Google warning for medical tourism agencies and facilitators

 

Last week, Google took action in the UK to exclude UK agencies involved in the referral business for drug and addiction from its Adwords programme. This should sound a warning for medical tourism agencies and facilitators who earn their money from commissions on patient referral.

The UK’s Sunday Times newspaper conducted an investigation into the relationship between Google, agents who refer patients to UK addiction centres and the addiction clinics and facilities that provide support for drug and alcohol addiction. The Sunday Times article, "Google makes millions from plight of addicts" exposed a number of issues:

  • Addiction clinics and service providers such as Priory Group, Gladstones, Charterhouse, Regain Recovery, Castle Craig and Bayberry charge £5,000 to £30,000 per month for residential rehabilitation for addiction.
  • The business is highly competitive. Sitting between clinics and patients are “advice lines” such as Addiction Helper and ADT Healthcare – agencies and brokers who generate patient enquiries, discuss the options with patients and then refer them to selected clinics.
  • The agencies spend large sums on Google advertising to attract patients. The Sunday Times reported that Pay Per Click rates of up to £200 per click had been paid to Google, and that Addiction Helper was spending up to £350,000 a month on Google advertising.
  • The brokers then take a commission of up to 30% from the receiving clinic. It is a highly lucrative business.
  • The director of ADT Healthcare, was quoted as saying that he would "definitely not" tell the patients about his 30% referral fee because they "don’t like the idea of paying broker fees"

Google removes advertising

As a result of the Sunday Times investigation, Google removed all advertisements related to the addiction industry from its UK platforms. Google refuses to take advertisements from referral agents in the USA where the practice is against the law in several states. In Florida, offering or accepting cash for "patient brokering" is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

Google made these comments:

"We work to help healthcare providers – from doctors to hospitals and treatment centres – get online and connect with people who need their help. Substance abuse is a growing crisis and has led to deceptive practices by intermediaries that we need to better understand. In the US, we restricted ads entirely in this category and we have decided to extend this to the UK as we consult with local experts to update our policy and find a better way to connect those that need help with the treatment they need".

A warning for medical tourism agencies and facilities

The business model in the UK addiction business is similar to the way that medical tourism agencies and facilities operate between patients and hospitals and clinics. This Sunday Times investigation has focused specifically on the money made by Google from agencies, and ultimately from patients who need addiction treatment. What it also highlights is the murky world of referral fees and kickbacks, outlawed in some parts of the globe, and a common element of the medical tourism business.

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Measuring the ROI from medical tourism promotion

 

Across the globe, many countries have been lured by the attraction of medical tourism gold, believing it to offer a rich source of income for the country’s economy. Estimates of the size of the medical tourism market have varied wildly, from $5 billion to close to $500 billion. The truth is that no one actually knows how big the market is. Based on the data that IMTJ collects, we reckon it’s somewhere between $15 billion and $50 billion. 

Whatever the true size of the market, some governments around the world have invested heavily in promoting their country as a medical tourism destination. Sometimes the funding goes direct to hospitals and clinics through subsidising marketing activity (as in Turkey); sometimes much of the funding is invested through a government sponsored body, such as in Malaysia through the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. In some countries, this money has been spent wisely; elsewhere, much of it has been spent without thinking through where and how it might be best spent and what might deliver the best return on the investment.

Return on investment needs to be measured 

At the most basic level, if a government spends public money, then it needs to be answerable to its tax payers and electors... which means the return on investment needs to be measured. But measuring the return on medical tourism investment is not easy. The first challenge is tracking the flow of international patients into a destination and accounting for their expenditure. Few countries have solved this problem. Hence, we see a plethora of confusing and conflicting statistics emanating from different sources in the one country. Let’s take Turkey as an example. Turkey has published various data on medical tourism volume and value. For example: 

  • According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), health tourism revenue in Turkey increased by 12% to $700 million in 2016.
  • The Association of Health Strategies and Social Policies (SASOMER) claims that Turkey gets 1.1 million health and medical tourists, with a value of  $2.3 to 3 billion.
  • The Turkish Healthcare Travel Council claims that Turkey attracted 746,000 medical tourists in 2016 and generated $5.8 billion in revenue.

