Houston becoming a medical tourism destination. Once best known as the Texas home of America’s space programme, Houston is now attracting an estimated 20,000 medical tourists a year. The Texas Medical Center recently initiated a study of how much medical tourism business currently comes to Houston, to help it a plan to further build its name recognition abroad. A few years ago it had many national and international medical tourists, but recession, poor marketing and competition from nearby Mexico hit numbers hard.
Houston becoming a medical tourism destination.
Once best known as the Texas home of America’s space programme, Houston is now attracting an estimated 20,000 medical tourists a year.
The Texas Medical Center recently initiated a study of how much medical tourism business currently comes to Houston, to help it a plan to further build its name recognition abroad.
A few years ago it had many national and international medical tourists, but recession, poor marketing and competition from nearby Mexico hit numbers hard.
For the last two years it has been rebuilding the business, particularly as the drugs war on the borders that has claimed 40,000 lives is frightening people off Mexico.
The plan for Texas Medical Center is to be a global healthcare destination. It wants to increase the number of affiliations around the world with foreign hospitals, medical schools and private companies, It is also setting up offices abroad to build name recognition and attract patients.
Texas always claims to have the biggest of everything, so it is no surprise to find The Texas Medical Center (TMC) claiming to be the largest medical complex in the world. TMC includes 21 hospitals, 13 support organizations, eight academic and research institutions, six nursing programmes, three public health organizations, three medical schools, two universities, two pharmacy schools, and a dental school. It attracts a staggering 7.4 million people every year; more than the combined populations of Los Angeles, Houston, and San Francisco. There are 7000 patient beds and 171,000 annual surgeries. It performed the first successful heart transplant in the USA and has performed the most heart surgeries globally.
At present there is no unified advertising or marketing campaign, but after recent decisions for joint efforts on many topics, this will change. Many of the hospitals currently market individually, having created international patient centres and hotel-like luxury hospital suites to attract international patients. While common for websites to be in English and Hispanic, some hospitals have gone further and offer other languages such as Arabic.
International patients sometimes bring their families, lease apartments and hotel rooms and stay in the Houston area several months for surgery, treatment and follow-up care. Most are cash customers so provide $ millions to hospitals and the local economy, Hospitals like them as they pay more than Medicare, Medicaid or private insurers.
With 17 international airlines flying to Houston, TMC is a convenient destination for patients too ill to wait hours for layovers, and one hospital even has its own fleet of six medical helicopters.
It is estimated that for every $1 a Houston medical tourist spends on medical care, accommodation, travel, food, entertainment and the like has at least a $2 effect on the economy by generating business and jobs.
3,000 international patients seek treatment at Houston Methodist annually. Half have international insurance coverage. The rest pay cash or have cover through their embassies. The hospitals’ international centres assist with medical appointments, travel arrangements and hotel and apartment leasing. M.D. Anderson gets 1800 international patients annually seeking second opinions and treatment options. Half pay cash. 25% are insured. The rest carry embassy- or employer-sponsored coverage. M.D. Anderson’s reputation for groundbreaking treatments and research has spread mainly because of the cancer centre’s relationships with facilities in Turkey, Spain and Brazil.
Citizens of Mexico and Saudi Arabia make up the majority of international patients. In part, this is because of medical and business connections established by Houston Methodist Hospital, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Hermann Health System in those countries.
Medical care may be much cheaper in Mexico but TMC argues that it has no intention of getting into a price war, and says it will maintain an edge because of its international reputation for innovative, quality care provided by leading doctors.