Interactive maps can help medical travel destinations

 

Medical tourism is one of the hottest niche markets in the hospitality and tourism industry. Through 2025, it is our official forecast that global medical tourism is expected to grow by 20% per year, reaching 60 million people and a market value in the neighborhood of US$260 billion (DeMicco, Cetron & Davies, 2018).

There is an opportunity to increase tourism revenue in Colorado from medical tourists and health and wellness seekers. In fact, Colorado has an extensive network of high quality medical, health and wellness providers throughout the state.

Therefore, Colorado can be a destination of choice for medical tourists and medical travellers via inter-state, intra-state and those also traveling from international destinations. This study attempted to identify some of the potential medical, health and wellness destinations around the state. The goal is to expand the use of these facilities in Colorado thereby enhancing overall Colorado tourism.

Medical tourism facilities mapping approach

This mapping study identified some of the potential medical, health and wellness destinations around the state of Colorado with the goal of expanding the use of these medical, health and wellness facilities in Colorado by making their locations discoverable online. This in turn could enhance access to the facilities thereby increasing Colorado tourism revenue.

For this study, we partnered with a research librarian at Colorado State University as well as with staff from the Geospatial Centroid, a GIS and mapping service centre also in the library. The research and data gathering was conducted by students during an 8-week graduate-level seminar on medical tourism towards the end of 2018.

The intention of the project was to gather information, in a semi-structured format, about health and wellness facilities within the state, and then to map these facilities by geocoding their addresses so they could be viewed in a digital map. The list of facilities could potentially include the following; medical centers, hospitals, specialised clinics, spas, medical marijuana centers, etc. Eight student teams were each assigned a geographic portion of the state. These included the northeast, the southeast, northwest and the southwest rural areas. In addition, two teams worked on gathering information for the Metro Denver region; one team was responsible for the Colorado Springs metro area; and the final group focused on the Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley areas.

Nine ‘essential’ elements were selected that were considered to be useful for someone seeking information about medical tourism opportunities in Colorado, covering:

  • Facility Name
  • Address*
  • City*
  • Zip*
  • URL or website link
  • Point of Service Code
  • Walk In or Appointment only
  • Specialty
  • Age of Patients accepted
  • Other Comments

* = required for geocoding process

Once this general data capture structure was determined, a spreadsheet template and distributed it to the eight working groups. Once the groups completed their work, staff from the Geospatial Centroid compiled these data, loaded into the GIS software program, ArcGIS 10.6, and then the addresses were geocoded using the Esri World Geocoder service.  Data on facilities was also collected from various State of Colorado government medical and health sites.  A total of 228 facilities were recorded.

Preliminary interactive map of Colorado medical tourism facilities

Once the locations are geocoded, the points and the attribute data tied to them can then be used in other mapping applications. As a proof of concept, we created a preliminary interactive map. Note that the information shown in the “pop-up” is the very data that was originally put into the spreadsheet templates by the students.

View of interactive map of medical tourism facilities in Colorado

This interactive map provides an initial example of a platform where medical tourism facilities could be gathered and visualised for the purpose of providing potential medical tourists with a way to discover the many diverse services provided in Colorado. By combining a resource like this, together with links and overlays of other tourist facilities in Colorado, tourists may well be drawn to Colorado for their medical tourism experience.

Conclusions

This study mapped and described some of the potential medical, health and wellness destinations around the state of Colorado.  An important first step in this process was to identify what type of data, or pertinent details, would be useful for someone who was seeking information about medical tourism opportunities in Colorado. A long list of possibilities was initially generated, but ultimately nine essential elements were selected.  Other elements for the data base could include; the elevation of a healthcare facility (for example high altitude could be problematic and detrimental in certain types of ear surgery), lodging availability for medical tourists and travelers near a health facility, etc.

The goal of this project was to expand the use of these medical, health and wellness facilities by medical and wellness travellers to Colorado thereby enhancing overall Colorado tourism. Interactive maps are very useful tools can be used in many other tourism, hospitality and travel efforts to bring awareness to a geographical area.


About the research team

Frederick J. DeMicco, Ph.D., R.D., Visiting Scholar, the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources – Masters of Tourism Management Program at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado; Visiting Professor, the University of South Florida- Sarasota - Manatee and Aramark Chair Emeritus, the University of Delaware.

Sophia Linn, M.A., GISP, Assistant Director, Geospatial Centroid at Colorado State University.

And graduate students in the CSU Masters in Tourism Management Program: Yiran Jiang, Sean Grabosky, Brent Heffron, Su Jeon, Roichelle Marble, Mela Montoya, Enkhchimeg Nergui, Tatum Neubert, Katelyn Novak, Sam Pallazza, Kevin Perko, Sarah Withers, Jinhe Xu, Ivy Yang, and Akiko Yoshimi

Corresponding Author: Frederick J. DeMicco FDeMicco@udel.edu

References

ArcGIS 10.6 Desktop Software. Esri, Redlands, CA. 2018.
ArcGIS Online. Esri, Redlands, CA. 2018.
DeMicco, F.J, Cetron, M. and Davies, O. (2018). Medical Tourism Trends. In Strategic Management: Today and Tomorrow. Electronic Publication from Kendall-Hunt Publishers, Iowa, USA.

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