“PATIENTS ARE NOT
GOING TO TRAVEL FOR
CARE UNLESS THEY CAN
ENSURE THE QUALITY
IS AS GOOD AS, IF NOT
BETTER, THAN THEY
CAN GET LOCALLY.”
President and Co-Founder,
Medical Tourism Association
“It’s expanded with the advent of information on the Web about the
quality and the pricing and services,” she says.
Health care reform in the United States is also contributing to the increase in medical tourism, according to Stephano. The added costs and
requirements associated with the Affordable Care Act have led a number of employers to adopt self-funded health insurance plans, which
allow employers to see a direct cost savings from lower-cost procedures.
To encourage employees to opt for more affordable treatment, more
self-funded plans are incorporating medical tourism options, particularly domestic medical tourism—when an American patient travels
to another U.S. region for care. Employers may incentivize employees
by waiving copays, covering hotel and airfare costs, or compensating
employees directly with a share of the cost savings.
As the global medical tourism industry continues to expand, Stephano sees a number of opportunities for outside investors to participate
in its growth.
Technology, for one, is an area in need of development. Currently, much of the communication in the medical tourism industry
is handled by email and fax, and patient data is managed through
spreadsheets, Stephano says. She sees a need for a central technology
solution that can manage the entire patient experience—and ensure
privacy. Her association has begun exploring the development of
such a tool.
The establishment of medical tourism zones and health care free
trade zones set up by governments presents another opportunity for
outside investment, Stephano says, particularly to manage existing
health care facilities or build new ones within these zones. Building
recuperation resorts, long-term care facilities and specialty hospitals
are other areas where she sees the potential for investors to participate
in the industry’s growth.
While opportunities for private capital abound, educating investors
and connecting them with projects remain challenging, says Stephano,
whose group is taking steps to help bridge this communication gap.
“There’s a lack of connectivity, but a tremendous amount of opportunity, and the competition is actually quite low,” she says. “The opportunity for public-private partnerships is tremendous as well.” //