So.... for Turkey, the estimates in annual revenue vary from $700 million to $5.8 billion... depending on who is publishing the data.  Which figure makes sense? Realistically, the data from the Turkish Statistical Institute is probably a more accurate measure of value.

Is Korea leading the way in measuring ROI on medical tourism?

Last week, I attended Medical Korea 2017, The 8th Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference, held in Seoul. Korea has invested heavily in promoting its services to the world, mainly through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI). It has done a better job than most countries in tracking international patient flows. According to KHIDI, international patient numbers have grown from 60,000 in 2009 to 364,000 in 2016. Data is collected from participating hospitals and clinics and compiled centrally. 

One of the most insightful presentations at the conference, was by Professor Jin Ki Nam, from Yonsei University. The Professor has taken on the task of trying to measure the return on investment which KHIDI has made in promoting medical tourism to the regions and cities of Korea. Each region and city submits requests for funding for medical tourism promotion to KHIDI. So, KHIDI can track both expenditure and the return on investment – the number and value of patients going to that city or region. 

Professor Jin Ki Nam has analysed the number and value of patients by city and region, and the investment that KHIDI has made in each city and region. He has then calculated a ROI. For example, he estimates that in 2015, Seoul/Gangseo-gu delivered a return of $101 in patient income for each dollar invested by the central and provincial government. In contrast, the return in the Gyeonggi province fell to $19.

The analysis is not perfect. Other factors may of course impact on the ROI. How and where the promotional money is spent will of course have an influence on the return. 

Nevertheless, the research has raised some pertinent questions for the Korean government:

  • Should every city and region be investing in medical tourism?
  • Where can the government get the best ROI?
  • How is the diversion of healthcare resources within a province impacting on the local population’s access to healthcare?

Other countries should learn from the approach that Korea has taken. Spending money on medical tourism promotion is easy; measuring how well it’s spent is much more difficult.

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When cosmetic surgery abroad goes wrong… Who pays?

 

Today’s “You and Yours” programme on BBC Radio 4 highlighted the continuing problem of handling complications that arise when a medical tourist returns to their home country. (You can listen to the interviews with a surgeon and a patient at 32 minutes into the programme.)

The programme featured a plastic surgeon at London’s Royal Free NHS Hospital who has collected data on British patients who have travelled abroad for cosmetic surgery. Over 2 years, he identified 21 patients who were treated under the NHS at one hospital - the Royal Free, for complications that had arisen from cosmetic surgery abroad.

When a UK medical tourist returns home after surgery abroad and complications arise, things are not straightforward:

  • The clinic abroad may say… “Sorry, you’re back home, it’s not our problem, go to your local doctor.”
  • The clinic abroad may say… “Fly back and we’’ll fix the problem for free”. The patient understandably does not want to do this.
  • If there’s an agency or facilitator involved, they may offer help and to pay for it, but I can’t say I’ve heard of many (if any) instances where this is the case.

So, what happens? The patient ends up going to the Accident and Emergency department at their local NHS hospital, and the NHS inherits the problem. In the recent study, the Royal Free monitored the cost of correcting the issues that had arisen for surgery abroad. A total of over £300,000… an average of £13,500 per patient.

The BBC programme also features a patient interview – a woman from Brighton who went to Turkey for a tummy tuck. She saved up for four years to pay the £3,800 for the operation abroad; she had been quoted three times as much to have the surgery in the UK. On her return to the UK, complications arose, and things went from bad to worse. The Turkish clinic offered to put things right for free but the patient was told she would have to pay for flights and accommodation herself. Who picked up the bill? The NHS.

How do we fix the problem?

Whether cosmetic surgery takes place in the UK or in a foreign country, complications can arise. Hematoma and post-operative infection may give rise to complications in around 1% of breast augmentation patients (Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009 Dec;124(6):2127-33). So, for every 100 cosmetic surgery tourists, we might expect one patient to have complications that require further treatment. It’s the handling of this 1% that wrecks the reputation of the medical tourism sector, damaging the business of both the good and the not so good providers. Cosmetic surgery abroad has a poor reputation in the UK media… “cosmetic surgery gone wrong” stories frequently appear in the UK press and on TV programmes such as “Botched Up Bodies”.  We rarely hear about patients who have surgery that goes well, without complications, whether treated in the UK or abroad.

So, what can we do? Here are some thoughts.

