Five things you can do in a medical travel hiatus

If you’re involved in the medical travel business, then the coming months are going to be very difficult. With the closing down of borders and the restrictions on travel, medical tourism is on hold.

For some agencies, facilitators and small-scale international patient departments, this may mean the end of their ambitions and the possible closure of their business. If the restrictions on travel are limited to a few months, then businesses may be able to survive by laying off staff and reducing expenditure to the minimum. If the suspension of travel extends to six months or even more, then business owners may be looking to exit the sector.

So, what does that mean for those who are in it for the long term? What can they do during the hiatus to ensure that they come out of the medical tourism downturn equipped to rapidly grow their business.

Medical travel will recover. Demand may come back stronger post-COVID. In many countries, public health systems are being overwhelmed by the battle against COVID and diverting resources to deal with the challenges. Operations are being cancelled. People are being made to wait longer for routine procedures. Once COVID is history, there will be bottled up demand for treatment, that domestic healthcare systems may not be able to meet. Medical travel may become a more popular option.

1. Work on your strategy

We know why many medical tourism businesses fail. They don’t have a strategy or they have a strategy that hasn’t been thought through. So, now is the ideal time to think about:

  • What do we sell?
  • Where do we sell it?

A common error in developing a strategy for medical tourism is to be too ambitious – to try to be “all things to all people”. You need to match your capabilities with the needs and requirements of your target markets. Success in medical tourism is about targeting and exploiting a profitable niche: each niche may require a different approach. Some market niches may be right for online marketing, some may be accessible through agencies and facilitators, some may require a local presence to deliver success.

2. Gain a better understanding of the market

How well do you understand the medical tourism market? LaingBuisson has recently published two reports that can help to guide your strategy.

  • Medical Travel & Tourism Global Market Report
    This report sheds light on the complex nature of medical travel and tourism. It examines which countries are doing well and badly; who is going where and why; what treatments they are seeking; and how political, economic, social and technological changes are impacting the market. It cuts through the hype surrounding medical tourism and challenges the statistics claimed by some destinations.
  • IMTJ Medical Tourist Survey
    The report which surveys the views of over 1,000 medical tourists provides insight into the nature of medical tourists – who they are, where they are from, why they travel, what they spend and what they think of the customer and patient experience

Drop me a line at LaingBuisson, and I’m sure we can come up with a discounted price for the purchase of both reports.

3. Gain a better understanding of your customers

Much of the world is on lockdown. Families are confined to their homes. People are looking for ways to fill their time. So, the ideal time to call every patient whom you dealt with in the last six months to find out how they are and what they really thought of their experience of your services. Make it a conversation not a survey. Ask them some simple questions:

  • Why did they choose your service/hospital/clinic rather than another?
  • What was great about the experience… and what was not so great?
  • What could you do better to enhance the patient experience?

Learn from their feedback and put the lessons into practice.

4. Take a long hard look at your marketing

When did you last take a really good at your web site? Put yourself in the patient/site visitor’s shoes. Now’s the time to give it some serious thought, redesign, redevelop and rewrite the content.

  • Does it get across the message that you want to get across?
  • Does it clearly demonstrate your Unique Value Proposition? Are you clear in your own mind what your UVP is?
  • What do your competitors’ web sites say? How do they compare to yours?
  • How easy is it for the visitor to take action? To submit an enquiry or to access prices?
  • Does it work on multiple devices – iPhones, iPads, Android devices?

5. Take a long hard look at your customer communication

How you communicate via email and in print forms a significant part of how the potential and existing customer thinks about your service.

  • Go back through the last 50 patient enquiries that you received. How well were they handled by your team? Did your team answer the questions that the patient posed? What was the tone of the response? Did it reflect your business’s values and beliefs? How many enquiries turned into business?
  • Did you communicate with patients once they went home? In the IMTJ Medical Tourist Survey, 27% of patients received no communication from the hospital or clinic after they had returned home. Less than one in five received a phone call from the hospital or clinic. As a couple of patients surveyed said:

    A- “They could have made contact to see how I was doing”.
    B- “The follow up has been terrible.  They don’t actually care about the patient after the treatment. The ISO 9001 means nothing and is only a sales tactic.”
    C- “Aftercare seems to disappear once paid and you have left the country.”

There’s plenty of things you can do to improve your business and plenty of time over the coming months to review your strategy, your marketing, your customer communication, your business processes and your communication.

Take the time and spend it well. When medical tourism bounces back, make sure your business is primed and ready to go.