A research tool for medical tourism

 

In his recent article, Medical Tourism Marketing: A model of destination attractiveness, Keith Pollard provided an excellent overview of the factors associated with the choices being made every day by medical travelers. But it isn't necessary to guess or speculate as to how consumers make these choices. There is a very well established research tool which allows scientific analysis of the "trade-offs" which consumers make in such choices.

The research tool has various names such as Research Design, Choice-Based Modeling, Trade-Off Analysis and Conjoint Analysis. The tool has been used for many years in consumer product marketing to anticipate preference for combinations of features.

For example, when you go to the store to buy a new computer, you don't need to wait for the manufacturer to produce exactly the combination of color, memory, and size that you want. The manufacturer has already determined how many models of which combinations of features to make in advance. This is done using Conjoint Analysis.

Stackpole & Associates has pioneered the application of Conjoint Analysis in healthcare. Medical travel providers and destinations can utilize this tool. For example, let’s examine the "significant seven" factors of destination attractiveness proposed by Keith Pollard:

  •     Geographic Proximity
  •     Cultural Proximity
  •     Destination Image
  •     Destination Infrastructure
  •     Destination Environment
  •     Risk and Reward
  •     Price

These are features or "utilities" that consumers employ in making a decision. How do we know in advance which of these features are more or less important to particular types of consumers?

The rank order importance of these features would be different, for example, to a UK consumer considering dental tourism to Hungary from a hip replacement consumer from the US traveling to Costa Rica. Each of these choice-based models can be anticipated using Conjoint Analysis.

The basic concept behind Conjoint Analysis is choice. Consumers make purchases based on trade-offs between and among factors such as those proposed by Keith Pollard.

By scientifically designing and asking consumers a set of survey questions, consumers replicate, or model the types of real life trade-offs that they make when they decide to select a medical destination. Armed with this information about the trade-offs that consumers are willing to make, we can, through statistical modeling, anticipate the exact combination and rank order of features that will appeal to the consumers that destination providers want to reach.

Conjoint Analysis can secure answers to crucial questions, including:

  •     Which marketing messages will generate the most leads?
  •     What are the critical differences in preference between one source location and another?
  •     How should we configure our services to appeal to our customers?
  •     What combination of features will result in the highest customer satisfaction with the lowest operating cost?

Conjoint Analysis is a market research methodology which can answer these and other questions that are vital to the success of medical travel businesses. To learn more about this research tool, you can read more and view a brief video on its application in medical travel.

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