Remedy 1… take responsibility

Hospitals and clinics abroad need to take full responsibility for the post treatment care of the patient…. that means providing support for patients in their home country, rather than telephone or email support from abroad. Patients are not willing to fly back to the clinic to get the problem resolved.  So, the overseas clinic either establishes a local support operation or finds a partner -a surgeon or clinic - in the patient’s home country that will deal with any issues that arise, AND fully funds the cost of this.

Remedy 2… compulsory insurance

Make insurance for medical and surgical complications compulsory. Despite several attempts by insurers to introduce specific policies aimed at medical tourism, the idea of insurance for medical tourism still hasn’t really taken off. Patients may be unaware that it exists. Patients may be unwilling to pay extra for insurance when their prime driver is saving money. And agencies, facilitators, hospitals and clinics seem reluctant to encourage purchase, perhaps because it will increase the price.

Remedy 3… get it right, be transparent!

The criticism of overseas clinics by representatives of British Association of Aesthetic Surgeons (BAAPS) is twofold:

1.    Surgeons and clinics abroad avoid their responsibility for aftercare.
2.    Some surgeons and clinics abroad just aren’t good enough. As the Royal Free surgeon states in the interview,

“As long as the clinics abroad are well regulated and match the high standards that apply in the UK”…. it’s up to the patient to make the choice. It’s their decision.
Of course, the challenge for the patient is working out which surgeons, hospitals and clinics they can trust. How many surgeons, hospitals and clinics involved in cosmetic surgery tourism publish outcome data, infection rates and complication rates? Take a look at a few web sites of those operating in the sector. You will find plenty of before and after pictures…  but you will struggle to find anything that says… “we did this many of this operation last year, and in n% of cases there were complications” and… “when there are complications, this is how we will ensure that things are put right.”

Until the agencies, facilitators and providers in the cosmetic surgery tourism business get it right, the industry will continue to be blighted by horror stories. You can’t expect a market to grow when the product has some fundamental flaws.

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Another spurious medical tourism award? A bargain at £695

 

In recent weeks, I’ve received a flurry of emails from colleagues in the medical tourism world asking me about a nomination that they have received for the “Global Awards 2017”, taking place in London this November. Apparently, “the Global Awards have been extended this year to include Medical Tourism and Healthcare I.T. / Apps / Digital Innovation / Financial Angels.”

I also received a nomination. (I didn’t want to be left out…). So, what did all these recipients of nominations have in common?

They all spoke at this year’s IMTJ Medical Travel Summit in Croatia. I'm sure that makes them worthy of a nomination. Or did someone just trawl the speaker list?

Recent correspondence with a Times newspaper journalist who is investigating the questionable nature of the “awards industry” and an article I wrote back in 2014 (“Want to be the best healthcare provider in Europe? Here’s how…”) prompted me to do some digging into the Global Awards 2017… what is it, who runs it, how are nominees selected and so on.

You pay for what you get

I received several emails from an Ann Richards representing the Organising Committee, encouraging me to accept the nomination.

I fired back some questions:

  • How have I been nominated?
  • Who has nominated me?
  • What are the selection criteria?
  • Who is on the Committee that has put me on the shortlist?
  • And what is it going to cost me if I win an award?

And was directed to this document: "http://theglobals.net/docs/2017-Globals-Over-50s-Housing.pdf" which appears to be all about some Over 50s Housing Awards with a few other unrelated awards tagged on for good measure. Apparently:

  • The Awards focus on elevated performance; the creation of new business models; contrarion thinking; recognising and embracing new trends; market leadership; inspirational performance and the elevation of the customer experience.” Contrarion thinking… that’s a new one on me.
  • Nominations are permitted via third parties, self-nomination or via our network of editors in 26 countries.” 26 editors… Sounds impressive.
  • The final arbiter will be the editor of 20 journals across the world specialising in the over-50s housing sector and the provision of goods and services to the over-50s housing sector”. Excellent… someone who has deep insight into the medical tourism sector.
  • The judge will apply the following test to the final selected candidate in each category: Is this claimant the best performed, most meritious, most innovative and most courageous in the category.” The best performed… Are they getting mixed up with the Oscars?
  • A charge of £695 will attach to every awards dinner attendee”. Ah… here’s the catch. There’s no such thing as a free lunch (or dinner). So, let’s say that the organisers are paying around £200 per head to cover the room hire, the meal, the award etc, that leaves around £500 gross profit. Nice work if you can get it.

