Connecting the Travel Industry to the Medical Tourism Industry

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Part Two (continued from MTT Volume 8, Issue 13) by Jack Schafer Prior to a patient arriving at a foreign hospital, that patient has had nothing but phone calls and internet contact with the provider/facility.  Perhaps the ability to reach out and connect (one on one) with the patient, as only the hometown travel professional can provide, is the missing component in making medical tourism an exciting opportunity versus a threatening alternative to staying home. (A good sales point here would be exploring the world during your recovery process versus staying home, laying in bed and watching Jerry Springer while you recover…) Here, we’ve talked about international travel for medical tourism, yet the reality is, there is another side to medical travel, as well – domestic. More and more patients are now shopping their procedures outside of their hometown hospitals, and traveling to Centers of Excellence that can specialize in certain procedures and provide them at a more favorable price point than staying home. Many self-insured companies are saving millions of dollars by contracting with medical facilities in different parts of the country to deliver specific procedures to their employees. Some insurance companies are doing the same. A medical traveler might be a client/patient from New York, who finds a hospital in Miami that they want to use for their procedure. So, they make the arrangements with that hospital, and the hospital puts them in touch with their travel professional, who arranges a two-week holiday around that three-day procedure for the patient and their family… including a trip to Disney, or maybe even a cruise.  The possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities – which brings on the final opportunity for travel professionals. Over time you will naturally gain the experience and knowledge of the entire process, by working with your facilitators and provider contacts, and start incorporating the medical procedures side into your expertise. There is a defined process for this to happen. First, you will take a qualifying course, and upon completion you can start building your business by making contacts and developing partnerships with medical tourism facilitators and offshore (and domestic) medical and surgical providers. Like any business, there needs to be a process, and perhaps the process in medical tourism is coordinating these relationships and generating leads in a single niche area.  Some people select dentistry, where offshore procedures are typically less than 60 percent of those here in the U.S. There are millions of Americans and Canadians a year that visit Mexico and the Caribbean to enjoy a great vacation and simultaneously save thousands of dollars on a procedure. Countless Americans leave the U.S. for cosmetic surgery and think nothing of it. Today, you can advertise about medical travel and hang a sign in the front of a local business! Perhaps an even larger market possibility than medical tourism is health and wellness travel. Today, 60 percent more leisure travelers take advantage of some “health and wellness” product during their cruise or stay. Whether it is a spa or mineral bath, there in no greater market potential today. Some of the components are the Healing Ashrams in India, Buddhist Temples in Tibet (where visitors spend a day to a week living with the monks), and Chinese medicine facilities (where health and healthcare is seen in a whole new light, and patients are healed by touch, needles, and energy).  YES, 80 percent of clients believe in the possibility of energy being a significant component in the healing and health process.   This defines health and wellness travel – and in a very real way, we’re back at the very beginning of the medical tourism process. Grab hold, climb on, absorb what we do, and then bring your own uniqueness into the process. We’re not hurting anyone here. We’re focused in every way to support them – individually and uniquely, to make available to them everything the world can medically and/or surgically provide.  None of us can ever promise healing or perfection — that IS a God thing.  All we can do is throw our own hat, expertise and experience in the ring and promote possibilities that most of us have never known were possible. This world IS becoming a smaller place geographically, and historically, but the more we are exposed to worldwide opportunities, the more we’re pushed into redistribution of wealth and limited/equal opportunities for all. Yet, when it comes to our healthcare, we not only have the right, but also the responsibility to seek and explore every opportunity that is available to us. Having and investing one’s financial resources to seek superior healthcare and services is and should remain a personal choice.  Now, the world has opened up to show us opportunities beyond our borders and limited experience. Medical tourism is the wave of the future.