In the past 20 years, a lot of countries threw their hat on Medical Tourism and succeeded in attracting business to their country. Some focused on promoting wellness and preventive side of healthcare, a few offered cosmetic and aesthetic treatment, others positioned themselves as high-end tertiary care destination and the rest tried their luck with a little bit of everything. Growing middle-class population with disposable incomes and upsurge of health insurance coverage spurred the demand for quality treatment and lead to year on year growth in a number of health travellers. Increased demand spiked the number of countries competing to increase their share of the pie. Practices like opening offices in source markets; raising awareness about their competitive edge, effective communication, offering ease of visa and travel bundled with tourism-and-treatment were popular strategies.
With the world grappling from Covid19 and medical tourism activities nearing zero, the rules of the game will never be the same going forward. Post-Covid19 landscape of medical tourism will bring each destination to a starting point from where the race to become attractive again begins. This time it will not be about getting patients attracted to softer elements of a country or value for money treatment, but a lot will depend on the following:
- How well and fast a country emerges back to normalcy from Covid19 crisis,
- How much healthcare infrastructure is available in a country to treat its patients for chronic disorders and lifestyle disease,
- How many spare hospital beds can be made readily available to cater to international patients without any waiting time.
Besides, a patient’s focus will also shift to choose a country where there is a civic sense of continued social distancing, personalized treatment in a less crowded environment and infrastructure like dedicated living space and transportation is readily available. Destinations which are serious about retaining their position in medical tourism space will have to chalk out a plan along with private healthcare providers in order to set new guidelines for handling international patients and creating an assured environment by offering personalized treatment. Concept of flying out doctors to source markets for performing surgeries and training local doctors may help foster healthcare partnerships between the countries and it will also prevent unnecessary travel of patients for not so complicated procedures. Online webinars may replace the traditional way of conducting continuous medical education. International OPD camps may get replaced by Telemedicine & Online second opinion.
There will be a paradigm shift in the way Medical Tourism operates. The Darwinian Theory of Survival of the Fittest will be prominent in re-establishing the market place. The ones who adapt will emerge stronger while the ones who are slow to respond may face oblivion.
Rahul Shukla is a healthcare marketing and medical tourism professional with over a decade long experience in International Marketing and Sales of tertiary care chain of hospitals in India and UAE. He is credited with establishing NMC International Patient Centre which promotes medical tourism to NMC Healthcare’s UAE, UK, Saudi & Kenya based healthcare facilities. He has travelled extensively across South East Asia, China, GCC, Africa & CIS countries and has deep understanding of the health travel market of these regions. He holds an MBA – Hospital Administration from DAVV – Indore, a reputed Indian University. Rahul shares his thoughts about Medical Tourism on his blog Healthnextdoor.wordpress.com. Find more at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rahul-shukla-9497251a