Who are these people?

The great thing about the internet? Nowadays, it’s pretty easy to find stuff out.

Let’s start with the domain, and then do some digging.

  • theglobals.net is registered to Bevan Crowley of the Open Eye Corporation with a Las Vegas address.
  • The Open Eye Corporation is listed on the UK Companies House database as run by a sole Director – a New Zealander, Ann Elizabeth Crowley, who resides in Australia. The Company Secretary is Wisteria Registrars, a company formation agent.
  • Esmonde Crowley (Do I see a family connection, here?) “Editor of Over 50s Housing journals and websites in 10 countries, including Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, and Germany” appears to be the judge for the medical tourism awards.
  • The mailing address for the “UK Office” and the “Awards Secretariat” of the Global Awards is Suite 212, 28 Old Brompton Road South Kensington, London SW7 3SS. See the photo… it’s a mailbox.

And there’s more:

  • Back in 2004, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) disqualified a Mrs Anne Elizabeth Crowley, of Hawthorn Victoria, from managing corporations for five years. ASIC found “Mrs Crowley was an officer of four corporations, primarily in the publishing and event management industries, which have all been wound up”, and stated that “under the directorship of Mrs Crowley, the four companies had incurred deficiencies totalling approximately $2,210,000.
  • Back in 1998, it is reported that Bevan Crowley, was at the helm of the now defunct Media Asia Pacific, which led to him pleading guilty to two charges laid by ASIC. These were one count of falsifying a book relating to the affairs of Media Asia Pacific by the creation of 15 false debtors totalling $4,351,714 and one count of furnishing information to the stock exchange that he knew was false and misleading. Bevan Crowley was sentenced to two years jail in October 1998.
  • Esmonde Crowley has taken some criticism in New Zealand from the New Zealand Aged Care Association (Questions raised about seniorhousing.co.nz summit). The association stated: “Our opinion is that it would be unwise to send any money to NZ Aged Care Housing Weekly for anything and to steer away from their seminars altogether.
  • In a research paper from Consumer Affairs Victoria, Australia, entitled “Stopping Rogue Traders”, the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria issued public warnings about unfair business practices and people who engage in such practices and named… Bevan Crowley, Ann Crowley, Hannah Crowley of Australasian Corporate Events (2004) Pty Ltd. The family gets bigger!

See you at the Awards Dinner in London in November?

I doubt it. I might drop by to see who turns up. Let’s hope this article helps to put people straight on what these awards are about.

And… if you’re thinking of entering any awards in the coming year, keep your eyes open for the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards 2018… the only awards in the sector that are run on an independent and transparent basis supported by a panel of sixteen international judges who actually know something about medical tourism.

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The unique value proposition in medical tourism... What's yours?

 

In the medical tourism business, are there any hospitals and clinics that have a clear idea what a unique value proposition (UVP) is? How many have identified what their UVP is AND communicate this to their target audience?

According to Vivek Shukla, “Lack of a UVP is one of the most common shortcomings in medical tourism marketing.”

At the recent IMTJ Medical Travel Summit in Croatia, I was required to fill in for Vivek who was unable to secure his visa from Dubai in time to attend. Vivek's topic was "Creating and delivering your unique value proposition". It's a subject that doesn't get enough attention in our business sector. Marketing in medical travel is usually focused on advertising and promotion. But to get it right, you have to get back to marketing basics. 

So... what is a unique value proposition?

Your unique value proposition:

  1. explains how you solve a problem or meet a customer need.
  2. highlights specific benefits of your product or service offering.
  3. tells the potential customer why they should buy from you.
  4. communicates how you are different from/better than your competition.

Your UVP is the sweet spot between - what you can offer, what others are not offering and what your customers need.. So, what's yours?

Take a few minutes to write it down.

Now score it against the four statements above. Do you score 4 out of 4? What's missing?

Common mistakes in creating a unique value proposition

In my presentation in Croatia, I selected at random four web sites that might be found by a patient considering dental tourism in Budapest, Hungary. Here are the ones I selected:

Ask yourself what is the UVP of each of these dental tourism providers?

