Advocacy, Aftercare & AccountabilityIt’s Time to Take the Reins of Our Profession
What is patient advocacy?
One that pleads the cause of another…; one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal; one that supports or promotes the interests of another.
Of key importance is the fact that it is someone acting on the behalf of another.
It is not someone acting on their own behalf. Yet, this is what too many medical tourism patients try to do today AND too many Medical Travel Facilitators (MTFs) can not do FOR their patients due to the conflict of interest by representing doctors and hospitals as “paid referral agents.”
This is the important difference in working with an IMTCC Global Patient Advocate (GPA).
In its simplest terms, patient advocacy regards any activity which ultimately benefits a patient. Using that definition, it can apply to caregiving for an individual patient, to groups that develop policies and advice that help patients, to government or non-government groups that develop legislation to improve systems or processes for patients.
Much like the advent of factories during the Industrial Revolution disenfranchised the skilled artisans that made up the ‘cottage industries’ of the day, the infamous McKinsey Report on Medical Tourism (circa 2007) and the organizations that have come since have had the same effect on our profession as ‘MTFs.’
More than ten years since their inception, ‘Medical Tourism Trade Orgs’ have not done us, as independent industry professionals, any favors. Without separate certifications and distinct scopes of practices that validate each of the two clearly separate and important patient advocacy roles of top-down facilitators and bottom-up/ground services facilitators, our profession has been debased down to sales-driven ‘surgery brokers.’ We must admit that the income models which the industry employs cause ethical conundrums, promote competition instead of collaboration and do not allow us to be valued and compensated as individual professionals with specialized roles.
The 'Bang For the Buck' IS the Value
Since about 2007, the focus has been on marketing and promoting the availability of Medical Tourism and Cross Border Healthcare treatments as a commodity; a siloed product, ‘manufactured’ by mostly hospitals and doctors. They compete largely on the basis of price since there are no standard metrics to truly define quality and measure value. Complicating these definitions are the often vast cultural differences of patients and countries so, we can see wherein lies the problem – and the opportunity.
Don’t think that patients haven’t come to the conclusion that most ‘Top-Down’ MTFs, brokers and portals are ‘cost-adding’ rather than ‘value-adding,’ beholden mostly to themselves and the medical providers they have contracted with for referral fees and commissions. If you have been in Medical Tourism long enough, you have surely heard us referred to as the 'Evil MTF.'
To put it clearly, the “bang for the buck” in the 10-20+% commission that patients really pay when they go through a portal, broker or ‘Top-Down’ facilitator compared to going through the ‘Bottom-Up’ facilitator in the destination country that greet them when they step off the plane is like comparing apples to oranges.
Patients do not know what they need, what they can get,
should get and will really get for their money.
“Future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations—goods and services are no longer enough.”
Medical Tourism Needs Chief Experience Officers
We must realize that healthcare is not a commodity or a product; it is not a production industry and it is much more than a service industry! It is a complex and multi-faceted Value Supply Chain that becomes even more complex and nuanced when traveling for care.
Undergoing a treatment or a surgery is just one part of an extended (and fragmented) experience – and those of us ‘on the ground’ in Medical Tourism were well ahead of the curve in recognizing this and focusing our services on Experience and Supply Chain Management. These are the CXOs of Medical Tourism!
Today’s healthcare industry now fully acknowledges the Patient Experience (PX) with Top Hospitals creating the role of a CXO (Chief Experience Officer) tasked with humanizing and improving the PX within the hospital.
[Improving the Patient Experience]”...is viewed by the most forward thinking organizations as the only way to drive sustainable growth, move the needle on quality and build lasting loyalty. Experience Improvement is one of the hottest priorities in Healthcare and it is not going away!”
So, where should the focus of our industry be – or be returned to - in order to take control of the industry’s brand reputation, guarantee integrity, assure sustainable growth and transform Medical Tourism into a respected Health CARE Delivery System?
The Integrity of the In-Country Patient Experience (PX)
And who is more vested IN, aware OF and qualified TO provide solutions for the PX than US, the MT professionals that operate ‘on the ground,’ hand-holding our patients through the REAL experience?