Maria Todd looks at how to run a hospital familiarisation tour: 2


In this second part, she considers the agenda for the tour and the practicalities of running a tour that meets the real needs of the typical medical tourism facilitator. 

Setting the agenda for the tour

In the first part of this article, we highlighted some of the things to consider when designing a familiarization tour and preparing for the medical tourism facilitator. The next consideration is how to structure the agenda of the tour itself.

Upon arrival, the guests should be taken to a reception area and offered bottled water, a coffee or tea. On the way to the reception area, it is always nice to pass by the wall of honor that displays the hospitals accreditation and other meritorious recognitions. In many hospitals, there is usually a bust or statue of the founder. It is nice to review the contributions of that benefactor and a short, concise history of the hospital. 

As far as introductions go,  try to ensure that the hospital administrator, managing director or executive welcome the facilitator, prepare a brief welcome statement and introduce their staff and key personnel. Business cards should be provided as each one introduces themselves so that name and role associations may be made one-by-one.  The facilitator should be permitted to make their own introduction and appreciation for the hospital's willingness to receive them and take time to show them the hospital. You should expect that the facilitator will want to tell you a little about their business, its history, and their background in the industry.  If necessary, plan to have an interpreter on hand.

At a teaching hospital, often the attending physicians who will treat patients are on campus and may wish to say hello. At a private hospital, the physicians may not be available to do more than say hello and often may be in clinic or in the operating room. If that is the case, have their CV and a brief introduction about their cases, special interests and their photograph available.  Consider producing a  video compilation of the featured specialists each with a twenty second spot to enable the facilitator to assess language fluency, accent, and a glimpse of  their personality and special interests. The private physicians may be willing to contribute to the cost of this video.

Take time to introduce the staff who will interact with the facilitator, from the person who answers the emails all the way up to the executive in charge of the department. Offer a one page directory of names, addresses, telephone, fax and email addresses with a departmental hierarchy tree. This is helpful if the facilitator needs to climb up the chain of command to resolve a serious issue.

If a video about the hospital is to be shown, it should include some brief footage about the history of the hospital, if it is related to a larger corporation or has multiple noteworthy benefactors, and if it has received honors in the healthcare quality area, community recognition, recognition from the Ministry of Health and / or Ministry of Tourism. A bullet point list of the currently available technology, the number of beds, nursing ratios, medical staff, medical records details, etc. , should be shown along with any notes about upcoming additions to the hospital's portfolio of technology.  These should be up to date. Don't forget to include a short video clip of the mode of transportation to get their client to and from the airport, and discuss driver credentialing and insurance in the case of an accident on the way to or from the hospital.

The facilitator should be advised to bring a USB drive which contains a short presentation of 8-10 minutes duration about their business, their client profiles and their current business model and future plans. This is your opportunity to vet their ability to properly and appropriately represent your hospital or clinic and maintain your brand integrity.  A brief questionnaire should also be sent in advance of arrival that can tell you specifically which parts of the hospital in which they are most interested. You should also leave room for and encourage them to add any additional questions for which research will have to be done to have answers ready.  While it is never necessary or expected, if you plan to give the facilitator a token gift as a memento of their visit to the hospital, allow the facilitator the opportunity to know who will be present at the meeting by name and title in case they wish to reciprocate. 

After both presentations, another 5-10 minutes should be allowed to ask any questions of one another that may have arisen as a result of watching the video or facilitator's presentation.  At that point, the hospital executives and physicians may leave to go about their business.

Once this initial session is completed, offer a toilet break before continuing on with the walking tour. Make sure the toilet area is clean! 

Start the tour where their client will arrive and describe the arrival and admitting process. Next, proceed to the patient care areas and pay special attention to amenities and patient conveniences. Show them where companion travelers may be accommodated, and let them try the bed mattresses and any convertible sofas or other bedding that the companion traveler may utilize. Describe where luggage will be stored during their confinement. Show them the quality of the television reception on all channels, good or bad.

