Medical Tourism Market Research

Medical Tourism is a growing industry worldwide due to the increase in health treatment costs in home countries, the globalization of the healthcare industry and increasing access to skilled medical workers worldwide. Countries in Emerging Markets are prioritizing this industry to attract medical tourists and boost exports of advanced service industries such as healthcare, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

Medical Tourism is defined as the process of traveling outside the country of residence to receive medical care. Although many identify medical tourism as people who travel from wealthy countries to developing countries to receive cheaper medical care, the process also applies to the opposite situation in which people from less developed countries travel to rich economies to perform operations not easily provided in their home countries.

SIS analyzes all the potential opportunities that this way of working brings and how potential customers and providers can prosper and enhance treatments.

About the Medical Tourism Market

Medical Tourism is present in almost all countries around the world. For example, US residents travel to Mexico, Canada, or the countries of Central, and South America for cheaper healthcare, while Europeans travel outside the EU or between countries where prices are lower.

Some of the most popular destinations are Cuba, Greece, Thailand, Korea and Serbia because their doctors and specialists are among the best in the world.

The most common reasons why people travel to another country for medical care are:

  1. Price (many people travel to other countries because they cannot afford medical insurance on their own or because the procedure costs are way above their budget, so we can conclude that this is the main reason for medical tourism)
  2. The legality of service (some health services such as abortion or euthanasia are forbidden by law in some countries, but not in all of them)
    Cultural differences (a lot of immigrants want to be treated in their country of origin, because of their religious beliefs)
  3. Access to experimental procedures
  4. Access to enhanced quality of care

Among the procedures people decide to go to another country are (but are not limited to): fertility treatments (e.g. surrogacy, IVF, and assisted reproductive technologies), organ transplantations, plastic surgery, dental care, and experimental cancer treatments.

Customer Journey Market Research can uncover numerous sources of competitive advantage in the Medical Tourism sector. Customers face numerous benefits and risks in medical tourism and the stakes can be high. Before patients decide to have their procedure done in a foreign country, they often conduct comprehensive in-person and online research to pick the right facility, treatment and medical provider for his or her needs. As these decisions can be outside their domestic medical establishments, the online research that patients conduct is important in their decision making. Furthermore, people who opt for medical tourism often exhaust all available medical treatment options in their home country so they can be a vulnerable group requiring information about benefits and risks. Market Research provides the insight for Medical Tourism providers to better serve potential patients.

The most common complications of medical tourism include:

  1. Diseases and risk of infections – from procedure complications (wound or donor-derived infections) to infectious diseases if a person travels to faraway countries
  2. Resistance to antibiotics – this is a relatively rare risk, but every medical tourist needs to be aware of it
  3. Problems with communication – only registered facilities can provide staff with advanced knowledge of the English language or the patient’s native language, which is essential for proper care
  4. Air travel – if patients fly right away after the surgery, they are at high risk of blood clots or other travel risks, so it is advisable to wait at least 10-14 days before heading back home

Understanding the Medical Tourism Industry

Medical tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is spread worldwide and experts believe it will continue to grow at a rapid pace. Medical tourism market research can illuminate customer segments, treatment opportunities, customer journey challenges and other sources of advantage.

Numerous stakeholders operate in the Medical Tourism market and can influence decision making:

  • Patients
  • Indirect Patients (e.g. spouses and children, referring physicians)
  • Physicians
  • Medical Tourism facilitators and logistical coordination agencies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • BioTechnology companies
  • Medical Tourism Clinics
  • Governments supporting Medical Tourism
  • Medical Tourism associations

Medical Tourism agencies work much like travel agencies in that they book trips with patients’ passports and arrange medical care for them.

The main difference between these agencies and classic travel agencies is that they serve as a mediator between medical tourists and health facilities. Their brochures, instead of vacation offers show health care providers’ offers regarding health services they offer.

Market Research can uncover insight into ways the Medical Tourism industry can make the process more patient-friendly and inform stakeholders about risks:

  • Pre-travel consultation, including examining the medical history and recommendation of health facilities all around the world specialized in treating specific conditions.
  • Obtaining travel insurance for the country in which asked procedure will be done
  • Organizing the whole journey with accommodation and pre and post-op tours
  • Translate all needed medical records and support files and provide a person who speaks the local language to help medical tourists get the proper care
  • Calculate the total budget for the whole trip and present the client with the most cost-effective solution
  • Organize aftercare in the case of more serious surgeries that include transplantations and high-risk procedures.

Medical Tourism Pricing Research

Medical Tourism Market Research may uncover a high demand and low sensitivity to pricing given how Medical Tourism can provide life improving benefits. At the same time, Medical Tourism research could uncover insights into price sensitivity. The cost of living in some countries can be much lower and that can impact patient decision making and choices of Medical Tourism destinations.

Patients can also be sensitive to perceived hidden costs such as travel fares, hotel/hostel stays, rental car costs, expenses for food and drinks, sightseeing fares, and other fees. Sometimes, medical tourist travel with one or more friends or family members, so the costs of their travel and stay need to be understood as well.

Why is Medical Tourism Growing?

Many companies are interested in medical tourism as a way to attract investment, to develop local healthcare industries and to lower costs for patients. Many countries promote medical tourism for national growth and development goals and for export promotion.

Many institutions are increasingly deciding to give accreditation to healthcare facilities specialized in medical tourism.

Numerous opportunities may exist such as:

  • Improving treatments
  • Creating international networks of medical facilities for health tourism
  • Boosting innovation and Research and Development (R&D)
  • Improving the patient experience and customer journey
  • Simplifying the process
  • Addressing regulatory challenges
  • Speeding up Time To Market (TTM)
  • Understanding barriers to consumption
  • Understanding sources of demand
  • Understanding reactions to advertisements and informational materials
  • Building awareness

About Medical Tourism Market Research

SIS International Research has nearly 40 years experience in conducting healthcare market research. We conduct Qualitative, Quantitative and Strategy Research. Key methods include surveys, Focus Groups, online communities, product testing, opinion research and advertising research. Contact us for your next Medical Tourism Market Research project.

Contact us for your next Market Research and Strategy Consulting Project.

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