At the IMTJ Medical Travel Forum last week, Paul McTaggart, CEO of Dental Departures, provided practical business advice for healthcare organisations to survive in an international patient market heavily impacted by the global pandemic. Businesses must make changes to be able to last until 2022, with international travel ‘normalcy’ returning only towards the end of that year.
Medical travel will return in only in stages, predicts Paul McTaggart, CEO of the international dental travel platform, Dental Departures.
The first stage of the recovery has been domestic medical travel, for example within the UK, from Manchester to London. He believes he is now seeing evidence of the second stage, where patients are using the “safety” of their own cars to drive to neighbouring markets, for example between Germany and Poland, or between states in the USA.
Paul predicts the third stage, where patients will fly directly between countries (point-to-point), will grow in 2021; with the final stage of hub-and-spoke travel involving multiple stop offs and quarantines before arriving at a destination being the last sector of the market to recover, in 2022.
Assuming this is the case, then “you need to be able to last until 2020”, says Paul, which means hospitals and clinics must manage their cash. He recommends several strategies:
During the Q&A session, Paul was asked how clinics were paying for the extra costs associated with Covid-19. He is seeing a number of clinics increasing prices or creating a Covid ‘surcharge’. He recommends that patients will be understanding about this extra cost, if businesses are transparent about what the surcharge covers.
“There is no playbook this time”, says Paul about current market conditions, “businesses just have to adapt and try and see what works”. Introducing telehealth services is one example, as is setting up virtual workspaces with staff and partners to share ideas.
Communication is also key, and Paul recommends practising “radical transparency” with not only vendors and patients, but also competing hospitals and clinics. Being realistic about your expectations and sharing the good and the bad could result in adopting new strategies that might help business survival.
Paul suggests a number of actions to take in this ‘downtime’, which may help grow business in the future:
The IMTJ Medical Travel Summit has been postponed until 2021 when we aim to deliver a virtual conference early in the year and a face to face conference in Autumn 2021 in Madrid. These plans may be adjusted, depending on the spread of COVID-19. Details of the programme for the 2021 virtual conference and the date will be confirmed here later this year.
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