Medical tourism is a relatively young business concept. It is similar to conventional tourism, but instead of travel, it is for an intended purpose of organized treatment. There is a difference between medical intermediaries and certified international offices of medical tourism. This difference is difficult for some people to understand. Therefore, today we will discuss how the industry is organized and whether it is a good idea to entrust one’s health to such companies.
Affordable Treatment Abroad
Every year, 8 million people go for treatment abroad. 75% of people do it with the assistance of medical tourism organizations.
These are the main reasons:
- some clinics do not work directly with foreign patients;
- clinics do not have an international department and a coordinator with knowledge of all foreign languages;
- people want to combine treatment abroad with rest and relaxation;
- difficulties in translating and sending documents to the hospital;
- difficulties with air tickets, transfer.
These and other problems are handled by companies specializing in the organization of treatment abroad. They assist the patient at all stages: from the choice of the hospital until they return home.
There are 2 ways these companies function financially:
- The patient pays for the services of the organization;
- The clinic pays for the services of the organization. In this case, the company and the patient do not have financial interactions. The patient pays the actual cost of treatment abroad directly to the clinic.
Features of Medical Tourism
Patients from Eastern European countries go abroad for:
- oncological treatment;
- treatment of neurological diseases (epilepsy, stroke, brain trauma);
- therapy for autoimmune diseases (HIV, hepatitis, arthritis);
- plastic surgery (blepharoplasty, rhinoplasty, breast augmentation).
Therefore, medical tourism develops in several directions all at once. As a rule, a particular region or country specializes in one of these directions. Such division is caused by the level of development of medicine, climate, the economic and political development of the country.
Some countries, for example, Turkey, supervise medical tourism at a state level. This special policy regulates and ensures lower treatment prices, but this does not affect its quality of treatment.
The treatment price abroad depends on the living standards of the country and the actual cost of medicine. There are countries which charge foreign patients more than their citizens. This is caused by the lack of medical insurance and foreign citizenship. Most often, this is the case with the hospitals in the UK and the US.
The Main Directions of Medical Tourism
Clients choose countries to undergo treatment based on:
- availability of technologies inaccessible in their home country;
- experienced expertise of doctors;
- location of the country.
Clinics based in Israel, Germany and Turkey are popular among Eastern European residents.
Treatment in Israel is conducted in public and private hospitals. More often this country treats patients with oncological diseases. High-end international technologies for cancer treatment are available here:
- new immunotherapy and targeted therapy drugs;
- modern irradiation devices (installation CyberKnife);
- surgical robots (Da Vinci) to conduct minor traumatic surgeries.
In Israel, people who suffer from chronic diseases are being rehabilitated. They choose resorts near the Dead Sea.
Israel clinics specializing in medical tourism have a JCI certificate. It confirms the quality of treatment and the qualifications of doctors.
Patients with neurological and oncological diseases prefer to go for treatment in Germany. Hospitals in Germany which admit foreign patients are certified by the relevant authorities (IMQ, DGK, etc.). The quality of medical care is controlled by the state. There are strict laws on medical mistakes and the negligent treatment of patients.
The largest clinics in Germany are the world’s scientific centers with a constant focus on developing new methods of treatment. Patients with complex pathologies can participate in clinical studies. This gives hope for recovery in critical cases.
Treatment in Turkey is a relatively new direction for foreign patients. Here, medical tourism began to develop after the healthcare reform in 2010. The country receives regular investments; today, they have reached an investment of $30 billion. These funds are used to re-equip hospitals, purchase new medical supplies and train staff.
This reform helped 49 Turkish hospitals to receive international accreditation from JCI.
Most often patients go to Turkey to receive IVF, implantation of teeth, treatment of orthopedic and oncological pathologies.
Features of Doing Business in the Medical Tourism Sector
Medical tourism is not a conventional tourism business. Firstly, it requires qualified personnel to correctly choose the treatment option; it is important to understand the medical problem and examine the medical history of the patient. It can be done only by a qualified medical doctor.
Secondly, when operating a medical business, one needs to carefully monitor the quality of the services provided. A lack of coordination or irresponsibility can affect the patient’s health.
The requirements for quality management are set out in the international series of ISO 9000 documents. However, only some medical tourism companies adhere to these principles. In 2017, the company Booking Health received the world’s first ISO 9001: 2015 certificate. Experts had been evaluating the quality of medical services and qualifications of the organization’s personnel.
If a coordinating company is chosen competently, the trip abroad for treatment will be much easier to conduct and money will be saved. However, one needs to distinguish between medical intermediaries and certified medical tourism organizations. The latter must provide the relevant documents: quality certificate and direct contracts with the clinics.