By Omar A Siddiqui, Managing Director, Medicure Medical Travels
Medical tourism has been a great boon to patients who need treatment abroad. Patients who need treatment abroad can be broadly classified into two categories there are the one who usually research themselves about the destination, hospitals and doctors and make the decision and there are some who take the services of a medical tourism facilitator. The hospitals on the other hand take help of medical travel facilitators to grow their market reach and get greater number of patients referred to their facilities. Thus, a medical travel facilitator has a dual role for both patients and hospitals.
But despite forming an important link between the patients and the hospitals a medical tourism facilitator is seen not more than a “commission agent”. They are seen as agents who are working on a commission basis for the hospitals with no value addition to the medical tourism industry. This perception of a medical travel facilitator has done more harm than good.
In reality if we look at the role of a medical travel facilitator they are doing much more than just merely assisting patients and getting patients. A medical travel facilitator is providing patients with treatment options from a variety of hospitals under one roof. There is no need for the patient to approach the hospitals individually when the patients can get information of different hospitals through the facilitator. Also the best part is that the patients don’t have to incur any charges or have any obligation to go through the medical travel facilitator even after getting the information.
Secondly, the common misconception among the patients is that a medical travel facilitator does price markups on treatments and therefore if the patient approaches the hospitals directly they will save money. Whereas in reality the cost treatment will always remain the same irrespective if the patients approach a hospital directly or through a medical travel facilitator.
Besides getting all the hospitals under one roof the other major benefit of approaching a medical travel facilitator is the quality and number of services not provided by a hospital. The hospitals aren’t able to provide the services in terms of number to a medical tourist what a medical travel facilitator can provide and at the same price. The hospitals cannot provide full time services to a patient whereas a medical travel facilitator can provide a personalized, individually focused service both inside and outside the hospital. A medical travel facilitator can be your tour guide outside the hospital and personal case manager inside the hospital.
If we delve further we will see how a medical travel facilitator is helping the hospitals in expanding their market reach and increasing their brand visibility. A hospital marketing team cannot target all the countries at the same time due to resource and finance issue. They are limited and constrained due to this. If they are to do the branding and marketing themselves it is going to take them a very large marketing team and several years. But the same thing can be achieved by working with a number of independent medical tourism companies or medical travel facilitators. Thus a medical travel facilitator is playing an important role which though is ignored or not discussed at all.
The second role that medical travel facilitator plays is to keep a check on price markups and ensure that patients get the right treatment at the right price. Thus medical travel facilitators are ensuring that patients rights are taken care of during the medical tour and at the same time keeping a tab on the working of the medical tourism in hospitals. If there is no presence of a neutral body as a medical travel facilitator then there can be problems for the patients as well as the hospitals
So we can see that a medical travel facilitator is not merely a “commission agent” but medical tourism consultant who is helping hospitals grow and patients get fair treatment abroad. Unfortunately, despite all the positive role played by a medical travel facilitator no due credit has been given to the hundreds of medical facilitators. It is for the medical tourism facilitators to bring forth their views and throw more light on their role. Also medical tourism facilitators need to highlight more their importance on different forums so that patients and hospitals alike start seeing medical tourism facilitators as more than “commission” agents. Medicure Medical Travels has already taken the initiative to educate and highlight the role of medical travel facilitators on different forums.
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