Learnings from the World Medical Tourism Congress

074Last month, I had the opportunity to represent Fortis Healthcare at the World Medical Tourism Congress, held at the Caesar’s Palace, in Las Vegas. The conference was organized by the World Medical Travel Association and had participants from across the world.

Here a few things that stuck me as relevant for a larger discussion.

Medical Travel is now such a huge global phenomenon that we had thousands of people assembling in the wonderful Vegas to discuss how to make sense out of all of this. The conference had the mammoth Caesar’s Palace full, with all rooms sold out. The conference was held simultaneously in multiple conference rooms across the hotel, with folks attending sessions that were of interest to them.

The Congress had various stakeholders in the Medical Travel arena coming on a single platform. These included hospitals, medical facilitators, insurance companies, third party administrators, health plan managers and benefit managers from large corporates interacting with each other. Since the conference was in the Us we had a large number of hospitals from the Latin American countries. These included hospitals from Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina and even the small Dominican Islands. Fortis and Apollo Hospitals were representing India, while we also had hospitals from Turkey, Thailand and even Poland setting up stalls in the display area of the conference.

The Medical Facilitators, whom I met were really from across the world. We had a fairly large number of these who are based in the US and are largely sending patients to Latin America. We also met facilitators from China, Kuwait, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Colombia and Nigeria.

The US seems to be completely in the grip of Obamacare. The law has spawned a small industry of experts, each trying to interpret the complex law in their own way. many experts held forth on how the law was a great opportunity for reforming the healthcare environment in the US. Almost, everyone agreed that the present mess of huge costs and a very large population of the uninsured will certainly be addressed well by the law. There were a lot of doubts on the execution challenges confronting the law and with the health exchanges taking off, all kinds of plans were being bandied about. I believe the law will create new opportunities for medical travel and will open many doors for people to travel and save costs on their medical bills. The travel will probably be more domestic than international, but as time goes by the confusion will clear and this will turnout to be the game-changer in the US healthcare.

While representing an Indian hospital, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the immense goodwill Indian doctors enjoy in the US markets. Most people I met believed that the Indian doctors were the best. Many had seen them at work in their local hospitals and the doctors had apparently impressed with their knowledge, skills and compassion. The other things that stood out as a distinct advantage was the English language (of all things). many wondered at proficiency that we had in the Queen’s language. I sent silent prayers to Thomas McCaulay,who unknowingly and with a completely different intent had introduced the charms of the English language to the natives.

Strangely, while many whom I met were aware of the prowess of Indian doctors, they did not know too much about Indian hospitals. Several people had no idea as to who were the leading players in healthcare in India and what was the value proposition, apart from healthy outcomes. When, we shared our price list with the local facilitators, there were only gasps of complete surprise and disbelief. With a CABG in the US going for USD 105000, our price of USD 7500, was truly unbelievable.

I believe Indian Hospitals need to engage with the US market a lot more. They just don’t know much about us. The government of India and other industry chambers such as CII, FICCI etc. must help facilitate this dialogue. In the conference, many countries were actually represented by their trade bodies promoting Medical Travel and individual hospitals were represented under this broad umbrella.

Finally, my compliments to the organisers. They really put up a massive show, very well organized with clearly defined programs, relevant content and mostly expert speakers. I think we need to have more of these to happen, so that Medical Value Travel really takes off around the world.

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6 thoughts on “Learnings from the World Medical Tourism Congress

  1. Dear Anas,
    Congratulations on yet another wonderful venture. Though I do not completely agree that U.S based health Care Partners do not know the Indian Prices. I do not also agree Indian Hospitals have not focused on US markets.

    However, what I agree is we lack a team work compared to Turkish or Thai hospital. Last year when I was there even the Jordan hospitals had an entire pavilion to them. These hospitals team up under a common banner such as Thailand Medical Tourism or Turkey Business Council and then target a market.

    Individually, the hospitals have been trying. I have represented Artemis Hospitals twice in such conferences. We got limited results.

    Apollo last year did a big road show and I don’t think even they got an expected response. All the Indian Internet based Medical Travel Companies burnt a lot of money on PPCs targeting US.

    The problem may be some where else. consider this-

    1. Visa issues – It takes almost 4-5 days a list of documentations to get a visa for India. Compared to Latin American countries or Thailand where the visa is at arrival.

    2. Perception of India – All the terrorist acts and mishaps that keep happening paint India in a very wrong color and add to that the travel advisory released by the American Embassies.

    3. Distance – The flight time of minimum 17 hours is also an issue compared to across borders with Mexico. This deters the cardiac and cancer patients.

    4. Other nations have organized approach – For Turkey and Thailand, US is not an annual affair. They have permanent representatives who are touching MT companies, Insurance companies, corporates and even getting into strategic tie ups with locals for patient referrals.

    The question here is Can Indian Players team up ?

    Abhik.

  2. It’s good that someone is trying to create awareness in countries like America. I personally admire such efforts; such repeated efforts can bring good results one day.

    Can Indian players team up ? – Very positive approach and another good effort.
    In short this industry is still a small world; there has been too much competition, jealousy and hypocrisy. Most of us know each other and everybody keeps track of all the people and their work. During the ascension of the corporate ladder most of us likely won a lot of friends and a few enemies. Since this is small world we somehow encounter these people as competitors. These people will often try to bring you down or belittle your accomplishments. Such people causing hindrance to the progress of many individual career and they may even set traps to stumble into. More such enemies often waits for the opportune time to badmouth you and the hospital you work for.
    If people keep up their enmity level to limited extent and not atleast defame hospital, it might be possible for Indian Players team up and that would be an positive step

    Malini Narasandra

  3. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent information.Health is considered as wealth everywhere in the world and without this attribute of living, there’s nothing in life. And the Incredible India tour, understanding this inevitable need of good life offers a variety of healing tour itineraries .

  4. Again very well written article . Thanks for always coming up with such well researched and insightful pieces .

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