By Adel Eldin, M.D. MBA. Brooksville Cardiology, Tampa, FL and Frederick J. DeMicco, Ph.D. Professor, Northern Arizona University
Medical Tourism and Medical Travel can bring patient/guests to the hotels throughout many healthcare destinations around the United States. One model is Florida Medical Tourism (FMT) (https://floridamedicaltourism.com/), a Global Hub for Medical Tourism Services for inbound, outbound, and domestic clients. Florida Medical Tourism is important for the economy of Florida and offers great opportunities. See Figure 1 below.
Florida is one of the most visited destination in the World with more than 130 million visitors annually in 2019. Similarly, there is an increasing trend for outbound Medical Tourism seeking more affordable, accessible healthcare compared with US prices. Now, many employers in America have fully adopted Medical Tourism as a cost containing measure, as they will pay for the travel and the cost of the needed surgery or treatment and still save big. The Hotel to Healthcare (H2H) trend is likely to increase with the globalization of healthcare as patients shop globally for the best services and prices. This is a benefit for lodging near the medical facilities to host these patient/guests in hotels, which can offer a competitive advantage to these businesses.
Figure 1 Example of a Hotel to Healthcare (H2H) Lodging Opportunity
There are various factors affecting increased demand for medical tourism
Globalization of healthcare, unique medical advances and therapies, the aging global population, and the millennial seeking care (Florida Tax Watch, 2014). Other key factors that contribute to this demand also include employers seeking cost-saving on healthcare for their employees (Hunter, 2018; DeMicco, F.J., 2016; DeMicco and Pizam, 2019). Florida presents a growing market segment as many medical meetings and conferences are hosted during warm winter months. Florida is also a great location for Health and Wellness seekers all year round (Armstrong, 2015). The Sunshine Factor in Florida, which promotes healing after surgery and prevents postoperative depression as well as the great hospitality industry (restaurants, hotels, entertainment, sporting events such as spring training, etc.) to be combined with health and wellness for synergy. Florida has many natural attractions with parks; beaches, trails, springs, and many festivals constitute a strong Florida Tourism market. Now travelers can combine the Wellness Tourism Program with executive physicals and educational conferences to boost Medical Tourism in Florida. Most importantly, it can also be a center for rehabilitation services. A Florida Medical Tourism Bill was passed by the Florida Legislature to promote surgery and procedures in the Sunshine State. Florida Medical Tourism (FMT) is offering a new innovative Wellness Tourism Service that addresses the growing opioid crisis use for pain management. Pain has a significant negative impact on individual, community as it leads to depression, some cases suicide, financial and mental stress, and huge economic tool by lost productivity, cost of physical, and treatment of patients (Clarke et al., 2016). Evaluating the current approaches to pain management (mostly caused by degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis which can coexist with obesity).
Facts of Medical Tourism and Travel
- 80% of the demand for medical travel is driven by cost savings (Bruns, 2015)
- Over 35 million American adults will be contacted by a collection agency for unpaid medical bills (American College of Cardiology, 2019)
- 15 million adults will use up all savings to pay medical bills (American College of Cardiology, 2019)
- 10 million insured American will be unable to pay bills (Masterson, 2019)
- 25 million Americans will not be able to pay for their medications (American College of Cardiology, 2019)
- Half of Americans with insurance are unable to pay medical bills (Masterson, 2019)
- The global market for medical tourism is about 30-80 billion dollars a year with a growth rate of 15-25% per year. This model also shows that the average savings are from 20-90% with an average stay of about one week. (Hunter, 2018)
Solutions offered by Florida Medical Tourism for Medical and Wellness Tourism
Leveraging the impact of telemedicine for many medical and wellness tourism services such as honest second opinion, remote monitoring and development of mobile app to collect all aspects and services related to medical wellness tourism such as leisure, activities, restaurants, hotels, resorts, hospitality, transportation services, and translation services.
A new Rehabilitation Wellness Tourism Service from Florida Medical Tourism is to help patients overcome opioid use, which is affecting a great portion of the U.S. population. To be able to help all those who are suffering from medical conditions causing pain such as degenerative arthritis and inflammatory and connective tissue diseases. By using innovative approaches for non-pharmacologic therapies to treat the opioid epidemic.
There is also a potential for added benefit to getting a tax credit for the therapeutic part of the trip based on their established medical condition and their clear wish to rid themselves of opioids and provides a natural alternative to help relieve pain effectively.
Wellness Tourism Program
The wellness tourism program provides guests/patients with a complete physical exam along with tourism activities and services. The following is the description of the “medical” services the portion that the patient will receive (as previously noted, the patient will receive their physical exam results on a flash drive [Electronic Medical Records] so that they can share it with any of their medical provider):
Comprehensive cardiovascular exam – will include exercise stress test and 2D echocardiogram to assess the function of the heart muscles and valve function (and 12 lead electrocardiogram included)
- Wellness blood work
- Complete blood count
- Thyroid function test
- Fasting lipid profile
- Complete metabolic panel
- Liver function test
- Prostatic specific Antigen (to screen for prostatic cancer for males – when indicated)
- Screening Mammography (for women when indicated)
The following is the description of the “tourism” activities and services portion that the patient/guest will receive as part of the FMT (999 WTP):
- Coordination of travel arrangements – “Medical Travel Concierge” (hotel, airfare, and car rental).
- Escort/Driver with some sightseeing and travel to and from their nearby hotel to our medical center.
- One Single-day pass (per patient) to Busch Gardens in Tampa.
Conclusions and Implications
The increasing demand for quality healthcare and affordable pricing has attracted many employers to offer out-of-State coverage ideally delivered in Florida with an average of 20-40% savings for employers (Kacik, 2019). Similarly, there is expected to be a global competition with emerging Medical Tourism markets in Asia and The Middle East such as Dubai and Egypt through JCI-Accredited Hospitals (Joint Commission International) with well-established a set of standards to be met when certifying a global hospital or a medical facility. With the expected increase in the Baby Boomer population, there is increased opportunity. This is an additional important factor for the increased demand for Medical Tourism as they are expected to reach 61 million by the year 2030 and about 220 million baby-boomers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia who will need expensive medical treatment and care (Williams, 2016). The younger generation provides demand for medical tourism as well. 2010 the study showed 81% of travelers are below 50 years of age (Florida Tax Watch, 2014).
Florida Medical Tourism (FMT) with local Lodging properties, will continue to attract and serve patient/hotel guests in the Inbound, Outbound, and Domestic markets while making a strategic partnership with other healthcare providers and hotels both locally and globally. It is an ecosystem with all other complementary services such as lodging, hospitality, transportation, food, entertainment, language translation, Medical Concierges, and other necessary services. Florida Medical Tourism aligns with the economic health of Florida and its future competitiveness in the medical tourism and medical travel industry. The Florida model can also be a template for other states interested in this growing Medical Tourism/Travel H2H model.
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