Healthcare Clusters and Associations
Forming a healthcare cluster or medical cluster is probably the single most important step in establishing a medical tourism destination. A healthcare cluster enhances the location’s chances of success as a destination for medical tourists by exponentially increasing patient flow. All the medical tourism stakeholders – hospitals, doctors, Ministries of Health, Tourism and Economic Development Boards, Tourism Operators, Hotels – must work together to promote an image of high-quality healthcare to establish a positive, identifiable brand for the location.
A Healthcare Cluster is generally an independent organization of hospitals, clinics, medical professionals, and the government in a specific city, state, or region. A healthcare cluster is funded by all the participants in the healthcare cluster and represents the interests of all the members; the cluster may also be supported by government funding. A Healthcare Cluster’s purpose is to promote the members of the Healthcare Cluster and build a reputation that can attract medical travelers to its high standard of care.Carefully targeted collective action by the members of the Healthcare Cluster often produces results that individual members are incapable of obtaining by themselves. Before patients travel to a destination, there needs to be a belief that the location has an extremely high standard for healthcare, with infrastructure support and governmental sponsorship. No one individual member can do this on their own.Standards of care should be developed based on the existing medical requirements and licensure standards for the country, state, city, or region.
Marketing standards and goals for the cluster need to be evaluated and designated to the appropriate entity or groups. Advertising budgets should be developed and tied in to the local/national Department of Tourism and Department of Health.Lastly, functional aftercare systems need to be designed and created to appropriately care for patients. This means that tourism organizations and hotels and/or recovery centers need to be incorporated into the cluster in order to create reliably safe aftercare networks. In this way, the Healthcare Cluster can create self-regulation to achieve its goal as an established, independent arm of the healthcare and tourism sectors.