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The concept of “medical tourism” in its most fundamental form dates back thousands of years to Greek pilgrims traveling the Mediterranean. Additionally it is noted that in the eighteenth century many of the English visited spas throughout their country because they were places with supposedly health-giving mineral waters. Today over 50 countries recognize medical tourism as an industry and there are some projections estimating the global size of this industry will approach 100B USD in the next few years.
So who is today’s candidate for a medical tourism affiliated procedure and where do they come from? Patients typically come from what are considered First World Countries such as England, Canada, Japan, Middle East and the US. Typically these patients are either lacking coverage for a particular procedure, lack medical insurance, have a rider due to a pre-existing condition, are underinsured, have a high deductable where it is actually cheaper to consider a foreign option or may be looking for a less expensive cosmetic option.
While roughly fifty countries may recognize medical tourism as an industry; we at GME target our focus where we can use US trained, US Board Certified physicians wherever possible or their international equivalent. In addition, GME utilizes hospitals that have the highest standard for accreditation called JCI (Joint Commission International). As a result, our current countries of choice for major surgeries, dental surgeries and plastic surgeries are India, Costa Rica and yes, the United States. We do this because the patient’s outcomes, safety, comfort and peace of mind are of paramount concern. This is why GME also makes available to foreign travelers a Care Giver to facilitate their visit and provide for their needs.
From a cost perspective; when exploring the international option and comparing against internet provided, published US procedural costs GME can provide a savings ranging 20-60% over many of the same procedures performed in the US. And by providing a JCI accredited facility and a highly credentialed surgeon the only differences are cost and location. But how does this affect the US healthcare system from an economic perspective? Well currently the US holds the leading share of market in this industry with a reported share of 40% (India for example has a 3% share of this market). From my standpoint Medical Tourism is benefiting the US economy with:
1. In-bound, cash paying patients that tend to pay at rates above current reimbursable levels
2. Allowing many US citizens a medical option not currently presented in our system
3. Potentially providing a counterbalance to escalating healthcare costs in the US.
Think back just a few decades ago when the Japanese began importing high quality, lower priced vehicles into the US market. What were the affects of those products on the US auto industry? It caused the US auto manufacturers to “up their game” on a number of levels: the quality of the product, the service provided to the consumer, the price of the product and the backing of the product. So in the end our automotive industry adapted, survived and is prospering because we now make a world class car, have parts manufactured abroad and sell our cars globally. To that end the Medical Tourism industry can bring about a much needed rationalizing in the cost of our healthcare to the average US citizen. This can be accomplished through the introduction of a reimbursable foreign option.

With a 40% share the US is the market leader when it comes to the growing medical tourism industry. But there is no reason India can’t become a major player despite its current 3% share of the nearly $100B global industry. India may be best positioned to have a voice in where patients choose to have outstanding medical services because they have the latest in technologies; experienced, well trained physicians with the world class Fortis Hospital System. Today the majority of patients traveling to India for medical reasons actually come for cardiac treatment, cancer treatment, knee replacement and other serious ailments. So the perception that perhaps India is unqualified for treating patients in need of major surgical procedures is diminishing. Cost is, of course must be a major consideration when a patient reviews their medical options globally. For example according to the BusinessWorld report, a heart bypass surgery costs in US dollars $144,000 in the United States, $25,000 in Costa Rice, $24,000 in Thailand, $20,000 in Mexico, $13,500 in Singapore, and $8,500 in India. The quality of care is excellent, there is less waiting time and services are personalized.
Medical tourism is a growing sector in the India economy. With a projected annual growth rate of 30% India’s medical tourism sector is expected go as high as $2 billion a year by 2012. As medical treatment costs in the more developed country’s swell out of proportion, with the United States leading the way, more and more Westerners are finding the prospect of international travel for medical care increasingly appealing. An estimated 150,000 people travel to India each year for “value health care”.
So now with India proving itself as a credible provider of value healthcare (not “cheap health care”), with the western population ageing, and health care becoming more difficult to obtain from a price perspective I expect more people to come from the U.S and other world powers.

Baby Boomers are fueling a boom in knee and hip surgeries. Do you need a new knee or do you know someone that does? According to www.kneereplacementabroad.com the average price in the US for a total knee replacement is $29000-32,000 USD. Another website www.livestrong.com  states that a US conducted total knee replacement can cost as much as $35,000 USD. For surgeries abroad Global Medical Excellence contracts with US trained, US Board Certified surgeons in India and JCI Accredited hospitals (The Fortis Group) to handle all India based surgical procedures. In the case of a knee replacement the cost through GME is a mere $7,980 and that includes the standard post-op rehabilitation. So what is the difference? Just the location in my opinion.

Last year over 1mm US citizens went abroad for medical care and globally the concept of medical tourism is approaching $1B USD. In fact, over fifty countries have identified medical tourism as a national industry. One of the target countries in this hemisphere for healthcare abroad is Costa Rica. According to the United Nations living in Costa Rica can be quite healthy. Costa Rica is in first place in Latin America for the development of curative and preventative diseases. This is a ranking that places it with Canada and the United States in the top 20 in the world. Costa Rica, this small topical paradise, surpasses the United States in both infant mortality and life expectancy.

