Medical Travel and Its Components
Medical tourism consists of various aspects that all need to be recognized. The following five components play a major role, i.e., who travels, type of treatment, its legality, how the payment works, and the travelers’ social standard. All those aspects have to be recognized to ensure a successful business with foreign patients. The graph depicts the complexity of medical tourism. From the traveler’s standpoint, legal aspects seem to be most confusing because each country has a different legal situation, at least concerning certain treatments such as fertility or abortion. Medical tourism is a complex market that continuously shifts between hotel and clinic, healthy and sick, self-payers and insurance coverage, and many other dynamic relationships.
Starting Points for Creating Services in Medical Tourism
Medical tourism covers both hotels and clinics. The following graph tries to depict those issues that might be an anchor point to create services. The graph shows a blue arrow with the double line that starts in hotel-like companies offering health-oriented services with fewer medical elements. The further you follow the arrow, the more medical the services become. It is the green area (right-hand side) that is covered by tourist companies engaging in less medical health.
Most of these companies have a general approach to health using words such as relaxation, balance, rejuvenation, power, or energy (steps 1 and 2). This general meaning of health makes use of a more preventive approach, including pampering spa services. Step 3 refers to the phases in life that are not necessarily connected with diseases but with sorrows and frightening changes. Other hotels concentrate on rather concrete risk factors such as obesity or back pain (step 4). A seamless transition is made by reaching step 5, where pathologic manifestations appear. It is step 5, where hotels still try to get a step in and where clinical institutions start to offer their services. Services in steps 6 and 7 take place in clinical settings that can certainly attract international travelers from other countries. All services in the red circle are mostly offered in a clinical setting.
Written by Dr Kai Illing, professor at universities in Graz and Bremen, and CEO of TDC Consulting, Austria