Interestingly, the home page for DareToSmile has changed since I showed it in Croatia. In my opinion, it's actually taken a step backward in terms of communicating its UVP. Here's what it used to look like.


 
 As Vivek suggests, a common failure made in medical tourism marketing is not communicating a clear and differentiated UVP. Here are the most frequent mistakes:

It’s about me, not you

Most of the examples tell the customer. "this is what we do" not this is what we can do for you. They don't focus on customer benefits. They focus on the provider's products and services.

It’s not unique

In medical tourism, nearly everyone sells the same thing... price and quality. There's little differentiation between agencies, facilitators and clinics. A prospective patient knows that they're going to save money and get decent quality dentistry in Budapest. That's why they have come to the web site. So, what makes one provider different or better than their competitors? Why should the patient choose your clinic/service?

Of the examples provided above, only one (the previous version of the DareToSmile web site) has a clear differentiation in terms of its main message and what is something close to a UVP:

"Get teeth like you never had before in 5 days".

It’s confused

The BBDent site is an example of trying to get a multitude of messages across. "Save money", Save time", "Smile", "best dental specialists". Hidden away is something that could become their UVP - "individual attention". The business is run by two dental travel coordinators. Could they focus on the "personal touch" as their UVP?

It doesn’t say what I will get

The customer is the focus of successful marketing. It's not about you, your clinic, or your doctors. It's about how you will meet the customer's need. Never forget that, and always focus on what you will deliver that meets that need.

How to discover your UVP

To create your UVP, you really need to understand your customers and what they are looking for. So, here is a simple suggestion to help you to think like a customer.

Go out in to your clinic waiting area. Go and chat to a few of your customers, and ask them to complete the following sentences in their own words:

  • I came to your clinic because...
  • The things I value most about your service are...
  • You're better than competing hospitals and clinics because...

You may be surprised by what they say.

And their responses may give you some insight into what your unique value proposition should be.

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India medical tourism market: Worth $8 billion? The reality...

 

The US based Medical Tourism Association provides a rich vein of misinformation when it comes to my pet topic of "the medical tourism numbers game". This week, I received an email from a Rudy Dopico inviting me to attend an " informative webcast" and learn how " to expand your reach into the fastest growing economic region in the world".

It was headlined: "8 Billion Market Growth in India".

As we have seen in the past, one thing that the MTA is good at is hyping the medical tourism market, and broadcasting data that makes the medical tourism market sound like it's the next  big thing. The backtracking on claims that the medical tourism market is worth $439 billion dollars provides the most recent example. Their leaders have been promoting "exponential growth" in medical tourism to destinations around the world for many years. But this medical tourism boom is yet to materialise. Many destinations have been disappointed.

I suppose, in a post-Trump world, where it's becoming OK to spout "alternative facts", we shouldn't be surprised.

I don't know Rudy Dopico but his LinkedIn profile tells me he's a "Top-performing sales, marketing, and business development professional with proven ability to drive business expansion through aggressive sales initiatives". It doesn't mention anything about medical tourism in his background... which is probably why he writes a headline like "8 Billion Market Growth in India" without thinking what that means. 8 Billion is a big number... sales people like big numbers, except when it's a sales target :-)

So, I did some digging to see what this "8 billion" is about. 8 billion percent growth? 8 billion patients? 8 billion rupees? Where did it come from?

Where did the "8 billion" originate?

The number originates from Grant Thornton India's National Managing Partner, Vishesh C Chandio, who said this "The Indian Medical Tourism market is expected to grow from its current size of USD 3 billion to USD 7-8 billion by 2020," in India's Economic Times. Now, we know from past history that the big consultancies can get it badly wrong when they are researching medical tourism. Remember the McKinsey analysis and Deloitte?

Ok... we have Grant Thornton India telling us that medical tourism to India is worth USD 3 billion today. But in the same whitepaper, we have Grant Thornton telling us that medical tourism globally is a USD 17 billion market and will reach USD 40 billion by 2020. Elsewhere Grant Thornton tells us that 200,000 tourists come to India annually for medical care, including complicated surgeries.

So, it's saying that:

  • India currently has around 18% of the global medical tourism market.
  • It will have around 20% by 2020.
  • And that the average revenue per medical tourist is USD 15,000. 

Given that the key driver for India is low cost, and that it's major source markets are countries such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan and those in Africa, are these figures believable?

