Rahul Shukla, Manager – International Patient Centre at NMC Healthcare, UAE
2020 has been a watershed year for mankind. It has impacted lives of each and every human being in one way or the other. All of us must have come across several forwarded message writing off year 2020 and many of us wished for it to get rebooted. Indeed, Covid-19’s pandemic nature has impacted the way countries function, businesses are run, jobs performed and the way we live our routine lives. This year saw many businesses across industries to come to a standstill and one such business that has come to halt is business of medical tourism.
Why medical tourism will bounce back
With Covid-19 spreading from one country to another, borders were closed, flights were grounded and visas were revoked in order to contain the spread of virus. Medical Tourism industry was one of the first few businesses to get impacted and possibly would take longest to revive. Uplifting travel ban worldwide, conclusive treatment modality, or a possible Covid-19 Vaccine; is what it would take for this industry to attain its heydays which doesn’t seem likely in good part of 2020. Sooner or later this industry will bounce back to normalcy because of the following reasons:
- As unprecedented as it may be, Covid-19 might follow a pattern similar to previous epidemics world has witnessed in terms of spread, containment and eradication. Once there comes a solution to the problem, there will be an influx of patients awaiting treatment for chronic disorders and lifestyle diseases which have piled up.
- Healthcare resources of most of the countries are getting exhausted in containing Corona virus spread and it will result into further pressure on healthcare system of the said countries to treat complex conditions.
However, the rules of the game will never be the same going forward. Post Covid landscape of medical tourism will bring about lot of changes in the way this business was traditionally performed. Let’s have a look at trends which may emerge in medical tourism industry after Corona Virus outbreak.
Ever increasing demand for complex treatment
Closed borders forced health seekers around the world to delay their plan for travel. Once the travel ban is lifted, there will be an upsurge in number of patients traveling to seek complex treatment. On the other hand, there will be lesser enthusiasm among patients seeking aesthetic treatment until the virus panic vanishes.
Focus on hygiene and personalised treatment
International patients’ focus will shift to choose a country where there is civic sense of continued social distancing, personalized treatment in a less crowded environment and infrastructure like dedicated living space and transportation is readily available. Single occupancy rooms in the hospitals may witness huge demand.
New Visa Policy
Once international travel resumes, many countries might come up with their own set of rules to issue visas. Some may ask for a health certificate from designated institutions which may make visa processing more difficult for health travelers. Besides once vaccine for Covid-19 comes out, many countries may demand vaccination certificate just as in the case of travel to and from yellow fever affected countries.
Regional Medical Tourism Hubs
Regional medical tourism hubs will emerge and consolidate their position. Smaller countries with better healthcare infrastructure may prove to be an alternate choice of destination to its neighborhood population. These hubs may attract population who may not want to travel longer distances and want better value for money and quality treatment.
Fly out Doctor Program
Trend of flying doctors and performing surgeries abroad may regain significance. In 2021 most of international patients’ movement may happen for complex disorders and flying out doctors program will be opted for not so complicated procedures resulting in reduction of unnecessary travel of patients. This specific program if pursued well, will result in enhancing knowledge sharing among doctors and also in establishing better healthcare relations between the countries.
CME’s have been organized across borders to create a connect between the medical fraternity. It establishes cooperation between doctors to discuss cases, share their respective experiences and also in referring patients. Although online CME’s or Webinars have always been available but it was never looked as a substitute to live CME. With emerging Covid-19 situation, more and more of such sessions may take place over webinar rather than a live CME. This will result in cost reduction and ease of organizing a CME, while giving an access to a larger population at the same time.
Telemedicine / Tele consults
Both these technologies have been around us for very long time but only few exploited its advantages in the past. These two remote healthcare technologies will gain most traction in times to come. Many players have already started acquiring or developing their own tool in order to connect to the world. Medical second opinions, International OPD’s both can be very well organized through these platforms and it can prove to be an additional revenue source for healthcare providers and medical tourism companies.