Monday, December 6, 2010


I HAVE SPOKEN AT A NUMBER OF Med-Spa shows on this subject and found that that there is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding on what it is and who can take advantage of this new trend? First let us just understand clearly that there is a difference between wellness tourism and Medical Tourism. Wellness is generally associated with destinations offering spa and a variety of programs that will enhance wellbeing. Medical Tourism is a purely medical opportunity to receive medical services of many kinds while sometimes combining it with a vacation, but often only for the purpose of having access at Medical procedures at either a lower cost from what can be found at home or /and in a more agreeable environment and with better services or to have access to procedures that are not offered in one’s country.

At most of the venues where this subject is discussed we find that many medical organizations or individual doctor’s group try to explain the phenomenon through a medical filter only. They would like us to think that their quality of care is so exceptional that what Medical Tourism is all about, is for them to set up their own medical practices in foreign lands that are tax friendly, less regulatory and as in the case of the North American continent where liability suits are not the National pastime! If indeed these facts are real, they overlook the main issue: from the customer’s point of view: the cost and, but mostly the quality of Service is the main reason for them to choose to seek medical cares outside of their own country. To export what exists at home to make more money would only be possible if everything else were equal! I will not dwell in the relative quality of medical savvy as in most cases the actual medical intervention whether it is cosmetic, surgery, orthopedic surgery or even cardiology or dentistry, most doctors involved have basically the same training and are for the most part equally competent.
So where is the difference? It is predominantly in the pre and mostly the post surgical care found. The quality of expertise and service in hospitals in the U.S. is less than mediocre; it is not so great in Europe! Quite good in small countries in the middle East, North Africa, Central and South America, quite good in Asia.

As Medical Tourism and Wellness Tourism are becoming a hot ticket in the Healthcare debate, it might be a good time to reassess the status quo and in trying to deal with new givens that will ultimately have a great impact on the future of health and wellness. First, it is advisable to be honest about the quality of services offered! It is not a sound idea to continue to pretend to be the best! When in fact the US Medical services were ranked 37th in the world on the last comparative evaluation done by the World Health Organization, this was in 2001, other comparative studies places the U.S at 82nd., nothing to brag about! After that report came out the AMA backed by the Pharmaceutical industry pressure the international body not to continue to report on the comparative value of healthcare services in the world! Surely it was embarrassing to have Cuba in the top 5 while little countries like San Marino, or Andorra were in the top three! But to be in denial has never been the answer to solving any problems, and the day of reckoning is fast approaching and Medical Tourism will be one of the catalysts that will make it happen. As medical services are becoming dehumanized, the dissatisfaction of the consumers will grow and soon they will no longer be afraid to travel to foreign lands to find what they will not have at home: Warm, Personalized care, with a smile! at 1/10th. the cost of what can be found at home!

And of course there is the whole cost issue! It has totally gone out of control! The industry has become the cash cow of Pharmaceutical companies, supported by trade unions and litigation lawyers in the U.S. How long will the consumers accept to be raped and abused by people whose sole interest in life is financial gains at the expense of anything else? The internet information highway among others has brought information to the people; no one can justify today costs of 10 to 20 times higher for the same product! When consumers begin to realize this, they will in my opinion not turn the other cheek, but simply turn to other options.

Yes Medical Tourism is going to be a very hot ticket, but not for countries like The U.S, Canada, the U.K. etc. and, what will happen with Medical Tourism is already happening in Wellness when we analyze the results of surveys done in Asia and North Africa among foreign spa goers, who cite clearly their preference for spas in these countries over what they have at home, mostly based on SERVICE quality, but also on technical deliveries (particularly: massages) which we all know represent some 80% of treatments requested at spas worldwide.