MTT: What are your thoughts on the medical travel industry?
YAH: The medical travel industry is fast growing, but understudied.
Each year, millions of patients travel to seek healthcare, and the number is increasing rapidly. That being said, I’ve found very limited data on the medical travelers, their healthcare providers, or the industry.
MTT: Do you think there is enough available data for patients to make well-educated decisions regarding medical travel?
YAH: Simply put, no.
The data on medical travel is scarce, and patients tend to rely on information offered by their provider or medical travel brokers only, who often communicate more benefits than risks.
MTT: What can providers do, if anything, to ensure medical travelers receive high-quality care?
YAH: An important aspect of quality care is communication.
Communication is key when it comes to establishing trust in patient-provider relationships, which is a corner stone for high-quality care. After all, patient and providers need to work as a team to deliver quality medical care.
MTT: What are the challenges associated with medical travel?
YAH: Given the lack of data on medical travel, we face multiple challenges, including but not limited to:
1) A lack of reliable assessment of health care quality across borders, including the scale of price to outcome.
2) Insufficient communication on the risks associated with medical travel, as many medical travel brokers fail to report any procedural, postoperative, or legal concerns associated with their services.
3) Inadequate policies on ethical concerns related to clinical trials, as many medical travelers are recruited into clinical trials for new but risky treatments.
4) Many “gray zones” in medical travel have not been addressed in our current legislature.
MTT: Do you see international or domestic medical travel becoming more attractive to consumers in the future?
YAH: I think international medical travel will become more attractive to consumers in the future because patients are able to ‘shop around’ for more competitive prices and options.
MTT: Where do you see most people traveling for care?
YAH: It depends on the ‘sending country’ and ‘receiving country’. Generally speaking, I see the majority of medical travelers from developed countries traveling to developing countries for common care and treatment with lower prices.
Medical travelers from developing countries often travel to developed countries to seek new and advanced treatment that is not available in their home countries.
Medical travelers are a very heterogeneous group. All patients are seeking safe, quality services with affordable prices. Depending on the case, some patients may value price more than quality, while some patients prefer effectiveness more than anything else.