Medical tourism has taken a dive. That has been established in length. The Sars-CoV-2 pandemic has led to a restriction in travel and immense selectivity in hospital operations. Many have prescribed ways out of the situation medical tourism destinations and hospital providers find themselves in. And while there were actions to be taken to curb the damage incurred, there are little to no things to be done to continue treating international patients at this point.
However, this does not mean hospitals can not continue to provide value. I have before elaborated on the positive effect of personal and direct outreach to former and current patients can have in the short and long term. Maintaining a direct line of communication, letting patients know they can count on your ongoing support is important. There are ways to build on that. Teleconsultations for international patients is the way to go.
As a consultancy, we identify issues hospitals and patients are facing and provide solutions to these issues. The current and probably biggest industry challenge right now is how to keep up medical tourism and cross-border-healthcare activities despite lockdowns and restrictions on travel.
While I am confident in our abilities we can't do magic. We can't make the lockdowns and travel restrictions disappear. We can however offer a way out, that does not necessitate a way in: Teleconsultations.
Offering chosen digital health services that provide value to the patient is the way to go. The patients who once visited and wanted to visit your hospital and medical travel destination are still there. They are, however, not able to travel. At the same time your team of experts is still present and their expertise at your disposal.
Looking at the benefits teleconsultations have for international patients and hospitals alike, there is a lot of positive impacts to be considered. Below you will find the shortened version of a table we drafted in a former project. (Figure 1)
While there is no shortage of digital health offers out there, the challenge is how to tailor them to your patients.
The goal of your telemedicine efforts should be the continuous provision of value and support as well as the satisfaction of short term requests and assessment of cases that can not be postponed. Offering peace of mind, especially in these trying times, goes a long way. It is not about replacing traditional medical tourism, it is about bridging the gap.
Speaking for hospitals and medical tourism facilitators alike you will need to start with auditing your medical tourism activities (in case you aren't doing so already on an ongoing basis). Amongst the information you should extract are the most sought for medical treatments, specialists, follow-up routines, and challenges. The whole set of information will flow into your strategic planning. Add to this the prospective changes that the teleconsultation will cause in the doctor-patient exchange.
Keep in mind that the technology you chose will directly impact the strategy and processes you will have to implement. There is plenty out there, the goal is to find the one that suits your organization.
If you are a medical travel facilitator or hospital, looking to offer teleconsultations to your patients, feel free to reach out to us for an initial assessment of your organization as well as the chances and risks of adding teleconsultations to your healthcare services.