While passing through the hospital, whether or not it is the custom and culture of the local area, if the facilitators are from the United States, brief the staff to look up, make eye contact and smile. A smile and direct eye contact go a long way to break down language barriers.  

As you pass the patient care areas, a medical tourism facilitator may not be impressed by or grasp the value of technology such as electronic medical records, computerized physician order entry, etc., so unless they have marked it on their pre-arrival questionnaire, acknowledge that you have it and move on to things they can appreciate. 

Contrary to popular belief, not all facilitators want to go into your surgical suite. Include a  question in the pre-arrival questionnaire to determine their level of interest in visiting the operating room. If they are interested, explain that they will have to don appropriate attire and explain what that is so that they may opt to dress for the visit in clothing that are easy to change in and out of. Then, provide a locker room for changing with a way to lock up their purses, briefcases, etc., and brief them on what is and is not appropriate to photograph.

A medical tourism facilitator may not be able to appreciate the technical aspects of the laboratory and pathology department, or the radiologic imaging suite.  The facilitator may be more interested in extra wide / extra weight-bearing bariatric accommodations, orthopedics, physical therapy, cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation, outpatient department, and outpatient recovery accommodations for same-day surgery. If the hospital features any unique services such as stem cell research, transplant, robotics or other Centers of Excellence, or has within it a medical spa or dental facility, be sure to show those to the facilitator if you want them to feature this to their clients. 

Concluding the tour

Once the tour is concluded, return to the briefing or reception room for follow up questions and answers.  Executives and department heads may or may not wish to be on hand to answer any questions that the tour guides are unable to address.  If a contract or letter of intent is to be offered, this is the perfect time to take care of business.  Have a photographer on hand for the contract signing ceremony.  Make the photographs available to them via direct transfer to their laptop from the digital camera used by the photographer or send them as an email attachment upon their return home.

This meeting is also be a great opportunity to present the facilitator with a CD that has the physician credentials, all the marketing collateral and sample package prices that the facilitator will need to promote the hospital and copies of the video and information shown earlier, all on the same CD or DVD.  If token gifts are to be exchanged, it is better to do this at the conclusion of the tour rather than at the beginning on arrival and have to carry them throughout the hospital on the tour. If it is time for a meal, instead of a special meal, bring an assortment of the daily menu offerings that patients will receive so that the facilitator may attest to the taste and varieties of the food personally to their clients. Better yet, prior to leaving for the walking tour have the facilitator select what they would like to eat from the patient menu, so that it can be prepared and delivered to the meeting room upon return.

I hope that you will benefit from my suggestions and recommendations.  What you have read is just a small part of the advice I give in my work coaching physicians, hospitals, and the executive leadership of healthcare organizations!


Organizing Medical Tourism Site Inspections for Self-insured Employers

Resources, 19 January, 2017

Published by Maria K Todd

What they want

Articles, 19 March, 2015

The evolving expectations and demands of medical tourism visitors

Growth in stagnant waters

Articles, 14 July, 2014

How start-ups can thrive despite the industry

Medical tourism clusters

Articles, 10 August, 2012

Is there any point of clusters beyond the hype?

Handbook of Medical Tourism Development

Resources, 08 December, 2011

Maria K Todd: Routledge

Shaping your service

Articles, 04 February, 2010

Maria Todd looks at how a healthcare organisation can manage it's products



Do you have an article that you’d like to share with the medical travel industry?

Publish for FREE on IMTJ.


Related Articles

Medical tourism needs CXOs #BotchedNoMore

10 October, 2019

Who should manage the patient experience?

Iran medical tourism sector

10 July, 2019

Can Iran broaden its healthcare appeal?

Assessing EU cross-border healthcare

12 June, 2019

EU cross-border healthcare still requires improvement

Albania - a medical travel opportunity?

07 February, 2019

What can Albania offer the medical tourist

Chinese medical tourism scams

11 December, 2018

Arrests in US$145m scam targeting Chinese medical travellers