Why Turkey is a great medical tourism destination

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paris

It appears that Turkey is the 6th most visited destination by medical tourists, according to the data acquired last year by a consortium formed by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), the Health Ministry and some private hospitals engaged in medical tourism. You can read a thorough guide on medical tourism in Turkey hosted on easymedicaltourism.com .

The number of foreign medical tourists grew more than quadrupled from 109,000 in 2010 to 583,000 in 2014, without counting for the 120,000 extra that came for plastic surgery. The sharp rise was due to an increase in medical tourists from Germany, Iraq and Libya.

As Zeki Hozer, vice president of the Aegean Medical Tourism Association says “A total of 30 million people travel to receive medical care across the world a year and they spend over $150 billion, producing almost six times higher added value than sector average. Turkey became one of the top ten medical tourism destinations last year, although the country ranked 17th place five years ago”.

Besides Turkey, according to Hozer, the most popular destinations in medical tourism have been the US, Germany, Cuba, Belgium, Poland and Eastern Asia countries like India and Malaysia.

The Turkish state has a state policy towards supporting the growth of medical industry in the country. Around 50-70 percent of the promotional activities required for medical providers to extend their reach is entirely paid by the public administration as well as paying for some of the patient’s flight tickets. The industry has reached such a high point that many health center in Turkey generate as much as half of their entire revenue  from it.

The most treatments sought in Turkey by medical tourists are optical care, plastic surgery, hair transplants and in vitro fertilization.

The country’s Health Ministry wants to introduce a tax-free zone for the industry in order to reach 2 million medical tourists per year by 2023. We hope this model will soon be pursued by other less known destinations for medical tourism too.

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Steps towards regulating medical tourism sector: India

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Indian-Medical-Tourism

While medical tourism is a developing industry throughout the world, apart from the domestic medical market, it is largely unregulated by the authorities. This situation is bad for the industry as a whole because foreign patients need assurances that a strong quality management of the international medical service exists. As the tourism minister of India, Mahesh Sharma, puts it – “This sector has grown on its own over the past decade but is largely unorganized” .

In 2015 June 19, the tourism ministry of India announced the plan for a medical tourism board to be established in order to set the standards for the industry that last year brought for treatment around 230.000 foreign patients. The board’s members will come from the tourism and health ministries as well as from the travel industry and medical providers. If well implemented, this may provide a model for other countries that whether are well-known destinations for medical tourism or just entry-level players. The leading principle, as expressed by the Indian minister, is to provide an interlinked platform that can provide a seamless service experience to the foreign patients.

One of the needs of this regulatory board is to provide a much needed quality assurance: “We need standardized procedures in place to organize the industry. One of the focuses would be to put in place guidelines to ensure the quality of the services”, said Suman Billa, a joint secretary in the tourism ministry of India.

Confederation of Indian Industry estimates that India’s medical tourism is expected to reach $6 billion by 2018. The industry is becoming large enough that a focused attention from the state authorities is necessary. Poland, an important destination for medical tourism in Eastern Europe, already invested in medical tourism that constitutes a priority industry and has been integrated in the 2012 – 2015 strategy.

Who benefits from regulating medical tourism

The main beneficiaries will be both the foreign patients and the medical clinics and hospitals offering these services. Foreign patients would love to benefit from the great cost reduction offered by medical tourism, but right now they are held back by the lack of medical quality guarantees. If a state agency or board would bring together tough regulations and quality standards for the industry then the credibility of the medical act will grow immensely.  This is a win-win situation for the country involved because a whole horizontal economy, not limited to the medical providers, relies on foreign patients.

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All inclusive packages in medical tourism

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all-inclusive medical tourism

We addressed in the last post the issue of medical tourists as an unique marketing target . Now we’ll try to construct a medical product designed especially for them. It should take into consideration this segment’s needs and wants in order to be a successful product.

What does “all inclusive” mean

The term “all inclusive” is a marketing term that describes a collection of goods and services that come to cover the most important of the needs and wants of a specific customer segment. The purpose is to make it easier for a patient in another country to have a certain medical treatment in your clinic.

