Are you an entrepreneur who needs fresh ideas for a startup company? A recent report shows that about 100 million new businesses are launched globally every year, according to GEM Global Report. Medical tourism provides patients the ability to leave their city, state, or nation to receive medical care.
The process of launching a health tourism business is probably much easier than you expected. It starts with knowing the basics, like what a “facilitator” is all about. I’d like to share some helpful information about starting up in an industry valued at nearly $38 billion (2019).
What Exactly Is Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism is known by various terms, including medical travel, but they have the same meaning. It’s about crossing national or international borders to receive healthcare services.
Medical Tourism Facilitators.
This is one of the most important terms to know about. A medical tourism facilitator functions as a bridge between the physician and patient by providing guidance to patients when they’re abroad to receive medical treatments. The goal is to connect the healthcare provider and concierge with the patient.
A facilitator has a wide range of different tasks, including:
- Schedule flight
- Make doctors appointments
- Transfer medical records
- Handle lodging
- Collect payments
- Plan recreational activities
The facilitator can also meet the specific needs of the patient. For example, if the patient has certain health conditions like back pain, they might require a guide on how to pick a mattress.
Another important function of the medical tourism facilitator, besides functioning as a liaison between the patient and medical personnel, is to find an affordable package for the customer that includes costs related to travel expenses, medical bills, lodging costs, and so on.
Let’s discuss the basic steps to launch a medical tourism business.
Step #1: Get a Feasibility Analyst Report.
You can hire a professional service to complete this task. It will give you a snapshot of the medical tourism industry. As the name suggests, the report will help to determine how practical it is for you to launch a startup company based on various factors.
These reports involve research and analysis based on various factors, including:
- What medical tourism is
- Amount of investment
- Possible profits in the field
- Opportunities and competition
- Do’s and Don’ts for starting a business
This is important information so you can make a wise decision about whether launching a new medical tourism business is practical. If the answer is “yes,” then it’s time to move on to the next step.
Step #2: Create a Business Plan and Learn Your Market.
It’s important to prepare a medical tourism business plan that addresses various issues:
- Number of clients can you manage at one time yet still provide quality service
- Lowest rates you can offer while maintaining a profitable business
- Total costs connected with operating a physical/virtual office and small staff
It’s also important to learn about the local markets for medical travel. For example, certain countries have achieved practice specialties, including:
- India: Heart/orthopedic (bone/muscle) surgery
- Hungary/Philippines: Advanced dentistry
- Turkey: Eye surgery
- Spain: Brain surgery
- Costa Rica: Cosmetic surgery
Step #3: Secure Certification, Licensing, and Permits.
Joint Commission International.
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (ICAHO) is the United States’ most well-known healthcare accreditation organization. In 1994 it formed the Joint Commission International (JCI), which works with medical tourism businesses and healthcare organizations in over 100 countries today.
JCI accreditation includes the Gold Seal of Approval, which it has issued to over 1,000 medical bodies throughout the world. Countries outside the United States and Europe apply JCI accreditation rules to international hospitals
The Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTOA) reports that earning a certification seal and adding it to your company’s website or materials show tourists and medical professionals that your health tourism business meets industry standards. This includes meeting strict MTOA evaluations.
After launch, your company should also be aware of updates on accreditations and certifications. This can keep your clients safe by building a strong reputation within the healthcare industry.
Licenses and Permits.
It’s also important to secure various national licenses and local permits to operate a medical travel business. You’ll also need to secure an IRS tax resale number in the U.S., or similar process abroad.
Step #4: Locate the Top Medical Care Facilities.
This is another important step. Make sure to learn about the top medical facilities and healthcare providers in particular destinations you’ll be promoting.
You can research the information online, although it’s often better to up your passport and go to the travel destinations to conduct a firsthand inspection. For example, you can learn if certain medical facilities are eco-friendly and follow a medical waste disposal guide.
It’s important to only deal with ones that have features like JCI accreditation and low prices. You can contact the healthcare facilities’ management to share your company’s packages and programs.
Certain doctors might be able to provide information based on existing relationships with other health tourism businesses and share various resources.
There are various factors you should research during your trip. They include the country’s local transportation and post-operative care. This will help clients to feel at ease when they’re traveling throughout the country, or their surgical procedures are complete.
Step #5 Set Competitive yet Profitable Rates.
Make sure to research rates that are reasonable for the medical treatments you’re offering and the geographic region.
Research the rates of “medical tourism agencies.” This usually includes commissions that hotels, resorts, and spas pay and 20% of the patient’s total medical costs that hospitals or doctors pay.
Step #6: Market Your Medical Tourism Industry.
This process figures out your target market. For example, this could include uninsured/under-insured patients, or small employers.
One of the cheapest ways to advertise is through word of mouth. This is by informing primary care physicians that you’re offering health tourism services. It’s important to build a good relationship with the doctors so you can get a steady flow of patient referrals.
This includes options like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or lead generation services. It can help to boost your company’s ranking in Google search results. Ideally your business should be on Page 1 of results when potential customers Google particular keywords or phrases related to medical tourism.
The keys to success in the service industry include professional and prompt service. It’s highly recommended that you get some experience in the medical tourism business before you launch your own company. Always make sure you to do your homework and consult industry experts. This will help your clients get quality medical treatment while enjoying a mini vacation abroad.