Choose medical tourism reality, not the promotional hype

If you want a ‘head in the clouds’ view of the medical tourism sector, then you’ll believe some people’s claims that the sector is experiencing exponential growth. What makes IMTJ different is that we’re not afraid to publish content that describes the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s happening in global medical travel. It’s often not the kind of picture that others in the sector want to paint.

A few weeks back, I was forwarded an email promotion with a subject line of ‘Medical Tourism Doesn’t Stink’, and claiming ‘Get Your Head Out of the Sand – The Medical Travel Business is Growing’.

For many years, medical tourism ‘hype’ has been a challenge for the sector. Many of the claimed statistics on volume and value and the exaggerated price comparisons that I see repeated in conference presentations across the world derive from unsupported claims of industry growth and dubious cost comparisons that don’t reflect reality.

If you read some of the publications that have appeared to promote the sector, you’ll get a picture of medical tourism that’s seen through rose tinted spectacles. In some publications, you’ll struggle to find anything negative about the sector.

So, do these publications provide a fair reflection of what’s going on in the industry? If they do, then the industry must be experiencing exponential growth….another term that you’ll see on medical tourism conference slides.

It’s probably fair to say that if you want a head in the clouds view of the medical tourism sector, that’s fine if your aim is to ‘big up’ the industry, or you’re looking to promote your destination, hospital or clinic through (paid-for advertorial) in magazines.

What makes IMTJ different?

So, what makes IMTJ different? Does IMTJ have its head in the sand or in the clouds? Or does it present the more honest picture of what’s going on in medical travel and tell it like it really is?

One thing that makes us different is that we’re not afraid to publish content that describes the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s happening in medical travel. And sometimes we offend people! But if this business sector is going to make progress, there’s a lot that we need to improve on. When medical tourism goes wrong, when patients and consumers suffer at the hands of hospitals and clinics that aren’t up to scratch, we need to highlight those shortcomings, learn from them and put things right.

And when it comes to data on the size and growth of the medical travel market, let’s say we’re born sceptics when it comes to analysing the data that we see published by destinations, associations and healthcare providers.

What’s the reality?

We’ll shortly be publishing our latest report on the global medical travel market: “Medical Tourism Facts and Figures 2018”

I’ve just read all 894 pages.

Here are some snippets, some medical travel ‘did you knows?’

  • “The EU Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) produced a research paper in 2017 on health tourism in the 28 EU countries. It states that health tourism will develop at an average 2% growth per year”
  • “According to the World Travel Monitor by IPK International, the world population undertook 11.4 million international health and medical trips, a market share of 1.4% on all outbound trips worldwide. 70% was health and wellness tourism and spa holidays. 30% was for medical treatment, care and rehabilitation. That makes 3.4 million medical tourists and 8 million health/wellness/spa tourists.”
  • “According to Euromonitor International, by 2022, China will be the world’s largest source of outbound tourism demand, with 128 million trips.”
  • A European Commission report on the implementation of the EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare states:

    A- “Most countries had less than 100 prior authorisation requests in 2015 with only half authorised. Luxembourg had the highest number of authorised requests at 253.”

    B- “On requests for treatment not subject to prior authorisation, Belgium and Denmark each had over 30,000 requests and the top two countries for treatment were Germany and Spain”

It may not be the kind of picture that others in the sector want to paint but we’ve found that the medical tourism market is a very mixed picture.

If, for example, you’re planning to target the outbound medical travellers from the Gulf markets, then I suggest that you subscribe to the IMTJ Country Profiles before you make that decision. You may be surprised by the direction in which those outbound markets are going.

And if you want to understand what’s really going on in the global healthcare market, then the Medical Tourism Facts and Figures 2018 report will certainly give you some valuable insight to guide your strategy.

So neither a ‘head in the sand’ nor a ‘head in the clouds’ approach makes sense if you want to succeed in medical tourism. Contact IMTJ, and we’ll help you keep your feet on the ground.

Previous articleMediclinic shares tumble as it warns of drop in earnings
Next articleHousing with care a legal view
Keith Pollard
As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.