The best approach to figuring out how to design the package is share the perspective of a possible foreign patient:

  1. First and foremost I will need to know an estimate of time and TOTAL costs for the desired treatment
  2. I have to make sure that the clinic is trustworthy and that the treatments are properly operated
  3. If I’ve decided to go to your clinic, I need to travel a long way to your location
  4. I’ll need to find a good accommodation option for the duration of the treatment, preferably somewhere near to the clinic
  5. Will surely need a way to travel from the airport to the hotel and back.
  6. Traveling for the first time in a foreign country may require to hire a guide that I can communicate in my own language
  7. I have to research on what activities can I partake and what places should I visit while in the destination

There are plenty of work to be done by someone that thinks about traveling abroad for medical care. Wouldn’t be great if we could make the procedure less elaborate for the patients?

Logistics, accommodation and touristic activities

A person or a department specialized in offering timely consultancy on the treatment options, time and cost estimates as well as dealing with the logistics and offering 24/7 support will greatly make things easier for the foreign patients. Make deals with travel agencies and offer support for airplane reservations and airport transfers. When arriving at the airport give the patients brochures with their appointment times, contact numbers, key phrases and a personalized map of the city with the best places to eat, the hotel and clinic’s location.

Research for nearby hotels that can offer high quality accommodation options and negotiate the costs for your patients. Most of them will offer you a generous discount as most medical tourism procedures take more than 3 nights.

Enter deals with local tourism agencies for offering guides and touristic activities for nearby attraction at a discount. Offer advice on how to organize their stay. Be proactive!

Medical treatment guarantee

One of the greatest concerns about being treated in another country is the fear that the treatment may not be operated at the highest standards or that complications may appear which can be costly to fix or worse, are life-threatening.

Every patient needs to be reassured that he/she is on good hands, especially medical tourists. It’s true as well that every patient has an unique condition and that the variables involved are too many for a doctor to offer a 100% guarantee that a treatment will be successful and with no complications. However, a clinic that offers a guarantee on the treatments performed will greatly improve it’s brand image. More on this on some later posts.

Pricing the package

Keep in mind that the price is the main reason for a foreign patient choosing to be treated by your clinic. The cost of the all-inclusive package serves also as a decision trigger. If the overall cost for traveling, accommodation, and receiving treatment at high standards, and everything else is less than 50% than the price one would pay in his/her home country, then this is a great incentive for a foreign patient to chose your services.

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The right way to do medical tourism

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05Treating several foreign patients that have came around your clinic through someone they know or just by pure chance is not medical tourism, but business as usual. If you’ve not segmented yet the “foreign patient” as a particular target population to which you are actively trying to reach out, then for your business the local patient and the medical tourism are all the same.

Why should you target foreign patients differently

The most important principle of marketing states that you won’t be able to successfully address the needs of all the possible clients with a single message or product. This has been proven over and over again. Sure, you may have a few enquiries using the old way, but the market of medical tourism is global and estimated at 38 – 55 billions USD.

Foreign patients should be targeted as a different segment, and the reason is simple: foreign patients have different needs and wants than you local ones.

To exhibit some of the most important differences that set medical tourists apart:

  1. They live in a foreign country
  2. In most cases they speak a different language and share a different culture
  3. Are not very well accustomed with your country, regulations and/or culture
  4. To be treated in your clinic It’s required for them to travel a long distance
  5. Treatments in their own country are more expensive than the ones offered by your clinic

Well, this list should definitely set foreign patients apart from the local market as you can see that it’s not just a cheaper medical treatment that you’re selling, but also a whole touristic experience that cannot be separated from it.

How to target the medical tourism market

As with any new client segment, a good market research is the first step towards efficient marketing. Notice that the scope of the research should be restrained in accordance to your capabilities. Don’t order a research report on medical tourism whole market if your clinic just does dental treatments.

The research should provide answers to important questions about your target customer such as demographics (location, age, sex, social and economical status), needs and wants. Using the research results you could then highlight a segment that you think it’s the most effective to market to.

General truths

As a matter of fact, the following stays true for every person: generate trust and security. A foreign patient would choose your services only if the associated cost is less than the gain. The perceived cost associated with opting for treatment abroad is taking into account not only the price to be payed for the treatment, but also a great deal of it is made up of time and effort.

