How to survive and thrive with Covid-19


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.

Manage your burn rate

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:

  • Reduce office hours, cut underperforming staff, use furlough schemes.
  • Scale back marketing spend, make use of free marketing tools (e.g. social media).
  • Renegotiate all expenses, including rent, leases, mortgages, phone and internet services.
  • Reduce salaries of remaining staff.
  • Recreate job descriptions of remaining staff.

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.

Adapt, adapt, adapt

“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.

And to thrive?

Paul suggests a number of actions to take in this ‘downtime’, which may help grow business in the future:

  • Get Covid-19 certified (e.g. Covid-19 Safe Certificate from Temos International).
  • ‘Feed the funnel’ by constantly communicating with patients and rolling out promotions to referrals and past patients (e.g. via social media, newsletters, touch-base calls).
  • Do a website spring clean and improve your organic performance (e.g. SEO, website performance, reduce errors).
  • Provide social ‘proof’ by increasing the number of reviews online (e.g. posting patient reviews on your website, and on agency sites).
  • Update your business profiles (e.g. on Google Maps, Facebook).
  • Invest wisely – identify your highest performing channels (e.g. SEO, phone, referral) and invest aggressively in the best ones.
  • Measure your return on investment with patient-finding agencies.

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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