Changing the focus from cost to trust & safety in medical travel
Affordable healthcare has long been the #1 reason that people have been attracted to medical travel. Treatments and procedures that are either too expensive or even unavailable in one’s home country are within reach of anyone willing to travel abroad.
However, patients’ preferences are changing. While cost is still a big factor for medical travelers, trust and safety have become even more important, and in many cases they have become the deciding factor.
ImagineHealth recognizes this, and we also recognize what’s right: Medical travelers deserve to be treated warmly like healthcare customers, not like they’re just another number for medical travel facilitators to add to their income statements.
The problem with focusing solely on medical travel costs
Low prices are no longer the unique selling points they once were in the medical travel industry. Practically every medical travel facilitator claims to deliver treatments and procedures at low prices. And although there are price differences between the various healthcare providers and medical-travel programs, the margins are becoming smaller every year. And if everyone’s marketing strategy is based on patient savings, hospitals and clinics can’t set their services apart from their competitors.
For you, the medical traveler, prioritizing cost over the quality of care you receive can lead to suboptimal outcomes. When patients go bargain hunting, they get what they pay for, and that usually means facilitators, travel agents, and even hospitals and clinics who are not above cutting corners. If something fails at any of those points — arranging your treatments, planning your travel, or undergoing your procedures — you are the one who suffers the consequences.
Let’s just linger on that last possible pitfall: Your doctor makes a mistake during the diagnosis or medical procedure, you have to endure a longer hospital stay, there is a higher risk of infection, you are out of pocket more money, your return travel gets delayed, and the whole experience is a dismal, costly, and potentially harmful one.
In fact, there have been a few horror stories of botched cosmetic surgeries from low priced healthcare providers abroad, which gives all of us involved in medical tourism a bad reputation. This is why patients are now looking beyond affordability when choosing a destination and provider for their healthcare journeys, and it’s why ImagineHealth exists.
Trust and safety as value propositions
Trust and safety are the new metrics by which medical travelers are evaluating destinations and the providers in those countries. This shift is largely due to increased awareness of the risks of going cheap and due to patients simply becoming more knowledgeable and sophisticated over time.
One obvious example would be the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised concerns about the safety of seeking care in certain countries. Many countries were slow to manage the pandemic, whether it was due to a lack of testing, delayed vaccine rollouts, or general opposition to wearing masks.
As a result, medical travelers were more cautious, thoroughly researching the safety practices and standards of their intended travel destinations.
Does the country have concrete policies to minimize COVID-19 transmission rates? Is the hospital they are scheduled to visit taking appropriate precautions through regular sanitation and vaccinations? How does the provider help patients achieve their health and wellness goals during a time of increased risk?
These are the questions medical travelers want answered before placing their trust in a healthcare provider that’s far away from home. And it is this kind of awareness on the part of patients that is motivating ImagineHealth to make medical travel better.
What does this mean for healthcare providers?
To build trust with patients abroad, healthcare providers must demonstrate that they are dedicated to safety and quality assurance. A world-renowned healthcare accreditation like one from Germany’s Temos International is the best way to show this commitment. It presents concrete evidence that a provider’s medical services meet industry best practices and that it has been recognised by the international community.
Providers must also be proactive in their marketing and communications. Instead of focusing solely on cost-savings, providers need to produce marketing materials that emphasize their commitment to safety and professionalism. These materials may include educational content about specific treatment options, video walkthroughs of patient care facilities, details on what to expect from arrival to discharge, and profiles of medical teams and their certifications.
Ultimately, medical travel is no longer about underbidding the competition to enlist new patients; it’s about building trust through safe, proven, and high-quality treatment.
At ImagineHealth, trust and safety are at the core of our services. We work with patients to understand their health and wellness goals, and connect them with the best healthcare facilities in Thailand. We also help hospitals and clinics promote their innovative services to an international community through accreditations and brand awareness campaigns. For more information, contact us today.