People travelling abroad for treatment and other health care related purpose is increasing day by day. This has led to formation of companies or tour operators functioning to take care the entire module, right from the planning stage to admission process in healthcare units/hospitals of the person seeking treatment. This eventually has turned into an industry of its own and is known as Medical Tourism. Today, this industry is highly competitive vying at each other for existence.
Some of the companies are very successful having global operation and functions like any other top corporate. Placidway a US-based medical tourism company has its presence in 25 countries, offering solutions to 160 medical providers globally.
To know more about this industry, LSW LifeScienceWorld’s Sankar Iyer gathers interesting information on medical tourism and about Placidway, a leading international US-based medical tourism company. Here is an interview with Pramod Goel, Founder and President of Placidway.
- To begin with, can you briefly mention how is Medical Tourism perceived in general.
Medical tourism becomes an option when the treatment and/or medical procedure is not available in the home country or the cost of such medical services is prohibit for locals to access the required care. Basically, medical tourism is perceived as the solution when looking for the best healthcare but at a lower cost, this is the case in developed countries such as the US, or, when looking for a specific treatment which can only be found in countries with a more advanced health system. To exemplify, we can see Germany and the Ukraine having some of the best results in stem cells and affordable prices, that is why patients from Europe prefer this destination, the same goes for Nigerians and Bangladeshi patients who opt for India when it comes to specific treatments which are not available in their home country.
- Normally, patients from less developed countries are going to other countries, particularly to the US and UK for treatment. However, with the advent of ‘Medical Tourism’ coming to be known as an industry, people are looking at other destinations, other than that of their domicile. How do they benefit?
Historically, patients from less developed countries who have the means to get top medical care have been traveling to developed countries such as Europe, US to avail the best of the best. With the advent of medical tourism and access of information, the industry has grown tremendously. Originally, only people in higher income bracket were able to access the care, however, with medical tourism, the access of such high quality care at a lower cost is available in countries like India, Thailand and Turkey to many middle-income families. This is one of the factors that propelled the industry to new levels, as more and more high quality information and lower cost medical care becomes available to people around the world.
- Different countries have different policies and government rules, particularly pertaining to healthcare. How do these apply to people enrolled with the medical tourism operators? For example, there are countries who have strict policies pertaining to a tourist from outside having to undergo certain medical tests like vaccines though they might already have been subjected these kind of tests in their own country.
Although it is true that several countries have different policies and government regulations, increasingly many countries are relaxing these policies and investing in developing infrastructure to support medical travel. Necessary vaccinations are still required in the country of origin but, with the growth of potential revenues as well as healthcare market share and medical superiority, countries are developing more innovative solutions to address such issues. Currently, we do not see this as a major issue in the industry.
- What are the challenges and risks involved in your business?
Medical travel industry is growing rapidly as a global phenomenon. As the industry grows, more and more entrepreneurs, companies, governments, are joining the industry on a daily basis. This continues to create a highly competitive environment. With limited demand at this time, there is a glut of supply of medical services in the industry. It is critical for PlacidWay to continue to understand the fundamental issues in the industry and continue to grow the trusted brand and adapt to the evolving trends in the medical travel industry. Transparency is still a major issue in the healthcare industry as well as understanding the supply chain and risks associated with it, to provide good quality care to the patients.
- Today, Medical Tourism has become highly competitive. When was PlacidWay started and what is its USP?
We founded PlacidWay almost seven years ago and now it has become a trusted brand in the medical tourism industry. With fierce competition, PlacidWay offers one-stop solutions to its customers. For patients, they can choose medical centers globally from 30 different countries or from over 200 medical providers based on their financial, emotional, or physical needs. For medical centers, we provide a most comprehensive international patient acquisition solution. The key factors are customer service, transparency, and trusted global brand.
- Which is PlacidWay‘s most sought after destination and why?
While India and Thailand continue to be among the most popular medical tourist destinations for Africans and Middle Easterners, other countries are making their mark in the medical tourism industry, such as Mexico, Germany, Turkey, South Korea, and South American destinations.
- How do you get your patient referral?
PlacidWay is a global brand with key emphasis of creating in-depth knowledge base, which is applicable to consumers seeking quality care worldwide. With extensive consumer-centric solutions, PlacidWay is able to attract patients from over 100 different countries speaking over 40 languages from every corner of the world. Furthermore, search engines and social media are now the most sought after ways to research – and many come to us from these channels as well.
- How does Placidway act upon, in case of a direct patient approach? Is it the patient’s choice about the destination or PlacidWay suggests the destination and options, etc.
The patient comes to us with an idea of a destination and treatment or even with a specific location and medical center. The beauty of PlacidWay is that we present a wider range of options to make his or her own customized experience. We allow patient to choose the country, the medical center, the type of treatment they want, at a price they can afford. It is ALWAYS the patient who decides where they want to go, for what services and at what price. PlacidWay is a guide to the patients helping them access the right knowledge to make informed decisions.
- What kind of agreement/tie-up does PlacidWay have with the Indian healthcare providers/PlacidWay Partners.
PlacidWay has many partners in India – from Cosmetic Surgery Centers to Stem Cell Therapy Centers and Fertility Clinics. Each of our collaboration is individualized as we offer a very customized program to them. The key requirement we have includes transparency, integrity, complete customer satisfaction, and the willingness to partner, in order to provide the right solution to patients who are seeking medical care.
- A few words on Placidway’s clientele – is it more of corporate clients (employer sponsored), or do you cater to individuals.
Both individuals and corporate clients come to us. PlacidWay has catered to both, since its establishment. Our prime focus is consumer-centric solutions.
- On Placidway’s market share and its future plans
Over the last few years, PlacidWay’s presence has grown in over 30 countries worldwide, offering comprehensive solution to over 200 medical providers globally from India to Korea to Mexico to Costa Rica. PlacidWay has become a global trusted brand among consumers worldwide. I have started this business to globalize healthcare and give choices to consumers, and I hope PlacidWay will achieve an even bigger change in healthcare in the future. We continue to expand the supply chain network for PlacidWay, while launching new targeted businesses in related industries.
- Finally, few words on your book “Evolution of Medical Tourism: from Cottage Industry to Corporate World
Currently, the medical tourism industry is operating like a cottage industry. There are many solutions available in the industry, from a one-man shop to organized entities. Medical providers are still looking at medical tourism as an afterthought and not as corporation with defined infrastructure.
The book “Evolution of Medical Tourism: from Cottage Industry to Corporate World” provides an in-depth and behind-the-scenes glimpse into the growing phenomena of medical tourism. Growing competition in the industry requires organizations to change their way of doing business. In order to win the medical tourist in the future, medical providers have to dramatically change the way they deal with the industry by completely understanding the supply chain. As the next generation of mainstream market will demand much more comprehensive solutions, medical providers will have to adapt and develop comprehensive and transparent solution in order to survive in the marketplace.
The book further details medical tourism infrastructure requirements from developing marketing channels to the importance of patient nurturing, negotiations and patient acquisition. The book offers guidance and information to established as well as new entrepreneurs in this field. The focus is also on the importance of customer satisfaction and infrastructure requirements in the medical tourism realm as well as the development of a solid business foundation for entrepreneurs to be successful in this growing and extremely competitive industry.