So if you are even in the unfortunate situation where you are unable to cover your deductable for a medical procedure or you are denied coverage for a procedure then consider medical tourism and Global Medical Excellence. Do what over 1MM American’s do each year and seek out the international option.

Cosmetic surgery has held its own in a down economy. Estimates show that the trend in the number of procedures in 2010 is not that far below numbers in 2009 and 2008. What has changed is that patients are paying for less invasive procedures like Botox™ and fillers versus tummy tucks or facelifts. These procedures are less expensive and the time away from work is less.

Cosmetic Surgical Procedures

The major invasive procedures are not quite as popular as they were a few years ago. Breast augmentation, Rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty still top the list, but the numbers of procedures perform have seen a decline in 2009 and 2010.Tummy Tucks and Liposuction round out the list of the top five invasive cosmetic surgery procedures.

Cosmetic Trends in 2010

Defying the down economy, plastic surgery procedures increased nearly 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 with more than 9.3 million surgical and non-surgical procedures logged in 2010, for a market cost of roughly $11 billion (ASAPS statistics).  Patients between the ages of 35 and 50 accounted for 44 percent of the total, which was the majority age group.

As CEO of Global Medical Excellence, a medical tourism company specializing in cosmetic, dental and major surgeries: It was surprising to see such a spike in services despite the current economic woes.  In addiiton, of what appears to be an expansion in the patient demographic. Why? Because according to the ASAPS study, 19 percent of the patients belong to an ethnic minority. Traditional consumer direct marketing has been targeted towards the white female. Today one can include both sexes and various ethnicities as their target audience

How Your Practice Can Benefit from Social Media Network Marketing

Social media networking began as a consumer-to-consumer activity but has very quickly turned into a critical business marketing strategy. Social media networking allows your practice to reach patients and referrers with custom messaging that establishes and builds customer relationships and brand awareness (the essence of who you are as a practitioner and all the services you provide). Consider…

Most businesses – including private healthcare practices – now regularly use social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn for hiring, patient support, brand recognition and patient acquisition and retention. Social media is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies available. Your cost of acquiring new patients is significantly lower than with many other marketing strategies. Best of all, social networking gives you an opportunity to create lasting relationships.

A sound social media marketing program delivers
Here are some additional benefits you can expect from social network marketing:

• Authentic feedback from your target audience (patients and referral sources)
• Integration with traditional marketing programs and strategies
• Highly targeted audiences
• Improved search engine optimization and positioning
• Much lower costs than traditional advertising
• Long-term wider impact than conventional public relations

It pays to “eavesdrop”
Patients look to objective (and some not-so-objective) Internet sources to compare doctors and practice offerings. Current patients are also quite willing to share their experiences, good or bad, with others on various Internet directories, search engines and review sites (e.g. City Search).

You can’t control their chatter or eliminate a negative review. But you can learn what patients really want or need. You can also get a unique glimpse of your practice or your brand of care through your patient’s eyes.

Some savvy healthcare providers have made major strides in patient care just by “listening in” on Twitter. When their name is mentioned, they know it. When a patient has a problem, the provider can help them within minutes.

To be successful, practitioners learn to listen first before they take action. Maintaining a regular monitoring program will help you understand your patient’s experience and how it changes as you implement online social marketing programs.

Measuring your success
How do you measure the success of a social media campaign? First, you must define your goals. Whether you want increased traffic to your website, website conversions or leads, you must have clear objectives to determine your level of success in short- and long-term intervals. For you, success might include:

• Gaining a better understanding of your patients and their needs
• Increasing your practice exposure in new and positive ways
• Reducing the cost of reaching your target audience (vs. other tactics)
• Increasing patient inquiries and conversions
• Attracting more desirable patients and case types

Social networking media is not a fad. It’s growing and here to stay. Learn to use it to your advantage and help ensure that your practice remains healthy and profitable.

Referrals and RelationshipsBehind every professional referral, there is a relationship between someone at your practice and someone at the referring practice. It’s a relationship based on trust. From cardiac surgeons to gastroenterologists, from endodontists to podiatrists, many healthcare providers depend heavily on professional referrals to keep their business running, growing and changing…

What this means is that these types of practices are dependent on relationships. And relationships need to be maintained. So this month’s tip is as simple as it is important: Pick up the phone and call.

Growth- and success-minded practices are wise enough to develop and manage effective practice representation programs. As successful as such programs are for many referral-based practices, they are a complement to not a replacement for the direct contact between you and your referrer.

When a doctor sends you patients, there is trust inherent in the act. And that trust is placed in you, the individual healthcare professional. So you need to maintain, reaffirm and strengthen that trust by reminding the referrer of your appreciation and support.

While your practice representative does something similar (and vital), he or she is merely building and supporting the bridge between your practice and your referrer’s practice. You must still walk across that bridge from time to time to shake the hand of the person who is entrusting you with his or her patients and contributing to your revenues.

Take a few minutes, call a referrer, say hi and ask how things are going. Start with those you know best and with whom you’re most comfortable. And be sure to ask them how you can help them take better care of their patients.