Making sure that a clinic is offering quality medical care means to check for credible testimonials, learn about the required regulations, check if the doctors are qualified to offer the desired treatment, if the medical equipment is up to date. On top of that, the patients will need to find both appropriate transport and accommodation near the clinic at an acceptable price and service quality. Well, all that sure looks like a burden for a healthy person, and more so for a person in need of a medical treatment.

The approach

If you want foreign patients to choose your clinic then just make it as simple as possible for them to do so. Display all the arguments why should they choose you and present them your custom tailored offers. Read our short guide on brand building for medical tourism to have a starting point for communicating to patients.

What do medical tourists need?

This is the product-building part of the marketing strategy. While medical treatments are different than automobiles, they’re both products in the sense that there is a provider that produces the product (the medical clinic) and a buyer that purchases it (the medical tourist that pays money to get medical treatment). Once you’ve defined that you want to target medical tourists, then you want to develop a package especially for them. It should pro-actively address their wants and needs in the most effective way.

Concentrate on the most profitable segments (for example people in their late 40’s, from the East Coast of USA that need dental implants) and address their need for transport, accommodation, medical treatment and safety by joining all up as an all-inclusive medical tourism package.

Offering a complete solution is the best way to market medical tourism services as it’s been employed by the most successful medical tourism operators in major destinations. In the next post I’ll discuss in detail about how to build medical tourism all-inclusive packages.

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Make your clinic ready for medical tourism – part 3

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medical tourism online marketingIn this part we’ll talk about how to build a great online marketing strategy and what should be your main goals.

If you want to know why medical tourism is a game changer for the medical providers and what are the wants and needs of the foreign patients, read the first part. To find out how to reach out to patients by building a strong brand read the second part.

                High quality standards comes first

                The only way a person will choose to travel to another country for a medical treatment is to be sure that the foreign medical facility can offer a positive outcome at a lower cost. If a doubt exists that the medical treatment received might create health complications, cause infections or that the facility or the medical team are not qualified, the patient will choose another location, even if it will be more expensive.

As a medical services manager you should first create a medical system that can administer treatments at the highest quality standards for its patients. The main reason why patients would come to be treated at your facility is the certainty that you are able to offer high quality otherwise unaffordable in their own countries. This is the globalization of the economy, and healthcare services are also part of it.

               Having a great website is a top priority

                As we discussed in the second part, having your own website is of great importance as this is your virtual front-desk. It represents the way you address your audience and should convey your brand and values in such a way that you make a lasting impression. The website is the focal point of your marketing campaigns.

Design

                The main constant in the web design industry is that “change is imminent”. The PR department should always be careful to adapt to your target audience. Right now the standard is to have a responsive website with a minimal theme. Responsive means that the website has a fluid structure that can be viewed on all devices (large screens, IPads, smartphones). Too much information is tiresome, so try to structure the information such that you capture the essential of the value proposition. Make it so you have good ergonomics, meaning that the users can easily navigate through your uncluttered content.

Content

Minimal design doesn’t mean minimal content. The key here is to have as much relevant and quality content as you can but without transforming into a navigational nightmare for the users. Great content, like quality, unique informative articles, will attract many readers and will raise your SEO score.         Don’t forget to focus on how well prepared your facility is in dealing with various medical conditions. There is no way you could write too much on how well experienced your medical team is. The doctors are your main asset, therefore showcase them as best as you can.

Also, write in detail about everything that has to do with increasing the trust in the quality of your services. I cannot stress out enough the importance of having international accreditations, awards and memberships.

Photographs and Video presentation of your clinic and medical team are also a must have. Video testimonials are better in reassuring visitors and making a professional impression than simple text ones. Keep in touch with the former patients and post recounts of how their life improved because of being treated at your facility. Happy former patients will do wonders.

Medical Tourism SEO

                Although there are many search engines out there, in the deep web, Google.com recounts for the majority of search queries and sets the trends. The long term trend is to move away from gathering bulk backlinks and to move closer to an organic growth. This means that you should focus more on adding quality content on your website and in connecting with influential bloggers, but also in investing more in social media. The more high quality content mentions your website, the more important it will become. SEO activities should be less focused on the website crawlers and more about reaching out to actual users.

