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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Watch out.... things are changing in the Gulf

 

Watch out.... things are changing in the Gulf

As we scan and collect information on what is happening in the world's medical tourism markets, what is very apparent is the changing nature of the medical tourism market in the GCC region. (If you really want to know what's going on there... come to the session on the Gulf region at the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit 2017 in April in Croatia.)

There are some worrying signs for those destinations that have relied on a steady stream of income from high value medical treatment that is often funded by the government or state employers.

Several factors are driving this:

  • The economic pressure on governments to reduce state spending as a result of a drop in income due to the falling oil price.
  • The development of local healthcare facilities which aim to provide "healthcare at home" for the country's population.
  • The desire of the government in the source market to itself become a medical tourism destination.

I've highlighted a few examples of this in key source markets.

Kuwait

In Kuwait, responsibility for the management of the budget for overseas treatment has been shifted. The Supreme Committee for Overseas Treatment has been closed down;  the final decision on sending Kuwaiti patients for treatment abroad is being moved to special committees within Kuwaiti hospitals. The driver is to reduce expenditure on treatment abroad and to "eliminate the financial burden caused by the supreme committee’s decisions, such as granting overseas treatment privilege to undeserving citizens."

It follows a continuing trend of a reduction in the number of patients sent for overseas treatment. It is reported that the number has been reduced by 50% in recent years. The number of patients sent to London for treatment reduced from 1,100 in 2013 to 500 in 2014.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is now running a $100 billion budget deficit which the government aims to close. So, a five year plan is being developed which aims to encourage Saudi medical tourists to stay at home for their treatment and to attract medical tourists from other Islamic countries to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage has endorsed a proposal that combines religious and medical tourism to promote Saudi health services to the world’s 1.6 million Muslims who may seek spiritual solace during a health crisis.

Bahrain

In 2015, the Bahrain government spent $66 million on foreign care for its citizen, sending around 1,500 citizens overseas for treatment. The government covers the cost of the treatment as well as flights, hotel accommodation and spending money. More recently the Health Minister has stated that Bahrain is intending to reduce the number of citizens sent for treatment abroad, by providing more medical services within the Kingdom. Bahrain is set to fly medical experts in to the country as part of a cost-saving measure to be implemented in 2016. Doctors from India, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the US have agreed to take part in the new scheme.

And.... Bahrain has identified medical and health tourism as an area it wants to expand, although it is not clear on how it will do this. The government is targeting Russian investors to develop healthcare facilities for medical tourists. With the low price of oil forcing the government of Bahrain to curtail spending and put some long-term projects on hold, it is looking for new income streams.

Demand down, supply up

The picture in the Gulf is one of declining demand from government funded medical tourism and an ambition to increase the supply of services for inbound medical tourists. A fall in demand and an increase in supply can only mean one thing.... increased competition in an already crowded market and further pressure on price in the competing destinations.

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Desperate measures.... charitable fundraising for treatment abroad

 

£50,000 for stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis in Mexico

Steve McGrath, a 50 year old man from the Liverpool area, has progressive multiple sclerosis and is seeking urgent help for what is described as "groundbreaking treatment" in Mexico. Steve doesn't meet the criteria for stem cell treatment in the UK, and is aiming to raise  to raise £50,000 for HSCT (Haemeotopathic Stem Cell Treatment) in Mexico. The clinic claims a 95% success rate for this treatment for multiple sclerosis. HSCT is not usually offered on the NHS but the therapy is being trialled in the UK, according to the Multiple Sclerosis society.

Steve's wife is quoted:

"I want my husband back, Poppy wants her Granddad back. £50,000 could give Steve his life back. We are asking people to help us raise the cash, if everyone can pledge a small donation we will get there."

No details of the clinic are provided in this report. However, another UK patient is reported as having spent £38,650 so he could travel to the Clinica Riaz in Mexico, for similar treatment, and is reported as saying " 'I am absolutely delighted with the results and now say that I used to have MS.'

£100,000 for immunotherapy for colorectal cancer in Germany

A UK mother-of-three with terminal colorectal cancer has issued an appeal to help her raise £100,000 for "potentially lifesaving treatment abroad". The mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer a year ago but her stage four cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, liver and lungs. Specialists at The Christie NHS hospital in Manchester told her that without further chemotherapy and radiotherapy she would only have six months to live. The patient says "Apart from the pain, I feel and look relatively normal and KNOW that the prognosis is wrong. I will NOT accept the death sentence that I have been given." So, searching for alternative treatments, she found two clinics in Germany that offer immunotherapy for colorectal cancer.
No information is provided on the clinics that are offering the treatment.

