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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

Your Website On Top of the List

If you are investing in a website, you owe it to yourself to get your ROI by optimizing your practice website for top positioning in the search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) structures your web pages so that your site will appear high on the search engine results page (SERP) every time a prospective patient makes a query.

Search engines like Google®, Yahoo!®, Bing™ or MSN®, crawl and index billions of web pages every day to return relevant data to their search patrons. And your website could have “walls” and “bumps” that prevent search engines from finding your website at all.

Only 8% of search engine users review more than the first three pages prior to clicking on a result. Don’t get buried deep or remain invisible on the web. Get professional help to have your Internet presence known.

Once your website is optimized for search engines, your practice will enjoy a level of web presence that will work to generate a steady stream of patients for you.

How Do You Do It?

Web Analysis

Get a grip on how your website is working
Are there any indexing barriers in your site architecture?
Keywords are critical. Are you using relevant keywords in the right places?
Though popularity may signify relevancy, high-traffic phrases do not always mean competitive results.

How is the competition doing for certain keywords? Sponsored links?
What is your search engine ranking in relation to competitors?
Is your site link-worthy?
Do you have valuable, original content?

On Page Optimization

Making your web page search engine-attractive
No repetitive keywords or high-density phrases but key placement of nicherelated, practice-relevant targeted keywords.
Title tags and meta descriptions unique for every page, for maximum page relevance and click-through rates. And keyword branding!
Best possible experience on user navigation – easy, intuitive and functional onsite links.
Keyword-appropriate, relevant and unique content – that quality websites will want to link to and users return for more – the key to long-term first-page ranking in search engines.
SEO coding up to par with web services validation standards, ensuring quality display and function.
Robot.txt optimization that protects confidential information in your system’s database – such as your EMR – and keeps it out of reach of search engines.

Off Page Optimization

Getting your site web-wide attention
We manually submit your website directly to top search engines, high-PageRank directories and traditional marketing channels.
We launch a link popularity campaign with related industry/practice websites and reputable domains. Quality inbound links are votes for your PageRank score, increasing link reputation and authority as an information source – leading to high placement and traffic!
We leave no medium unfarmed, we syndicate content with social networking sites, online forums and blogs, we advertise with web classifieds, and we give online press releases.
Localization

Putting you in front of your prospects anywhere, anytime
Beat the neighborhood competition for Internet visibility. Make your practice virtually “physically” visible at the same time your target user is searching for your services.

Optimizing your site with local map directories can make your practice easily findable by your local community. Google’s intuitive capabilities let you appear in the local search results with a visual guide to your practice location. Now you can target your ads to appear only to a specific location, region or town, allowing direct, fast marketing impact on your target market.

Performance Tracking
and Reporting
Track results
Consistent placement requires relentless analysis of performance indicators in your website. Success metrics help you make SEO adjustments and future marketing decisions.

Keywords, visitor profiles, appointments, sign-ups, page traffic and search engine and URL/domain referrals tracking helps you determine what are generating interest from users and capturing the attention of your target audience.

We track performance of your website from lead generation to patient conversion – helping you get the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

Practice Builders offers proven strategies developed through working with more than 15,000 clients.

Is your practice in a position to flourish when the economy returns to health? Your answer will depend on your marketing efforts during the downturn and the strategies you’ve put in place to help you grow and prosper during the recovery.

During difficult economic times, many practices are either forced to cut their marketing budgets, or do so by conscious choice. But this puts you in a difficult position because you may lose market share or have to make up the difference as the economy improves.

The important question is whether your practice will be able to prosper when the economy begins to grow again – as it ALWAYS does after a downturn. Your success will depend on your marketing tactics and strategies – what you have done during the downturn and what you have put in place to win new patients and referrers during the recovery.

Your success will depend on your timing, too. Now is the time to establish your marketing plan for recovery – brand your practice, formulate strategies and tactics, make media choices and justify your investment—so you are ready to enhance your strategic marketing plan when you have more marketing funds to invest.

Keep in mind that you will not likely be able to return to your old ways of marketing. Your patients and referral sources are much more likely to look online first for new services and providers. Today, the demand for marketing accountability and measurement is stronger than ever. The days of guessing how your marketing is doing are long gone.

The wisest course of action – particularly if you are less than web savvy – is to partner with a marketing firm that, in addition to traditional marketing, understands Internet marketing and the value of newer trends such as social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). They can help you choose the right mix of targeted online pro¬grams to complement your traditional marketing efforts, and they offer measurability, ROI information and evidence to support their marketing choices.

Enable your healthcare practice to emerge from the downturn in a strong position to win new patients and referral sources. Call 800.679.1262 today and ask how the experts at Practice Builders can help you and your practice market most effectively for the recovery