               Establish a strong online presence

                A strong presence doesn’t mean only good SEO ratings. It also includes how easily your clinic’s brand is found on the web by potential patients. SEO relates only to your websites, but patients can contact your clinic through other channels also.                      

Patients Referral Services

                These are businesses that will offer you enquiries from patients. The only requirement is to register an account and complete your profile. We, at easyMedicalTourism.com, offer one of the best options for marketing medical tourism: photographs, video presentations, presentation of the medical team, special offers, detailed information about your facility. By paying a minimal lifetime registration fee you will benefit from a steady ammount of patients incoming from these resources. You can check this link for the offer of Easy Medical Tourism.

Articles

                The more informative articles you have on a specific topic, the more you will be regarded as an authority on that specific domain. Does your medical team performed a difficult surgery? Go out and write about it and describe it so that the average person could understand what it meant. Publish it on your own blog and then ask us to write about your article also. This creates buzz and you will gain good exposure.

Online engagement

                Writing quality articles for patients to learn from will inevitably lead to questions on their part. You should take advantage of this opportunity and engage in offering every response they ask for. Respond to them as you would talk to any potential patient. Even if the person asking you a question will not come to be treated at your facility, many more will stumble upon your conversation and take notice of your responses.

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Make your clinic ready for medical tourism – part 2

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Any medical clinic manager would love to receive a steady flow of foreign patients that are in need of expensive surgery, but addressing medical tourists requires a different kind of marketing.

Your clinic may be the best equipped, and have the best doctors, but if you don’t communicate this to your audience, you’ll have a hard time setting yourself apart from the others. In this part we’ll talk about why a strong medical brand is important, what does it take to start building a brand for your clinic and how to communicate it to foreign patients.

patient and nurse

If you want to know why medical tourism is a game changer for the medical providers and what are the wants and needs of the foreign patients, read the first part.

                It’s all about the brand

                The brand encapsulates all the feelings and thoughts that come to peoples mind when thinking about your company. For a more detailed summary read the wikipedia page about brands. Brand management is very important in growing your business and also in maintaining the existing patients.

While searching for a microwave oven in an online shop, one might make a price-based decision and pick the no-name product. A patient in search of affordable healthcare in a foreign destination will chose a medical clinic with a strong brand that can offer the promise of high medical standards even if it’s not the cheapest option.

Building the brand

                Before building something we should first think about the desired outcome. Setting the value proposition of your brand is very important to be done at the beginning of the process. Here you need to differentiate yourself from the other clinics and to choose your strong points. However, stay true to what you are and don’t try to project a false image about your company as this will have severe repercussions on your brand. Even if you don’t have the latest medical equipment you can compensate by having a great, professional and friendly staff.

Brand building is a time-long process that never ends. Start with your current strong points, keep investing in them, but also try to have an organic growth of your business. The final goal should be increasing the perceived quality of medical services that your clinic provides:

Investing in a beautiful reception area is a must as this space will make a lasting impression on all your patients. The front desk area will appear on all presentations of your clinic and should create a great brand experience.

Every staff member that interacts with the patients should offer a customer experience consistent with the brand’s values. Not only doctors should be top-notch.

Online marketing is the key for medical tourism

                If your clinic has a strong brand locally, this may bring foreign patients through personal recommendations, but unless you’re actively targeting medical tourists, you’re not doing medical tourism. In order to communicate your brand’s proposition to foreign patients you should first make a new marketing strategy.

Medical tourists search for affordable healthcare using online resources, therefore 80-90% of the budget should go into the online marketing channels. Ads in air travel magazines are good for brand visibility if they’re not so expensive, but the main budget should remain committed to online.

In the part 3 we’ll talk about The strategy to a successful online marketing plan. A quality website that is written in one or more international languages is a must. This is the place where you have the most liberty in expressing your brand values. It’s what you say about your medical services. All of your advertising should bring the possible patients to your website. A poorly structured or designed website will make your online marketing campaigns inefficient.

To have high visibility online, especially in the medical niche, is a tough task, but it’s worth it. Online visibility is not just PageRank or SEO rating, but also how many web pages about your clinic there are in the web.

