The World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress – A Tame Affair.

The 12th edition of the World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress was quite a tame affair. The meeting was held earlier this month in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Compared to some of the events in the past, this was in many ways a damp squib.

However, first all that was good about the event.

The organizers, The Medical Travel Association (MTA) had changed the format this year and made it a more business to business (b to b) event and had restricted access to only people who were actually connected to healthcare and medical travel. This in itself is not a bad thing to do as it brought greater focus to the business aspects of the meet and eliminated frivolous visitors who would just visit the exhibition out of plain curiosity. The organizers had also cut out the song and dance and the hoopla, which was a part of the earlier events. Thus, the event had a more business feel to it and all our meetings were with serious and relevant people who had good reasons to be at the event.

The event also attracted buyers from a large number of countries. From the perspective of Indian hospitals, many people came from countries, which are relatively new and fairly unknown to Indian hospitals. These were clearly opportunities and I am sure many hospitals and healthcare facilitators (HCF) from India would have benefited from these interactions. I was quite surprised to see large delegations from China, Russia and South Korea and we had good meetings with them.

Now the not so good, which frankly outweighed the good.

The entire event appeared to have been sold to the Abu Dhabi’s, Department of Health. The MTA must have made tonnes of money, however the credibility of the event was seriously compromised. Thus, the inaugural day only had escorted visits to various Abu Dhabi hospitals aspiring to attract patients from various parts of the world. Buyers and hospitals participating from other parts of the world were not invited (they are after-all competition) on these tours.

The plenary session the next day was an extended advertisement for Abu Dhabi medical tourism and the medical infrastructure, which has come up there. The speakers including the CEO of Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi had no insights to share except highlighting the facilities and services they offered to patients wanting to travel to Abu Dhabi. This is hardly the stuff of serious global conferences. While, I understand the commercial nature of these events, the organizers usually aim for a balance between sponsor’s propaganda and genuine high value content. Sadly, in this conference the organizers did not even pretend to be not a mouth-piece of their sponsors.

The rest of the conference content too was quite lack-luster. Most of the sessions and the speakers were predictable and were happy to plug in for Abu Dhabi, Department of Health. In one session involving a benefits manager from a US company, the interviewer wanted to know if they would be interested in sending their US employees to Abu Dhabi for medical treatment!!! No wonder, I counted 5 people in the hall listening to this conversation.

Most of the buyers were those whose travel and stay has been paid for by the MTA. This was perhaps a desperate bid to get them to the event and ensure that they visited the Abu Dhabi hospitals and also met the sellers (mostly hospitals from different parts of the world). In my view quite a few of these were non-serious buyers who had been flown in to make up the numbers. A rather sad state of affairs.

In conclusion, the conference was high on hype and low on substance and content. From a b to b perspective and purely as a platform for meeting new buyers from different parts of the world, it scored reasonably well. However, from the perspective of enhancing knowledge, offering newer insights on what is happening in the world of Medical Value Travel (MVT) and showcasing the best in the MVT, the conference was quite a disappointment.

The views are expressed are personal.