Service Cycle of Medical Tourism in India
One of the major practices in healthcare is the process of ‘patient outsourcing’, in the form of medical tourism or ‘Medical travel’.
This form of business protocol is becoming hugely popular in the developed countries of the world, as it has tremendous benefits. Medical tourism is a deliberate effort to combine health issues along with travel for tourism and leisure (Health Base, 2006, Recover Discover, 2007).
Several organizations may be involved in the process of medical tourism including:-
The governments – They are responsible for framing a policy that would ensure regulated flow of tourists from one part of the globe to another to enable effective healthcare provision. Besides, it would also ensure that the tourists can obtain valid travel documents easily.
Hospital Associations – Associations founded between the hospitals of the tourist and the destination country are required to communicate with each other so as to help in the flow of medical tourists. This is to ensure that all ethical and legal issues are addressed, and an effective marketing communication system can exist.
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It would be ideal for the patient to first speak to his/her usual healthcare provider before seeking medical facilities in another nation. Hospitals in the west can also consider recognizing and providing accreditation for hospitals in developing nations, so that the quality standards prevailing is well-understood.
Travel authorities – They are the authorities who are providing valid travel documents and permission required to enable medical treatment in another nation. The authorities should understand the need and urgency for medical treatment and hence would have to permit such travel.
Travel agencies – They would have to communicate with other parties in the destination to ensure that the health and travel needs of the tourist is meet, keeping in mind quality, cost-effectiveness and hassle-free processes.
The travel agency would have to provide the travelers with customized packages that are cost-effective and seem attractive. They would also have to market the health packages in the West, to demonstrate clear advantages to the ones existing at home.
Ministry of Commerce and trade (Hutchinson, 2005, Heatlhbase, 2006 & American University, 2003).
Through the process of globalization, many countries are beginning to closely review their economic strengths and risks. If something is costly in one nation, immediately the resources present in other nations would be approached and utilized.
In medical tourism, the individual would be using cost-effective options in order to fulfill their healthcare needs in areas where the limitations may be less. These limitations can be several and can be utilized to the advantage of the individual. Some of the limitations which can be met through medical tourism include:-
Going from one nation where certain types of treatment are not available, to another where treatment is available. Going from one country to another, where the quality of treatment is better, improved technology and where expertise in health is available, and innovative options are present
Going from one country to another where treatment is provided in a more cost-effective manner
Going from one nation to another where medical treatment including surgery is provided in a more timely manner (to reduce the waiting periods for elective surgeries)
Including the family members and seeking treatment away from home where the usual stressful factors would not be felt (Hutchinson, 2005, Heatlhbase, 2006 & American University, 2003)
Medical tourisms can take place from one nation to another and from one region of a nation to another region within the same nation. The trend today is that many people from the western or developing nations (which have a very restrictive health setup) are moving to the east, where the practices and policies do favor provision of several benefits in healthcare. There are many unique features of the prospects of medical tourism:-
The nations which serve as a market for medical tourisms are providing several attractive policies and practices
They are using vary attractive marketing strategies to encourage business – An example of this would be to combine medical health visits with holidays to exotic tourist destinations. Many people from the developed nations are finding such packages very attractive and are considering them as they are not only cheaper but also meet their customized needs, conveniently.
The developing nations such as Thailand, India, Latin America and China, are offering more holistic kind of treatment and are providing several complementary and alternative treatments that deviate away from allopathic medicine. Many of these treatments have proven to be effective. Besides, the treatment facilities are provided in more natural kinds of environment, thus encouraging better healing and recovery (Hutchinson, 2005, Heatlhbase, 2006 & American University, 2003).
Medical tourism can be held for various reasons including health and wellness tourism, reproductive purposes, alternative treatment strategies, preventive medical care, spa tourism, surgical tourism, dental tourism, diet and nutrition tourism, transplant tourism, cosmetic tourism, spiritual tourism or even for end-of-life purposes.
Often the individual requiring health treatment would also like to include their family members in the process. They would also like to take their family members along. People also want to visit resorts and spas to get away from the usual humdrum. Several theoretical frameworks have been proposed for Medical Tourism:-
Consumer Motivation – Consumers may find the health packages offered at the destination nations cost-effective, of better quality and would also combining their travel needs Medical tourist motivation – Some people prefer traveling and getting treatment done in a foreign nation, away from home Push-pull motivation – This has been one of the most explanation to justify medical tourism.
The pull factors are usually contributed to the attractiveness of the market and the various marketing strategies that have been employed. The pull factors are tangible and are attributed by the destination. The push factors are intangible and may need a lot of explanation. Some of the push factors include:-
· Fulfilling travel needs
· Preferences for certain destinations
· Travelers often have the intention of traveling for whatever need, even if a such a need can be fulfilled at home (Hongnaphadol, 2008)
India has been one of the success stories of medical tourism in the world. Thousands of tourists from various parts of the World including the US, UK, Australia, Middle East, European Union, etc, visit India every year for medical and surgical treatment. India is also one of the sought out destinations for alternative forms of treatment including Yoga, Ayurveda, herbal medicine, massage therapy, etc.