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Make your clinic ready for medical tourism – part 1

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shutterstock_113775325Any medical clinic manager would love to receive a steady flow of foreign patients that are in need of expensive surgery, but addressing medical tourists requires a different kind of marketing.

Medical tourism is a game changer

Typically, a person would think about seeking medical treatment in another country if by doing so, the price paid for the treatment would be less by more than 50% (according to a Delloite Report on US patients). As travelling to another country with a different is becoming more frequent and desirable, medical treatments are becoming globalized. The medical tourists are spending sums starting from 3000 $ for medical treatments. Wouldn’t you want to open up your clinic to medical tourism?

Patients needs and wants

Medical tourism has become more popular in the recent years with the help low-cost air flights and the growing of internet reach. However, many people are weary of being taken care of in a place they never visited before, situated 5000  km away from their home. The general worries are:

  1. Is it safe to undergo medical treatments in this clinic?
  2. What happens if something goes wrong?
  3. I have never been in this country before and I don’t know anyone here!

Whether your clinic is a good destination for medical tourists or not depends on how well you address these issues. Let’s take them one at a time.

  1. The quality of medical treatments

When making the decision to make a purchase one will take into account the perceived quality and the associated price. Very few patients close to none only look for the price. There are different factors that contribute to the clinic’s perceived quality:

  1. International Accreditations
  2. State of the art facility and equipment
  3. Experienced medical staff
  4. Statistical relevant data
  5. An established brand
  6. A strong presence in the media
  7. High-profile patients that can recommend your services and staff
  1. Dealing with eventual complications

The fact that your clinic has well defined procedures set in place for the possibility of complications will matter a lot. Even a 1% possibility that something might go wrong when being treated in another country, several thousand miles away from home, will trigger “What if” scenarios in one’s mind. Having post-op protocols with reputable medical clinics situated in the patients country is a big plus in addressing this concern as well as working with a medical tourism insurance company.

  1. Travel and accommodation assistance

The medical tourist’s primary concern is getting quality medical treatment. Traveling, getting around and searching for accommodation in a foreign place with a different culture will be seen as a major hurdle that not many will be willing to pass through on their own. Not one patient should in any circumstance feel lost or abandoned in a strange place! I cannot stress enough the importance of a likeable person that communicates constantly with the patient and takes care of all logistics. It’s very important to a patient to know that the process of traveling for medical care goes as smooth as possible. It may be added a sightseeing tour or something more exotic in order to make the trip more pleasant.

 

In the second part we’ll talk about Marketing channels that work and Building your brand:

Your clinic may be the best equipped, and have the best doctors, but if you don’t communicate this to your audience, you’ll have a hard time setting yourself apart from the others.

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Health Insurance Companies and Medical Tourism – how they work together

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The evolution of medical tourism over the past few years has been quite interesting. Initially, it was a health alternative that few understood, let even consider. As time went by, the effectiveness of medical tourism started becoming evident to all and currently, its popularity is on a steady increase.health insurance

Previously, medical tourism was associated with people who could not afford health insurance in their own countries or for people that were under-insured .The most logical option for them was to pay out of their own pockets for services they could afford. Most health insurance companies did not cover for medical tourism costs- this was not to last too long though, because in due time, these companies grew to support medical tourism as part of their covers. Several factors contributed to this change in policy including the growth of the medical tourism industry globally and the enactment of the healthcare reforms act or Obamacare in the US. Currently, the synchrony of health insurance companies and medical tourism has never been better.

There are numerous insurers that offer their clients medical tourism options. They cut across the array, from huge companies to the small scale insurers. Some of the companies include the following:

  • Global Protective Solutions
  • Seven Corners
  • Companion Global Healthcare
  • IndUShealth
  • Compass Benefits Group
  • Allianz Global Assistance
  • Medical Travel Shield
  • AllClear Treatment Abroad
  • Interhealth Technologies
  • P J Hayman: FREE SPIRIT

Subscribing to a health insurance cover for medical tourism brings with it a number of benefits. The cover is invaluable in safeguarding your medical travel investment and in order to be a beneficiary one has to accept the terms and conditions given by the insurance. Generally, there are no special requirements to subscribe, just an agreement with the insurance policies that vary from one insurer to another. The best approach is to link up with one and get to find out their specifications for potential clients interested in medical tourism.

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