£15,000 for stem cell treatment for a genetic condition in China

A UK family are aiming to raise £15,000 for stem cell treatment abroad in order that a mother with Frederich’s Ataxia, a rare genetic condition, can see again. Frederich’s Ataxia is a disease which progressively attacks the nervous system. The mother who also suffers from deafness and uses a wheelchair, is hoping to travel to China for stem cell treatment which it is hoped could improve her sight, hearing and muscle function.
Her sister sought alternative therapies for the condition and located a clinic, the Shixin Hospital in Dongguan, China which will undertake stem cell treatment for the condition.

Hope... at a price

This form of funding for medical travel is becoming increasingly common. The availability of crowd funding charity sites such as Justgiving and Gofundme have made it easier for individuals to raise money through online PR and social media campaigns. And, of course, the web has provided a solution for desperate families to locate a hospital or clinic somewhere in the world that will offer hope... at a price.

Ultimately, it's the patient's right to choose (often against the advice of their own doctors). If they can raise the cash, then why shouldn't they explore every avenue for a cure. I'll let you decide on the ethics of hospitals and clinics that are promoting therapies that are often unproven or lack clinical trial support  to desperate patients.

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The challenge for cosmetic surgery clinics abroad

 

Any destination, hospital, clinic or facilitator promoting cosmetic surgery to consumers in another country needs to keep their "finger on the pulse" of how "cosmetic surgery abroad" is regarded in their target markets.

So, how well do you understand the perception of cosmetic surgery abroad in your target markets?

Often, the cosmetic surgery profession in the target market will have a negative view of patients going abroad. It impacts on their private patient income, and sometimes generates extra work for state funded health services, when complications arising from surgery abroad are not dealt with effectively by the surgery provider.

In the UK, the Royal College of Surgeons, has recently updated its "Patient's Guide to Cosmetic Surgery". The guide provides information to help consumers make a decision about their choice of surgeon, hospital and surgical procedure, what to ask the surgeon who will perform the procedure, and what the consumer needs to know before surgery. If you're a provider of cosmetic surgery abroad to UK consumers, then I advise you to take heed of these guidelines and ensure that the kind of service you provide meets the information needs of these patients.

There's a specific section of the guide that covers "Thinking of Having Cosmetic Surgery Abroad?".

Here are some key messages from the Royal College of Surgeons' advice to patients:

  • "Weigh up any cost savings with the possible risks and think about what will happen if there are complications"
  • "Beware of cosmetic surgery tourism... Beware of any hospital which markets cosmetic surgery as part of a holiday package"
  • "Do not agree to cosmetic surgery before meeting the surgeon carrying out the procedure"
  • "When choosing a surgeon abroad, you should look for the same skills and experience as you would if you were choosing a  surgeon in the UK. The surgeon should also be fully insured to carry out the procedure. You can ask to see details of your surgeon’s insurance."
  • " Remember, the NHS is unlikely to help you, unless you have a serious complication which needs emergency or life-saving treatment."

And here is the checklist that they advise consumers to use when selecting a surgeon or clinic.

If you are targeting UK consumers, ask yourself, how well can we answer these questions? Do we tick all the boxes? Can we provide proof that our surgeons are insured? Can we provide proof that our implants meet the required standards? Do we provide extensive information on what happens when there is a complication?

To succeed as a provider of cosmetic surgery abroad, you need to meet or exceed the standards expected in the customer's home country. Selling an inferior product at a lower cost is never going to be the key to long term success.

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Correction... The medical tourism industry is nine times smaller than we thought!

 

Last week, I highlighted in the IMTJ blog, the MTA's latest PR claiming: "Medical Tourism Industry Valued at $439B" and is "Poised for 25% Year-Over-Year Growth by 2025". It was classic MTA hype. Someone publishes a figure, it looks ridiculous but "hey, why should we try to validate this? Perhaps it will help us to sell more conference places, certifications etc etc."

Well, last Friday the market shrunk nine fold....

IMTJ didn't believe the numbers in the Visa/Oxford Economics report and quoted by the MTA. So, we queried them with Visa/Oxford Economics. Others in the industry, including the MTQUA did the same. On Friday, IMTJ received a correction from Visa:

"Visa’s recent study, Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism, included a figure that estimated the size of the medical tourism at $439 billion… Upon further review and based on additional information, Visa will be updating that figure at about $50 billion based on industry consensus. We apologize for the confusion this may have caused."

So, there you go. The industry is nine times smaller than we were told last week!

The concerning aspect is that the MTA was saying "This report and the rankings of the Medical Tourism Index™ provide a unique opportunity for investors seeking new ventures to make smart choices in destinations driving patient travel."

Let's hope that sane and sensible investors didn't pay any attention to the latest "load of tosh" (English idiom) coming out of Florida and made smarter choices by looking for information elsewhere.

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