For decades, medical tourism facilitators have helped patients navigate the complex world of medical tourism. Despite the rapid growth of the industry, challenges still remain making it tough to navigate for those that aren’t frequent flyers. But thanks to the power of the internet, knowledge sharing has become far easier, which therefore begs the question- are medical tourism facilitators still required?
It is easy to see why this question must be posed. In the past, there was no easy way to obtain critical information such as the quality of a foreign healthcare centre, the credentials of the treating doctor, local laws and regulations, and of course the visa process. It meant those wishing to travel for healthcare had to rely on multiple different sources, from friends and family, to travel agents and government offices. To ease that burden, medical tourism facilitators became a key channel. Historically, doctors and travel agents have served as facilitators, but over the past few decades, there has been a rapid rise in the professionalisation of the service, so much so that there are now full-fledged companies.
That brings us to the current scenario. Medical tourism facilitators can often charge large service fees and have opaque functioning, which means patients have little clarity on what exactly they are signing up for. Thanks to the internet, that is not always the case anymore. Now, it is easy for a patient to look up information and be well-prepared, negating the role of medical tourism facilitators. The internet has democratised knowledge so much that it is easy for patients to challenge facilitators, and even act as facilitators themselves.
So does that mean medical tourism facilitation is a dying business? On the contrary, there has been no better time to be a medical tourism facilitator. At the heart of the matter is the internet. Social media and Google may have made information easier to access, but it has also made misinformation easy to spread. One Facebook post or tweet is all it takes to start a reaction, which can have severe consequences for travellers. Secondly, the large trove of information means it is often difficult to keep up with what is relevant, and most importantly the latest information. The internet is as much of a bane as it is a boon, which is exactly why medical tourism facilitators are needed.
The right medical tourism facilitator will not only have true knowledge, but also the latest information. It means they will guide medical tourists in the appropriate manner, ensuring the patient is best prepared for his journey. A good example of this is visa regulations. While it is common for governments to amend their visa policies, it is less common for them to make it easily accessible. Very few governments have transparent and clear guidelines posted on their website or social channels, meaning patients are often forced to rely on news channels which are keener to opine on the change, rather than inform on it. A facilitator’s job is to know these rules and inform their patients accordingly. It’s a job that is not easy but must be done.
Medical tourism facilitators can and must also ensure patients are taken care of during the entire process, not just the treatment. Flying to a new country is indeed stressful, but what makes it more so is not knowing how to go somewhere or where to go. The right facilitator will ensure patients are picked up, dropped off, and have every need taken care of. That way, patients can relax and focus on their recovery. This is not a luxury service that must be provided only to high-end tourists, but something all medical tourists must receive. It must become an industry standard, ensuring that all patients can travel stress-free. The same goes for the post-operative stage. Providing follow-up care is absolutely essential, which some patients may struggle to do. Facilitators can bridge that gap, and ensure patients recover fully, thereby completing the full medical tourism journey.
Finally, medical tourism facilitators can and must ensure that patients receive the best possible care. This is best achieved by companies, that have links to numerous doctors and hospitals, and can thus ensure that the right expert is handling the case. Too often, a patient may choose a hospital merely because his/her friend or family was treated there earlier. That does not mean the same hospital is apt for their case, a knowledge gap that medical tourism facilitators are best equipped to resolve. With their global network, they can ensure the right treatment option, so that the patient has the best chance of recovery.
Thanks to medical tourism, tourism industries globally are flourishing. However, there still remain large knowledge gaps that the internet cannot always answer. Patients must not be forced to scour the depths of the internet to get an answer, especially when they have a health condition that requires attention. For this very reason, medical tourism facilitators are a must. By putting themselves at the centre of the industry, they can safely, efficiently, and economically connect both travel and medical aspects, ensuring patients make the right decision with all the right information in front of them.