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Medical Tourism Facilitators

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 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 and providers.

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 to Another

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 say.

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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