Features Your Website Should Have to Attract More Customers and Extend their Visit Time
To bring in new Customers, build your reputation and enhance your revenue, your business website should:
1. Be informative, with useful information on topics relating to your specialty: A new treatment or a health alert that’s making news, for example. Inform people and they’ll be grateful; they’ll want to buy from you.
2. Be frequently updated. New information gives visitors a reason to come back to your site, and makes your site come up higher in search results. In other words, content changes are good!
3. Be interactive. Give visitors something to do. An ophthalmologist’s site might ask: “Is LASIK right for you? Take this 30-second test to find out!” This subtly encourages visitors to commit to you and your practice, making them more likely to call and make an appointment.
4. Home Page Video. Some research suggests that the average time spent on a site during a typical search is 3-5 seconds. And since 30 billion videos are watched on-line each month (an avg of 27 min per day) consumers are more readily retained when a video is readily available for viewing. I suggest a 60 or 90 second custom video placed on your home page that touts your brand and your capabilities
5. Back links. Maintain active social sites such as Facebook™, Twitter™, LinkedIn™ that are readily accessed with icons on your home page. Linking these sites to your website can assist with optimization
6. Blogs. Crawlers recognize and rank Blogs as valuable because they still see them as educational. Host a Blog, update it on a monthly basis and link it into your website with a homepage “button” so customers can learn more about your capabilities
7. If you want to have an “offer” listed on your site avoid words such as “free”. These words look “salesy” [sic] and could cause a crawler to over-look your site.
Simply stick to the tips above and your website will begin to work more effectively 24/7 to help you attract more Customers, build an outstanding reputation, and enhance your bottom line.

There may always be a need for printed materials such as practice capabilities brochures and patient information sheets. In some small, rural markets across America and in certain health specialties, there is still a place for Yellow Pages ads, too. There are still places in America where people don’t own or use computers. But the greatest potential for new marketing opportunities today is on the Internet.

Over 110 million Americans routinely search the Internet for all kinds of health information, services and support. To reach your share of this enormous audience, you need an effective Internet presence. Your first basic necessity is a well developed and designed functional website that communicates your unique brand, benefits and services to healthcare consumers. Your website should be easy to navigate, easy to use, easy on the eyes and sufficiently interactive to engage visitors.

Your second basic necessity is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Without good SEO, your website will languish in obscurity, unnoticed by the people you most want to reach. Invest in good SEO and your rewards will be worth every penny.

Beyond your basic online marketing necessities
Once you have an effective website and good SEO, you should consider tactics that will make your site “sticky” or hard to leave. Offer visitors some variety with an interactive e-brochure they can marvel at and download, an e-video (think YouTube) they can learn from or a blog they can add their own comments to. Add social networking links and more interactivity through FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter.

Can’t find expert healthcare online marketing help in you area? Maybe Practice Builders can help.

Not long ago, traditional media such as Yellow Pages ads and print collateral were mainstays of the healthcare marketing mix. Not so today. Today, it’s about having the right mix of traditional and e-media marketing strategies to achieve your objectives…

Identify the right strategies to reach your target audience
There may always be a need for printed materials such as practice capabilities brochures and patient information sheets. In some small, rural markets across America and in certain health specialties, there is still a place for Yellow Pages ads, too. There are still places in America where people don’t own or use computers. But the greatest potential for new marketing opportunities today is on the Internet.

Over 110 million Americans routinely search the Internet for all kinds of health information, services and support. To reach your share of this enormous audience, you need an effective Internet presence. Your first basic necessity is a well developed and designed functional website that communicates your unique brand, benefits and services to healthcare consumers. Your website should be easy to navigate, easy to use, easy on the eyes and sufficiently interactive to engage visitors.

Your second basic necessity is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Without good SEO, your website will languish in obscurity, unnoticed by the people you most want to reach. Invest in good SEO and your rewards will be worth every penny.

Beyond your basic online marketing necessities
Once you have an effective website and good SEO, you should consider tactics that will make your site “sticky” or hard to leave. Offer visitors some variety with an interactive e-brochure they can marvel at and download, an e-video (think YouTube) they can learn from or a blog they can add their own comments to. Add social networking links and more interactivity through FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter.

You may not know that SEO, or search engine optimization, has grown into a true science in recent years. Yet most SEO practitioners are still performing basic keyword, competitive and site structure analyses — and little else.

There’s SEO and there’s true SEO
Real SEO practitioners believe in using the whole armamentarium of SEO strategies, from complete site analyses to on-page and off-page optimization, social media optimization to complete reporting and analytics. In other words, they use all the science behind SEO, not just the easy parts.
The Proof is in the outcomes
With comprehensive, state-of-the-art SEO, your site will become easier to find in search engine listings. So it’s easier for patients and referring physicians.

The goal of true SEO is get your website listed as high as possible in the first few pages (preferably the first page) of search results on major search engines. Not only should you see your site rise in search engine listings, you should see complete reporting and analytics from your SEO provider.

You should know what’s working and what needs to be adjusted to improve your results. Evidence-based SEO eliminates the guesswork.