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Medical Tourism 2.0

Originally published in SaludPanama Magazine by Luis Santamaria

I am going to call "Medical Tourism 2.0" the wave of activity, business, negotiations and experiences in general that we will have around Medical Tourism during the coming years. And yes, it is a whole new mechanics and market reengineering that we all have the opportunity to not only embrace as our own, but to take advantage of strategically. I explain a little more about what it is about, below.

The first thing is that we have lived and understood the notion of Medical Tourism widely over the last two decades in various locations in Latam. Panama had an excellent representation, given that our doctors, private hospitals and of course our main source of market information, SaludPanama.com (complemented by HealthPanama.com), stood up for a powerful presentation in the competitive arena. Likewise, business clusters in Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Argentina, among others, spoke clearly about their local offers.

But what changed to the point that we have to add a 2.0?

Between before and after the evolutionary change in Medical Tourism for our region, the main difference is that the managers of this industry understood that the idealization of the target or commercial target was one of the first and most costly mistakes made in the first stage. , and that in this second stage, reaching this target adequately will represent radical changes in business culture, communication and market paradigms, and investment based on the fulfillment of objectives rather than on pure brand presence.

To summarize that idea, let's say that in Medical Tourism 1.0, between 2001 and 2021, it assumed that its commercial targets were basically fruits that hung very low and were there only to be taken, as if they were simply going to fall from the sky on our businesses. for the simple fact that we announced ourselves. There were many businessmen who decided, for example, that due to the fact that an economy like that of the United States of America was much larger than that of Panama, this would mean that many patients in the USA would prefer to be treated in Panama strictly to lower costs. , and that we could achieve great economic results not only as clinics or hospitals but also as a country. But ignoring other reasons for traveling for medical and health reasons, the commercial risks and even the corruption to which this market can lend itself, resulted in many disappointments and great losses.

Meanwhile, in Medical Tourism 2.0 we understand that commercial targets are untapped veins of casuistry, and needs that have not been able to be met by local suppliers, which require not only that we venture into their search, but that we send the best we have to look for them, including a trained, diplomatic and human sales force, and a communication strategy that delivers our commercial health message across borders, without causing friction with regulatory issues or with our peers in the target territories. In this way, now Honduras, for example, can find types of cases available to raise the level of results to be obtained by the patient in Guatemala. And Costa Rica can offer Honduras optional boutique-type services that enhance the experience of patients who are financially able to purchase them. Business creativity is the only limit for these scenarios.

In this new stage, each of our small nations is, in some percentage, the commercial target of each of the others. The levels of specialization in cardiological treatments for infants in one territory can be much higher than in another, due to the type of investment that the second has in this area, the specific casuistry of its populations, among many other factors. The same happens with aesthetic treatments, major orthopedic surgeries including joint replacements and lengthening and reconstruction of limbs, etc.

Another important feature of Medical Tourism 2.0 is the ability to package and concentrate each service to the point that with pure diagnosis we can give the patient and their insurer a precise price that includes travel and transportation costs, provision of the medical service, optimal time. recovery and possible subsequent expenses. Left behind in this new stage are the desperate intentions to include in the costs unreal tourist experiences that should never have been part of an industry whose goal is to serve medicine to the consumer. That "Medical Tourism is not Tourism" is, in a post-pandemic world and with such radical changes in its economic polarity, takes on a whole new meaning.

The reality is that success in Medical Tourism 2.0 will not necessarily be defined by the ultra quality of the services to be delivered, which should be the minimum from which we work. What is really going to define who is crowned leader of the pack is going to be sales capacity, access to other markets, branding and quality communications. Whoever can talk to foreign patients more efficiently, convincingly and vehemently, both in distant and neighboring territories, will have the upper hand and swimming against this current will be a cause of social loss. It is not the first time that this type of cultural change occurs, and it will not be the last, but this change will define the way in which Latin Americans choose with whom, where and how much we are going to have a medical procedure performed, and that may be due to sure.
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