Also, bear in mind that the average revenue per occupied bed in Apollo hospitals (the largest Indian hospital group) is around USD 400 and the average length of stay is 4.17 days, thus creating an average revenue per inpatient stay of around USD 1,700.

So... what's the real number?

The honest answer... no one knows. Probably a lot less than USD 3 billion now and USD 7-8 billion in 2020. To put the number in perspective, here are some numbers for international patient business for the top five Indian hospital groups:

•    Apollo - no figure stated, but let's assume international patients account for 10% of revenue. So, around USD 75 million.
•    Fortis - state that international patients account for 10% of revenue = USD 50.8m
•    Narayana Health - state that international patients account for 5% of revenue = USD 11m
•    Manipal Hospitals - no figure stated, but let's assume international patients account for 10% of revenue. So, around USD 12 million
•    Max Healthcare - state that international patients account for = USD 6.2m

So for the top five hospital groups, international patient revenues total around USD 155 million. That works out at around USD 5 million of revenue for each inpatient bed within the major groups. And leaves another USD 2.845 billion of international business to  be delivered by India's other hospitals.

How did Grant Thornton get to the USD 3 billion?

For the sake of argument, let's assume that all of the other hospitals in India are as active in the international patient market as those within the top five hospital groups. (Ask yourself... is that a realistic assumption?)

•    There are around 600,000 hospital beds in India (public and private).
•    Within the top five hospital groups, international patient revenue delivers on average around USD 5 million of revenue for each inpatient bed each year.
•     Multiply the 600,000 hospital beds by USD 5 million of revenue for each inpatient bed... and hey presto...you get.... around USD 3 billion for the value of India's inbound medical tourism.

And that's probably how Grant Thornton came up with the number... take the data you can get from the major hospital providers, then project it to represent the entire market.

I've asked Grant Thornton for some insight into how they created their numbers. I'm waiting for a response.

If you sign up for the upcoming MTA webcast, ask them what they think the real number is. Rudy will probably be happy to come up with a number for you. As long as it's big...

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"A bird of a different feather in the colourful aviary of medical tourism"... But what kind of bird?

 

That's how a respected expert in medical tourism recently described the work that we do at International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ). I'm not going to name the individual but here's what he/she said:

"Thanks for the responsible reporting you guys do at IMTJ. It is a bird of a different feather in the 'colourful aviary' of medical tourism."

I repeat it here because I think it encapsulates what we are about, whether it's the content that we publish on IMTJ or that we deliver at events such as the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit in April 2017 in Croatia or at Destination Health: The Medical Travel Summit USA, taking place in Washington DC April 30 - May 3 2017.

So, what kind of bird is IMTJ?

It got me thinking.

We're not a parrot...

Well... I had the nickname "Polly" at school... but we're certainly not a Parrot. "Parroting" (i.e. mindless repetition) is one of the problems that we face in the medical tourism world. You'll encounter plenty of parrots around the sector, particularly those on their conference perches. Those who repeat the same myths, the same extravagant claims and the same mindless clichés. Here are a few classic phrases that will help you to identify a parrot when you're out medical tourism "bird spotting":

  • "The top medical tourism destinations around the world are (insert any countries you like, but usually India, Thailand, Turkey)."
  • "The medical tourism market is growing exponentially at an annual growth rate of (insert any big number) %."
  • "High quality and low prices mean that (insert any developing country) has outstanding potential as a medical tourism destination."
  • "It’s imperative for medical facilities to have international accreditation."

We're not an ostrich...

It is said that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger. In fact, when ostriches face danger, they do what most people do.. they run... at an impressive 40mph. In fact, ostriches swallow sand and pebbles to help grind up food in their stomachs. Another myth destroyed!

At IMTJ, we certainly don't stick our heads in the sand. But we do quite a bit of digging around to find the truth about what's going on beneath the surface of the medical tourism world... and destroy a few myths.

We could be a magpie?

It is widely believed that magpies have a compulsive urge to steal sparkly things for their own nests. Well... we don't steal other people's stuff. Sadly, what we've found too often in the medical tourism sector is that other people steal our stuff (so, I assume it must be worth something... which is why we are asking people to pay a subscription to IMTJ).

Wise old owl?

We could be on to something with this one.

