By MS Guru Prasad, Group Head – International Marketing, Narayana Health
Medical tourist attempting to arrange his own treatment is often faced with challenges in accessing correct and relevant information
Medical tourism represents a rapidly growing niche market. Medical travellers are motivated to seek care outside of their area of residence by many factors, including more advanced technology, quicker access, higher quality of care, or lower costs for care in the desired destination. This nascent industry represents a significant market opportunity to entrepreneurs and investors in the healthcare, tourism, and hospitality markets. Hospitality and tourism companies, as well as local governments and destination marketers, are positioning themselves to capture a share in the medical tourism market worldwide.
The year 2017 will see a growing number of hospitals, clinics, doctors, facilitators and other medical tourism service providers seek certification of one sort or another. After years of debate over certification, accreditation and otherwise regulation of the medical tourism industry, different bodies around the world have started offering medical tourism certification of one sort or another.
Some other trends of MVT show that credentials of doctors and medical specialists of India have been recognised across borders since decades, giving these health care professionals the ability to practice their trade in other countries through Surgical Camps. For example, in Canada, doctors may soon be able to cross provincial borders and practice in any province in the country.
Emerging trends towards, evolution of ‘Medical Free Trade Zones’ are on the drawing boards in several countries outside the EU and ASEAN. Increasingly, a common feature is the recognition and acceptance of medical qualifications no matter in which country doctors are licensed to practice.
On pricing front, a medical traveller must often accept vague assurances of treatment prices and false promises of cost savings. This pricing chaos will increase because world-wide more second-tier hospitals and clinics and more second-rate dentists and doctors charge premium prices while promising high quality results to the unwitting independent medical traveller.
A new trend in this sector is on developing the public safety of medical destinations. Due to be wide spread of media through internet, TV and newspapers, the travellers are quite well aware about the international news and they pre-decide on where to travel for their treatment. With increasing conflicts in the Middle East, especially Yemen, and Iraq or disease spread in Africa (malaria, ebola, etc.,), and drug cartel wars continuing in Mexico, medical travellers will be more cautious about where to travel for healthcare. Medical destinations like Mexico may take a hit in the number of travellers if the gun violence continues and the same case with Lebanon and Jordan which is due to the local disturbance.
In some cases, the medical travellers choose to hire a medical travel facilitator or care manager who can guide them well. Some are potential medical tourism consumers and they are aware of the product and service offerings available to them through medical travel. Among those who are aware of the medical tourism option, many misconceptions and fears of low quality, risk exposure, and cultural and language barriers exist. The individual medical tourist attempting to arrange their own treatment is faced with challenges in accessing correct and relevant information. As the medical tourism sector expands, one of the greatest challenges is to communicate to consumers the potential benefits of the medical tourism experience, with emphasis on quality and safety.