Working in the medical tourism industry can be quite confusing sometimes. The statistics say that the industry is growing a lot annually, and there is some data that shows that there are millions of patients crossing their borders each year. Yet, many medical centers around the world find international customers lacking. To them, it seems that the available data on the industry is either skewed, or completely false. Many are thinking of giving up on the idea altogether. This is all because of the data analyzing practices in the medical tourism industry.
The problem here is that the data that is available and circling around is very unreliable. With each reiteration of the data, the numbers change and grow, with each presenter wishing to make the picture rosier than it actually is. This is mostly done in order to bring more medical centers into the game and to draw more customers, i.e. for advertising purposes.
However, facts are facts, and the realization of reality can be problematic for some. This calls for a need to gather and present reliable data. This data would show the true nature of the industry and present the opportunities for its future – a future based on facts.
Why is the data so important?
Many of you will wonder: “Why is this important to me? If the patients keep coming, why should I care about the relevancy of the data available?” This is a mistake.
No industry can be run without statistics and reliable data. Simply, reliable data is the solid basis on which all the business strategies and directives are thought of, directed, and implemented. It helps make decisions for the future and see what a business is doing right or wrong in the present.
But it does not only help businesses. A wide range of stakeholders could benefit from reliable data:
Governments can use it to:
- Benchmark and identify policies and strategies that need to be implemented to improve its medical industry
- Make investment decisions, and determine positioning, necessary infrastructure upgrades and overall effort for improving medical tourism.
Travel industry can use it to:
- Understand how countries are positioned as a medical tourism destination
- Identify the present and potential suitability of countries as a medical tourism destination
- Provide information to other travel providers (such as airlines, hotels, travel agents, etc.) on the most important destinations, so that they could adapt their services and products and become a part of the value chain.
Medical providers can use it to:
- Identify attractive destinations according to the different consumer segments
- Realize the medical tourism climate in their country
- See where they should push for improvement on the national level
- Understand what they have to build on
Academia can use it to:
- Analyze complex mechanisms of medical tourism
- Think of solutions to current problems
- Provide more accurate data in the future
What’s happening now? What are the practices in the medical tourism industry?
Right now, no one can say for sure which numbers are the correct ones. A quick search of “Medical tourism industry market worth” can yield results ranging from $19.7B to staggering $439B (you can guess which is more realistic). All of the results in between are the results from different studies that have used different methodologies to arrive at their final number. The $493B number comes from the study which was done by VISA and the Oxford Economics, which even projects that by 2025 the industry will be worth 3 TRILLION dollars! Yes, you read that right, 3 trillion. That is a seriously high number which equals the total worth of some developed countries.
How did they get to that number? By using the estimates based on some facts and a lot of guessing. For example, they guess that “as the world’s population grows old, more and more will seek medical attention across the border”. This assumption, while it might sound logical, cannot be based on truth. Also, they state that there is around 11-12 million people travelling for medical tourism each year, so, with $493B, that comes down to around $40,000 of revenue per patient. Then what about the most people who travel in order to save money? What about the fact that most treatments around the world are priced quite less than that? From both our and other medical tourism providers’ experience, it is doubtful that an average medical tourist has $40,000 to spend on a medical procedure. It is all very vague and suspicious, to say the least.
What can be done? What methodologies yield the best and most accurate results?
In the light of these suspicious and misleading “facts” that are being circulated, it is imperative that we look for more reliable methods of acquiring statistics and data about the medical tourism industry. Modern technology provides, above all else, an ease in conducting research, gathering and organizing data, and drawing conclusions. We need to move from speculation to true facts which can then be used to fuel further growth in the industry. Here are some of the ways we use to gather reliable data.
Understanding how the patients and potential customers perceive your business and the market as a whole can give us important insights into what can be done to further improve the offer available on the market. Such an improved offer will be more in line with the needs of the potential customers, and will lead to an increased number of sales.
One of the best ways to analyze how the patients perceive the market and the offer available (as well as what their wishes and needs are) is to run a survey of your current and potential customers. These surveys should be filled with targeted questions which will gather the information you need through multiple-choice answers. This will help you sort the data properly and gain the absolute maximum. With the possibilities that the Internet provides nowadays, it is possible to send the surveys to people all around the world and get their answers.
Analyze Google data (searches, behavioral data, demographics, etc.)
Another way to analyze the needs and wishes of the customers is to gather knowledge about what they look for on Google. Google Analytics offers readily available data to anyone who is willing to dig a little deeper. From there, you can analyze what are the keywords that people look for regarding the medical tourism industry, what treatments they search for the most, which regions are the most attractive for patients, and much more.
It is also possible to discover how people relevant to the industry are behaving online. Analyzing your website can give you information on how people react to it, where they spend the most time, and which parts of your website are unattractive. As most sales today are made online, especially in the medical tourism market, this data can show you how you can improve your website and make more conversions.
The demographics part is also highly relevant. It can give you an idea where your potential customers can come from, as you can see what the top searches for individual countries are. Then you can market your services more effectively in the countries you have examined, as you will know what people are looking for and it will give you an idea of how to best present your services to them.
Global Market Research
Medical tourism providers and facilitators need to come together and create annual researches about the state of the global medical tourism market. These practices are common in other markets, but for some reason medical tourism market is an exception. Instead, the providers and facilitators seem content with the “facts” which we mentioned earlier. This teaming up is crucial because no one knows the market better than the participants, and any findings they uncover will certainly be of better quality than those by the companies outside the market.
An annual joint research will enable all the participants in the medical tourism market to get a clearer picture of what is going on and how the market changes year in, year out. From there, it is possible to ideate solutions to current problems and set the course for the following year and those after it.
All of the abovementioned ways serve the purpose of shedding more light and useful insights onto and into the medical tourism market, such as it is. As mentioned already, the proper statistics and data on the market are highly valuable, because those that possess it are able to steer their course in the right direction and leave other competitors well behind. However, it takes serious and quality participation in gathering and processing data by all the players in the market. Should that not happen, we will all be captivated by the untrue facts which are circulating, while the reality will be very different. Only those who manage to gather information from the true statistics and adapt to incorporate new ideas based on those statistics can hope to grow and prosper in the long run. It is time to start thinking ahead.