5 things will need to happen before healthcare travel gains enough traction to be a real player in healthcare. In spite of the research reports, eco-devo white papers, industry analyses and industry marketing hype, medical travel/medical tourism is still an early stage industry searching for the proper formula for achievement.
In my view, five things will have to happen before clinical tourism and global healthcare referrals get real traction: 1) the coming of a new sustainable business model, 2) global healthcare IT connectivity and integration, 3) a physician generated global healthcare referral network, 4) a worldwide regulatory, legal and socioeconomic ecosystem, and 5) patient awareness and acceptance.
The advance of some sort of sustainable business structure
Industry players including payors, providers, partners and facilitators continue to be seeking the essentially the most successful method to make a profit and scale the company. Through an eye towards what happened when Expedia disrupted the traveling agency business, participants understand or know that margins for travel arrangement services are thin and that there is high price elasticity for global healthcare care. Few have realized the magic key that suits the lock that opens the doors to profits. Payors and employers are reluctant to accept the significance proposition without a better solution to reduce their risk and demonstrate tangible, meaningful cost benefits to their insureds and employees.
Global healthcare IT connectivity and integration The United States national healthcare information architecture is evolving. Eventually, the network will be a portal around the world all of which will enable seemless, secure, confidential transfer of non-public health information thus assuring some continuity of care and quality improvement. Similarly, it will require a little while for health information systems to evolve in host countries that may speak to non-host systems. Short term solutions, like personal health records or mobile health applications, might fill the void temporarily.
A health care provider generated global healthcare referral network Most health-related tourism models connect patients to healthcare facilities, bypassing doctors from the early stages. Docs can get hanging around once the model feels better, and they’ve got the resources and power to make referrals to consultants directly, like they actually do now. Given the rise of international members, professional health related societies needs to be more proactive in building global referral networks, as an alternative to seeing them as threats to existing domestic members.
An international regulatory, legal and socioeconomic ecosystem The barriers to adoption and penetration of health-related travel are many including liability, reimbursement, quality assurance and impediments to continuity of care. As healthcare goes global, same goes with the guidelines and regulations that facilitate or obstruct its use. Why not consider a new World Trade Organization Treaty on Clinical Traveling?
Patient awareness and acceptance In line with one of the most recent polls, 50% of consumers understand the meaning with the term “medical tourism”, leaving home for care. Social media buzz and media stories get the professional medical traveling story sexy, particularly given each of the noise about escalating healthcare costs and consumers, employers and payors are hungry to acquire more information. Moving patients from awareness to intention to decision to action, however, will require more time and use innovative marketing approaches directed towards granular market segments.
Global healthcare travel is projected to be a $1B industry by 2012. Although the bones are usually in place, it wll take more hours to add the flesh. Until then, to quote Karl Mauldin, people won’t set out without them.
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