Medical Tourism Facilitators
If you have spent any time researching medical tourism then you have probably stumbled
upon fancy websites that claim to arrange all the details of your medical trip.
Typically, they will have a list of hospitals and doctors in several destinations
along with information about the various medical procedures they promote. These
companies are usually referred to as “medical tourism facilitators”
or “healthcare facilitators,” and they function as intermediaries or
liaisons between patients and medical care providers.
Medical tourism facilitators can be found all over the Internet; however, it is
advisable that patients work with companies that are certified by organizations
such as the Medical Tourism Association™ or rated by the Better Business Bureau.
The Role of a Medical Tourism
Facilitator is Two-Fold:
- To educate potential patients about the various medical facilities and physicians
they are promoting; and
- To manage the flow of information and coordination of services between patients
What Services Do Medical Tourism Facilitators Provide?
The services they provide are designed to facilitate a smooth medical tourism process
for both patients and medical providers and usually include:
- Providing price quotes
- Arranging the transfer of medical records
- Coordinating video conference calls between patient and surgeon
- Collecting payment (not all facilitators do this)
- Arranging travel logistic services such as passports, flights, lodging and transportation
- Providing a main point of contact while the patient is at the hospital
- Following up with patients after they return home
Advantages of Using a Facilitator
• One Stop Shopping
The convenience of being able to choose and access information about a variety of
destinations, hospitals, procedures, and services at one location, instead of having
to contact each hospital piecemeal. Patients can visit a medical tourism facilitator’s
website and request a price estimate for a particular procedure from several different
hospitals or clinics, and then choose which provider better serves their needs and
budget. In addition, once they have made a decision on where to travel, the medical
tourism facilitator can usually take care of all their travel logistics such as
flights, lodging, and transportation.
• Established Relationships with International Hospitals
Medical tourism facilitators (at least in theory) have already done the groundwork
to make sure a patient’s chosen hospital and doctor are duly accredited and
licensed. Although not always the case, many have visited the hospitals and physicians
they are promoting and already have a system in place to make the medical tourism
process safe and smooth.
• Language and Cultural Barriers are Minimized
If you are traveling from overseas, contacting some hospitals can be challenging
due to time zone differences, language barriers, and cultural differences. As shown
above, medical tourism facilitators already have the right contacts and a tried
and true process in place with their network of hospitals. Additionally, patients
can often choose facilitators located in their own country, assuring them that they
will be dealing with people who speak their own language and have a better understanding
of the obstacles they face in order to get from point A
to point B.
• Convenient Transfer of Medical Information
As relationships and systems are already in place, most medical tourism facilitators
have the ability to quickly transfer a patient’s medical information including
large image files such as CT’s and MRI’s.
Disadvantages of Using a Facilitator
• Quality of Service May Vary Significantly from one Medical Tourism Facilitator
Medical tourism facilitators are popping up all over the Internet these days with
flashy websites promising they offer the best of everything. And even though people
may know that a beautiful website does not guarantee quality service, the Internet
has promoted a level playing field for a wide range of facilitator options that
may not always be in the patient’s best interest. Some facilitators simply
do not have the skill, experience, resources or relationships to provide a quality
medical tourism experience. Unfortunately, this is not always easily discernable
to a patient looking at a website or speaking to someone on the phone.
• There may be a Bias towards Certain Hospitals or Destinations
Obviously medical tourism facilitators do not have the time or resources to visit
every destination or work with thirty different international hospitals. They must
choose wisely from a limited number – always described as “the best”.
Naturally, patients will be directed to these hospitals and not others – even
if they aren’t necessarily the best hospitals for their particular needs.
• Using an Intermediary Increases the Possibility of Miscommunication or Errors
Though perhaps not a big concern in most people’s minds, using an intermediary
will always increase the risk of an error or misinformation occurring between the
patient and the hospital. Something as seemingly innocuous as mistaking kilos for
pounds in a medical tourism patient’s weight information, could lead to the
surgery being postponed or even cancelled.
• The Potential for Paying a Higher Price
Medical tourism facilitators offer a lot of convenience but do need to make their
money somewhere. This will usually come from a hospital commission, service charge
(concierge fee), or both. One way or another, these fees do have a way of trickling
down to the patient no matter what the medical tourism facilitator or hospital may
In the final analysis each patient will have to weigh the pros and cons of working
with a facilitator. If you have an independent streak and are an experienced traveler
then you may do well coordinating your care on your own. If, on the contrary, you
need some hand-holding or are rushed for time, then you will probably want the help
of a facilitator.
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