Effective collaborations between the tourism industry and the healthcare industry have existed in India to enable medical tourism to be a success. This has been an initiative from both, private and public parties. India has several other characteristics that have permitted medical tourism to prevail:-
Rich culture and tradition – favoring tourism
Natural characteristics of the country
Traditional systems of medicine – which seem to be very attractive for the West
Cultural competence of the professionals existing in India
Low waiting time
Good quality of medical care
Pre-existing tourist destination
Effective collaboration with organizations in the US/UK which would enable movement of tourists
Easy currency conversion processes
Good quality of education prevailing in India – Academic organizations are able to meet with the requirements of the healthcare industry
Connectivity with international airports
Good technology utilized in healthcare (Recover Discover, 2007).
The service cycle of the medical tourism process and is an experience for the customer. It starts even before the consumer meets the service provider to obtain an effective medical tourism package that would meet his/her travel and health needs.
The process starts when the consumer understands that there is an unfulfilled health need which has to be met. The process would go on and the several steps present including (as fulfilling health need is not a single transaction and involves several processes):-
Meeting with the service provider
Discussing an effective package that would meet their needs (the package would include several aspects including air and travel costs, hotel stay, food, consultation charges, investigation costs, treatment and surgical charges, medications costs, holiday packages, etc).
The customer should be provided with a number of options and choice of destinations. Negotiations should also be permitted.
Purchasing the health/travel package
Preparing to enter in the package
Starting with the travel
Entering and experiencing the destination country
Getting used to the destination country
Meeting the healthcare provider and ensuring that the electronic health records are received – the healthcare professionals should take an adequate history of the patient and should also conduct adequate diagnostic tests.
Identifying the health problems and developing a plan to solve these problems
Presenting the plan to the patient and taking the consent
Initiating the treatment plan – May include several visits; The pre-treatment period may include several precautions, restrictions in diet, lifestyle, medications, travel, etc
Post-treatment period – Taking adequate precautions regarding diet, lifestyle, exercise, rest, medications, etc. The patient should be adequately informed of these so that they may be comfortable.
Follow-up visits –
Any additional treatment
Advise or consultations before the patient goes back to the home nation
Fulfilling any other travel needs
Returning back home
Contact with the healthcare providers through telephone, e-mail, chat services, etc (Health Base, 2006, Wachovia, 2008, Monash University, 2004).
The process may not be complete once the patient returns home. This is because fulfilling health needs is a continuous process and the requirements are never ending. At each of the steps, the customer would be having certain expectations. The quality standards of the service are usually determined by the ability to fulfill the customer’s expectations and to meet as to what was promised in the initial package (contract). Some of the expectations of the consumers include:-
Having a high quality travel package which is cost-effective Finding the destination country comfortable and relaxing Getting used to the destination quickly Developing rapport with the new healthcare professionals and the healthcare system – Ability to clear all doubts and queries.
The patient should be assured about the quality standards of the organization and the qualifications of the healthcare professionals.
Preferable a standard prevailing at the home nation should be sought. It is also important that the processes existing in the hospital should be similar to that of the home nation. The healthcare system prevailing should be culturally competent to that of the tourists.
Able to meet with the precautions and advise from the healthcare professionals easily Undergoing the treatment processes without much complications, side-effects and negative events Resolving any problem the patient has during the treatment processes Enjoying the benefits of treatment Ability to contact the healthcare provider and fulfilling any problem (Health Base, 2006, Wachovia, 2008,)
American University (2003). Globalization and Medical Tourism, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from American University of Delaware Website: http://www.american.edu/ted/medical-tourism.htm
Health base (2006). Medical Tourism FAQs, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from Health Base Website: https://www.healthbase.com/hb/pages/medical-tourism-faq.jsp#1
Hongnaphadol, W. N. (2008). Medical Tourism, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from Leeds University Website: www.leedsmet.ac.uk/research/W_Hognaphado-pm_1.pp
Hutchinson, B. (2005). Medical tourism growing worldwide, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from University of Delaware Website: http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2005/mar/tourism072505.html
Monash University (2004). The Cycle of Service, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from Monash University Website: http://www.adm.monash.edu.au/cheq/support-services/cycle-service.html
Recover Discover (2007). Medical Tourism – Medical Tourism India – Healthcare Tourism, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from Recover Discover Website: http://www.recoverdiscover.com/
Wachovia Corporation (2008). The Cycle Of Service – How To See Things from the Customer’s Point of View, Retrieved on August 15, 2008, from Wachovia Corporation Website: http://www.wachovia.com/small_biz/page/0,,447_972_1697_1994_2016,00.html