4 Ways to Measure Medical Travel Success

April 26, 2017

When asked, “How is your Global Patient Services Program”? - What do you say? Do you know what to say…confidently?

If you are like most, starting a program or navigating the waters of the current medical travel industry, one is inclined to follow the trends or target markets without firm data to justify your decisions. Often, as you can expect, these decisions can come back to bite you.

In the medical travel industry, it is very hard to compare one program to another or one market to another due to a lack of clear consensus on industry definitions along with a lack of transparency and hard data from stakeholders working in the industry. There are many terms which encompass the medical travel industry, including:

• Global Patient Services
• Global Healthcare Services
• International Patient Services
• Medical Tourism
• Medical Travel Services
• Medical Destination Services
• Centers of Excellence

There may be erroneous reporting on the number of medical travelers seeking care at a particular hospital or destination simply because as there is no consensus as to how to refer to this patient segment. Some healthcare providers may use the term international patient while others may call them foreign patients or healthcare travelers. A foreign resident may be counted as a medical traveler even though he or she “travelled” two blocks to the healthcare facility.

Additionally, few healthcare providers are actually tracking medical travelers as a separate entity in their systems or, much less, reporting these statistics. Sadly, no one can actually say, the average growth rate of medical travel programs is X% in a specific market or typically grows Y% over a 5 – 7 year period. How you can tell if your medical travel service line is really thriving? Benchmark.

Compare your program to others in the industry. In other industries companies can often assess the health of their company by comparing key metrics, gross revenue, volume growth and various other performance indicators, including patient satisfaction. As mentioned above, the dilemma in the medical travel industry is a lack of clear definitions along with a lack of transparency from global competitors.

In 2016, the Global Healthcare Accreditation ® (GHA) Program enters the medical travel industry – the first independent accrediting body to focus on the medical travel care continuum. The competencies that GHA promotes are focused in three core areas which have standards related to each. These three core areas include:

• Patient-Focused Clinical Processes
• The Patient Experience
• Sustainable Business Processes

Aside from meeting compliance with GHA standards, new as well as established programs can find several ways to benchmark or gauge their performance. Here are four ways you can find data for benchmarking your medical travel service line:

Ask other program leaders. Form alliances with similar programs to yours, but located in other markets, so that you don't compete directly. Agree to share information – this creates an immediate opportunity to understand, explore and compare.

Attend industry events. Is there a better way to connect with other program leaders than to attend events where several of your industry peers may also be present? Medical travel events occur all over the globe and are increasingly encompassing a broad range of subject matter. For example, medical travel initiatives often cover everything from “use of technology in healthcare” to “economic initiatives for governments” to “creative ways to subsidize local care by attracting foreign patients to a particular destination.”

Ask an industry trade association. Industry trade associations often gather information from their membership, surveys and reports and/or offer access to individuals or resources with current information. Keep in mind that there are differing viewpoints as to how the medical travel industry is expected to perform over the next 5 to 10 years; so make sure to consult a trade association with a proven track record of working with a wide range of stakeholders. It is also important to find common denominators in these opinions and apply your understand to your individual business model.

Develop KPIs specific to Medical Travel. The GHA Program offers guidance within its standards and requires ongoing reporting of KPIs unique to an individual organization. Most healthcare organizations, because they are complex businesses irrespective of the services they provide, maintain robust financial performance indicators. It is important to apply the same interest and commitment to healthcare quality indicators to a medical travel service program as it is to understand the bottom line contribution of a medical travel service program.