Wise? Well, only IMTJ readers and Intuition clients can say whether we've provided insight and understanding and enhanced their knowledge of the medical travel sector. And based on the feedback we get, I believe we're getting it right.

Old?... I've been involved in the medical travel business for longer than I care to remember. I can recall the days before web and mobile technology dominated our lives.  IMTJ was launched as a print publication back in 2007.

So... wise old owl it is!

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Five reasons to come to Croatia for the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit in April 2017

 

In 2016, 41 events were scheduled in the medical travel sector. That's a big number for a small but growing business sector.

So, why is it worth attending the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit 2017 in Croatia?

Here are five reasons to book now:

1. GREAT SPEAKERS... Those who know... not those who say they know

Our speakers are selected and vetted. The speaker applications for our Summit far outnumber the available speaker slots. We don't choose someone unless we can be 90% certain (we can never be 100% right!) that:

a)    they know their topic and;

b)    can present effectively.

We check their presentations in advance of the event, and ask them to make changes that will enable them to get their message across. We don't sign up speakers who've built a reputation on talking about medical travel rather than actually delivering it.

2. FRESH IDEAS... not out of date thinking

For the last ten years, you have probably heard the same old story at the conferences you have attended. Henry Ford said, "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got".

We need to change the thinking in our business sector. No one addresses the real issues. No one gives you an honest appraisal of what's going on in the marketplace.

The IMTJ Medical Travel Summit fixes that. We challenge people's thinking. We ask questions. And we aim to provide fresh ideas.

3.  INSIGHT... intelligence, intellect and academia

For many years, the academics and researchers who have invested their time and effort in understanding this complex market have been ignored by the business sector. Last year, in Madrid, we ran the first IMTJ Academic Conference. We brought together academics from around the world who provided valuable and objective insight into the industry. In Croatia in 2017, we'll be building academic input into the main conference programme.

4. TIMING...

The IMTJ Medical Travel Summit is run by Brits. We invented Greenwich Mean Time and we're proud of Big Ben. We stick to time. Our sessions don't overrun. You'll have time to shower and change before the bus leaves for the dinner. We promise!

5. A celebration, not a circus

At the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards, we celebrate innovation and excellence in the medical travel sector. Unlike other awards in the sector, the IMTJ Awards are judged by an independent panel of 24 medical travel experts from around the globe, using an objective, online scoring system against set criteria. The judging panel picks the winners, not IMTJ.

Come and celebrate the winners at the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards Dinner.

I can promise you a great evening.   

And I won't be riding in on a camel....

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Five ways in which the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit is different

 

I checked the IMTJ Event Calendar this week..... How many events were scheduled in the medical travel sector in 2016?

Think of a number. You'll probably need to double it!

The answer... 41.

In what is a small but growing business sector, that's a phenomenal number.

So, what makes the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit 2017 different and why is it worth attending?

Here are five things that make the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit stand out from the crowd.

1. Fact not fiction

What you will not hear at the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit:

  • "The medical-tourism market is set to become a $3 trillion-dollar industry by 2025"
  • "The medical tourism market is experiencing exponential growth"
  • "The buyers? They're just everywhere!"

What you will get is an honest assessment of what's going on in this over-hyped market. No outrageous claims, no false promises. You'll hear from people who have deep knowledge of the sector, and how they are overcoming some of the challenges that we face.

2. People who know.... about medical travel

IMTJ is not a conference business. We are about sharing our knowledge and insight of a complex market. We are not a conference organiser that saw an opportunity to run another event, and trawled the speaker lists on other events in the sector to build a speaker list. We think through our agenda. We seek advice from our network of experts. Our speaker faculty represents around 1,000 years of experience in the medical travel sector! We bring in event production professionals to make our Summit a memorable event.

3. Quality not quantity

We don't "pile it high, and sell it cheap". We don't believe that the biggest is the best. If we attract 400 delegates (as we did in Madrid in 2016) that's fine. We want to ensure that our delegates get great content, great networking opportunities and have a great experience. Creating a worthwhile conference programme takes time and effort, so we charge a bit more.

4. An open door not a closed environment

You may have heard the stories. Conferences that turn people away or block entry to a conference because the organisers are fearful of competitors or don't like to hear a contrary view... Conferences that impose restrictive clauses on speakers.. "You can speak here, provided that you don't speak there".

