Constantine Constantinides provides advice as to understanding the health tourism market


At healthCare cybernetics, we undertake quite a bit of mentoring to young entrepreneurs, researchers and students who are considering or are exploring the health tourism sector, We refer to them as our “Protégés.

Our feeling is that the health tourism sector needs new blood, if it is to prove sustainable and to counter some of the “established principles, norms and beliefs”, and advice still being dispensed by some of the old blood.

Nevertheless, we extend some caveats to students and young budding health tourism entrepreneurs. As one 25-year veteran and pioneering insider (based in Canada) recently commented: “Poor girl doesn't know what she is in for with medical tourism”.

We advise those who are doing research that a lot of what they will encounter on the net (and from where most “references” tend to come nowadays) is nonsense, hype, doctored articles and “self-interested dishonesty”.

We advise them that much is written (or copied and pasted) by individuals writing “authoritatively” on things they barely understand.

Of course, there is some good and valuable stuff out there on the net.

But students, researchers and entrepreneurs need to be able to separate the signal from the noise and the nonsense.

Thinking of doing a PhD on Medical Tourism?

A number of the young people contacting us for advice and guidance, have already embarked on a post-graduate degree or course in medical tourism. And some have even completed a degree or majored in “medical tourism”.

With regards to a PhD, I point out that a PhD can take up to four years to complete. By that time, most of the early research and thinking which was put into the draft thesis, may be way out of date (old hat) or will have been revealed to be simply wrong. Health tourism (which includes medical tourism) is not only evolving rapidly – but also changing directions (the sector is already at a crossroads).

Supervised by whom?

 ..who will supervise and provide guidance to students of medical tourism?

Some graduates proudly inform me of the University (or other academic institution) from which they have obtained their medical tourism-related Degree. I am tempted to ask “which Deep Sector Expert supervised and guided you?”

The Academic Staff who act as supervisors are not deep industry insiders and for the most part, have likewise, obtained their “knowledge and understanding” from the net.

So what do we students

  • If you want to do a PhD, ensure it will focus on how the sector will or should evolve. Give a “predictive” slant to your work.
  • In addition to pointing to proven good principles and practices, highlight “thinking and doing” which is patently wrong. Point out that sector best practices have yet to be established and the initiative to benchmark good practices (at enterprise and destination levels) to validate and establish best practices.
  • Introduce aspects/principles of game theory to the exercise (see Journey to Healthistan).
  • Talk about Black Swans, but please do not talk about the 20 billion (or is it trillion) medical tourism industry/market by 2012 or even 2015 (especially when you are referring to the “abroad” version)

What we recommend…to young “would be” entrepreneurs

Our advice to budding young entrepreneurs is extensive - and mainly “cautionary”. Some advice and caveats which come to mind:

  • Do not be deluded by the noise made about the size of the market and the ready opportunities which await you, when you join the industry to address the market.
  • When it comes to medical tourism, the internet and the media generally, report stories of (purported) success but remain silent when it comes to failures (The Survivorship Bias).
  • Be prepared to admit your initial beliefs were wrong or at least “idealized” or overly romanticized.

Psychologists are well aware of the “Escalating Commitment” phenomenon. This is all about people who take a position and then feel compelled to defend it even when presented with empirical evidence and well-supported arguments that the “position” (basically the “belief”) is wrong.

Health tourism and especially the medical tourism segment is not the El Dorado many (including some industry representative bodies) claim it is. The sector has huge prospects (otherwise I would not be doing what I am doing) but not as it is but as it can be.

Health and medical tourism need to develop from “have to” need to “want to”. And the market needs to be cultivated so that every tourist is a potential health tourist (something which the ht8 approach to development and promotion aims to do, anyway).


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