I tweeted somewhat comprehensively from the Medical Travel Meeting for those who want the ‘play by play’ including commentary when I thought a speaker was outstanding, wrong or out to lunch.
The next few blogs will summarize what I learned about medical travel (tourism), Brazil, its spa industry and its crime rate. The latter, unfortunately, by personal experience.
Medical Tourism in General • As with other countries I have studied re medical tourism, the terminology between medical travel vs. medical tourism is an ongoing debate. The doctors and hospitals generally like ‘medical travel’ because patients are not lying on the beach or going on tours before or after. The marketing folks like the term ‘medical tourism’ because it has caught on with media and consumers and is much more widely searched on the internet.
• There is general agreement now that medical travel (tourism) describes people crossing borders for medical procedures: inbound, outbound, intrabound.
• 80% of Americans would travel for medical reasons if they were assured of the same quality and cheaper healthcare. People will travel for health care if they can save at least $10,000. (McKinsey study)
• Some countries such as the U.S., Japan and Hong Kong have priced themselves out of medical travel due to high costs.
• ‘For every dollar spent on medical when someone travels, they spend eight on tourism.’ (Ruben Torell)
• As in all countries I have studied, there is concern that high quality medical care is available for medical travelers however not always for its citizens.
Brazil and Medical Travel
• Sao Paulo has 11 million inhabitants and the best health care system in Brazil.
• People here seem gracious. One surprise however, very few speak English.
• Studies show Brazil is known for: Rio, Soccer, World Cup, and Music (1965 Girl from Ipanema – beautiful woman)
• One major advantage Brazil has in terms of medical travel is location – it is easier to get to for North Americans than Asian destinations.
• Brazil has more JCI accredited hospitals than all the other Latin American countries combined.
• Brazil has a history of medical travel for cosmetic surgery. (Seems they want to distance themselves from this now however.)
• Brazil is a world leader in eye surgeries and vision correction.
• Sao Paulo hospitals do approximately 1.5 billion in annual revenue – only 5% is from international patients (mostly expats).
• Brazil’s hospitals are running near capacity. Why do they want medical tourists? Apparently – prestige. Brazil wants to gain the world’s trust in its quality medical care. (Ruben Torell)
• Accreditation is what Brazil feels it needs and is set on attaining.
• Good timing for Brazil to get organized for medical travel because of upcoming World Cup and Olympic related attention.
• Brazil studied why India was ahead of Brazil in medical travel despite Brazil’s medical economics. The difference was organization. It isn’t enough to have various pieces; you need suppliers, interpreters, and coordination between all.
• There are fewer North Americans coming to Brazil for medical reasons than coming from Angola (where they also speak Portuguese by the way).
Bottom line for me? Medical travel (tourism) is an up and coming important issue for Brazil. Spas are not yet on their radar in terms of the great tourism opportunity however my presentation was well received and the idea of spas under a category of wellness tourism was discussed.
As the country is organizing itself in these arenas, we should encourage them to embrace medical travel under either their Ministry of Health or Ministry of Tourism, however strongly advocate for attracting tourists to their spas and mineral springs to be in a category called Wellness Tourism that would be firmly planted underneath the Ministry of Tourism (not medical!) Why? Medical means regulations, regulations, regulations.
Medical folks and spa folks may no longer be from different planets, however they still seem to be different species.