Is cost of care the only factor?

For many destinations and healthcare providers, attracting medical tourists is all about offering the lowest price. And for many patients, price is indeed a key determinant of choice… but certainly not the sole factor.
In setting a price level for medical tourists, the difficulty for the healthcare provider is knowing whether their price is attractive to patients in the markets that they are targeting. Few will undertake a detailed analysis of pricing levels in their target markets. Many will rely on the misleading price comparisons that are often quoted for common operations the target destinations on web sites and in conference presentations. What they really need is an understanding of how pricing operates in their target market and what the real prices are for patients and payors.

Pricing for hip replacement in the UK

Let’s take an example – the UK outbound medical tourism market. And let’s look at pricing levels for a common elective operation – total hip replacement. I’m going to use pounds sterling for the prices quoted (as that’s what I carry in my wallet!).
A quick search of the web comes up with various comparison prices for hip replacement in the UK, on sites aimed at medical tourists:

Source Quoted price for hip replacement price in the UK
Medical Tourism in India £7,950
Medical Travel Europe £8,850
Medical Tourism Corporation £25,000
Medicure 4 U £34,000

You see the problem. Four medical tourism sites using four different prices for a typical price for hip replacement in a UK hospital. Which of these is right? And how attractive are the medical tourism prices on offer if we don’t know what to compare with?

What does a hip replacement actually cost in the UK?

At Intuition Communication, we have just completed a detailed analysis of elective surgery prices in the UK private healthcare market. The Private Healthcare UK Self-Pay Market Study 2013 examined the prices on offer in the UK’s 200 or so private hospitals. Over 7,800 published prices were analysed.
In the UK, pricing for surgery is becoming more transparent, certainly since a a Competition Commission Investigation has started to take a close look at the UK private healthcare sector. Most private hospitals offer “Fixed Price Surgery” packages to self-pay patients. If a patient doesn’t have private health insurance or doesn’t want to take advantage of their right to free surgery under the National Health Service, then they can go to a private hospital and get a fixed price deal. This all-inclusive price will normally include:

  • Consultant and anaesthetists fees.
  • All hospital related costs – theatre, nursing, drugs and dressings.
  • Cost of the prosthesis.
  • Post surgery outpatient treatment.
  • Cost of treating complications that arise within 15 or 30 days.

Our recent pricing analysis shows the following prices for total hip replacement:

  • Highest price:£14,980 (Norfolk hospital)
  • Lowest price:£7,610 (Essex hospital)
  • Median price:£10,340
  • Average price:£10,385

As you can see, there’s quite an opportunity for domestic medical travel within the UK. A patient from Norfolk, could travel 100 miles from Norfolk to Essex and save over £7,000 on their hip replacement!