The Role of Urgent and Primary Care within Medical Tourism

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by Christopher Timm, President Metro Immediate & Primary Care Worldwide, medical tourism is a quickly growing industry as people are pursuing higher quality and more specialized healthcare outside of their own country. Many of these patients arrive to the U.S. after having researched and communicated with reputable specialists to pursue a path of wellness they can trust. While medical tourists frequently choose the U.S. for access to specific procedures like complex surgeries, specialized treatments for chronic diseases and other methods of focused care, immediate and urgent care practice managers across the nation might wonder: What role can our practice play to support this influx of medical tourists? It is very common for medical tourists to travel to the U.S. in the company of family or friends and stay for an extended period of time. That said, while a family member is being treated for specialty care, the family and friends of the patient might encounter a health issue of their own during their stay. Should a friend or family member of a medical tourist fall ill to the flu or sustain a minor injury, what is the best and most cost-effective way for them to receive care while in the U.S.? Away from their primary care physician, access to their own country’s healthcare services and out of their cultural comfort zone, a tourist’s first instinct might be to visit the closest emergency room, but will this be the most cost-effective and fastest route to getting them back to health? Maybe not. Emergency services are expensive and the process can be cumbersome and frustrating. Urgent care practices, such as Washington D.C.’s Metro Immediate and Primary Care, offer affordable self-pay options, shorter waiting room times than the ER, and quick access to equipment like X-rays. Visiting an urgent care practice in these cases is the logical and most convenient solution for this niche population of transients in need of non-emergency healthcare. Urgent care practices, like Metro Immediate & Primary Care, utilize electronic health (or medical) records, improving the intercommunication and efficiency between physicians resulting in a more streamlined experience for the patient. With record-sharing now simplified with the use of this technology, experiencing medical care further away from home becomes less complicated for patients and their physicians. Technology, interconnectivity and accessibility are the keys to success in the medical travel industry. This steady growth fosters a healthy competition between providers, making non-emergency healthcare services more affordable for the transient population. As medical travel to the U.S. continues to increase, urgent care practices should be taking the necessary steps to market the benefits of visiting their offices to those tourists visiting the U.S. and searching for non-emergency care.