The IMTJ Medical Travel Summit is open to all.

5. Buyers who buy, not hosted buyers who don't

Ah.... the "Hosted Buyer" programmes that are used to encourage Suppliers to pay money to meet these people. From my experience of a multitude of such programmes, here is the kind of Hosted Buyer that I frequently meet:

  • The Buyer who is not a buyer at all! Who is in fact a Seller, at the event to sell services to others.
  • The medical tourism facilitator who has little throughput, or is a start up business that has little or no patient throughput.
  • The "Government Buyer" who isn't responsible for commissioning patient care. He or she may work for a government, and may have an impressive title but has little say in commissioning.
  • The Buyer... too many of them... who is along for the free ride. Offer someone a free trip and accommodation in an attractive location, and “what's not to like”?

It doesn't mean that there will be a lack of business to business networking opportunities at our Summit in Croatia! On the contrary, there will be plenty. It doesn't mean that people aren't going there to do business. They are. But what we aim to attract are buyers who actually buy

Book now and save 20%

So, take advantage of our earlybird discount. And book now to save 20% on the standard rate for the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit.

See you in Croatia.

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A recovery in outbound medical tourism from the UK?

 

For many years, we have purchased data from the UK's International Passenger Survey (IPS), monitoring the flow of people into and out of the UK who are travelling for medical reasons. The International Passenger Survey (IPS) is run by the Office for National Statistics and collects information about passengers entering and leaving the UK; it has been running continuously since 1961. The IPS conducts between 700,000 and 800,000 interviews a year of which over 250,000 are used to produce estimates of Overseas Travel and Tourism. A random sample of passengers is interviewed at all major UK airports and sea routes, at Eurostar terminals and on Eurotunnel shuttle trains.

Can we trust the data?

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that there are shortcomings in the data. Neil Lunt et al, in their report "Implications for the NHS of inward and outward medical tourism" highlighted some of the main issues:

  • "The main limitation of these data is the number of passengers sampled. In 2007, for example, 255,000 interviews were conducted, representing 0.2% of travellers to and from the UK overall"

So, there may be a considerable margin for error in the figures. Travellers are asked what the primary reason for travel is - business, leisure etc... and medical. Some travellers both inbound and outbound may be reluctant to state that "medical" is the primary reason for travel. The resulting sample of those who state "medical" is very small, so when the IPS extrapolates this number to create a national measure of medical tourism flows, the projection may not be a true representation of actual flows

Despite these limitations, Lunt et al conclude:

"... given the absence of other reliable data on numbers of medical tourists, their characteristics and where they travel, the IPS does represent the single most comprehensive data quantifying medical travel to and from the UK."

What does the data tell us about medical tourism flows?

We've been collecting the IPS data since 2002. What it may give us is an indication of trends in inbound and outbound medical tourism. The data is collected in the same way every year by a government statistical body. Even if the sample is small, it is the only available measure we have of trends in UK medical tourism.

So, what are the trends? Here's the graph:

So.... ignore the claims you hear about the exponential growth of outbound medical tourism from the Western world. What this graph suggests is that outbound medical tourism from the UK peaked in 2006, and has remained relatively static in the ten years since. That reflects what we hear from many of our clients around Europe who target the UK market. And, what we see in terms of media coverage of medical tourism in the UK press. 

UK medical tourism on the rise?

However... the 2015 data (the latest available) suggests that the UK outbound market is in recovery. But remember... the data is by no means perfect, so this may just be a statistical glitch!

If this does represent renewed interest in medical tourism in the UK, what could be the reasons?

•    Pressure on the NHS - There's been a period of tight control of UK public spending. NHS expenditure has been ring fenced, but supply is failing to keep up with the demand for health services. NHS waiting lists have begun to rise again.

•    The fall in PMI - The number of people in the UK covered by private medical insurance (PMI) has been falling for several years. At one time, around 15% of the population was covered by PMI, in addition to their free NHS cover. But as premiums have risen, the percentage has fallen to around 10%. More people are opting to buy private healthcare on a self-pay basis, when they need it. More people may be considering the overseas option due to the relatively high cost of private treatment in the UK.

We'll continue to monitor the quarterly figures for 2016 as they come in from the IPS. Let's see if the trend continues.

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