The Medical Tourism Index (MTI) was developed by the International Healthcare Research Center. The Index and its scale and validation are go-to resources that explain how to measure and manage the perception of each destination’s brand. The methodology of the first MTI was published in 2014 in Tourism Management Journal, an academic, peer-reviewed publication. The first MTI was a completely new form of analysis on a growing economic trend; since that time, the number of destinations promoting themselves in the medical tourism sphere has steadily increased.
This year’s MTI results are drawn from American feedback. The index is designed to be a tool that specifically gauges any consumer interest and may be used in future MTI’s to focus on some of the most sought after target markets such as Middle East, Gulf Coast Countries, Russia, and China to name a few. The overall goal of the MTI rankings is to reveal perceptions of a destination – not necessarily the reality – as a medical tourism brand.
The meta goal in the Medical Tourism market is still the same as it ever was: keep as many patients as possible at domestic healthcare hubs, while also attracting an inbound market of health and wellness seekers to fill excess capacity and diversify revenue streams. Upstart medical tourism initiatives in the region may face an unclear future without a gauge to evaluate improvement, while established programs may hope to check the opinions and inclinations of a foreign audience and compare against other competitors. The Medical Tourism Index serves all these purposes. With more hospitals incorporating medical tourism strategies into their marketing plans, expanding target market patient profiles and demographics, and claiming unparalleled clinical services, the MTI is more valuable than ever as both a planning and benchmarking tool.
Of course, it is difficult to talk about a globalized marketplace like medical tourism without mentioning the ongoing pandemic event. The novel coronavirus is putting a tremendous strain on healthcare systems and world economies, which will alter the size and shape of the medical tourism market in unpredictable ways. No one knows how long this virus will remain active or how many waves will threaten the world with new outbreaks. Dozens of countries have instituted temporary restrictions on international travel that completely impede the existence of health tourism and travel.
It is difficult to imagine all the ways in which the novel coronavirus might affect the international community, but as this initial wave subsides and travel bans are lifted, medical tourism will continue its upward trajectory as a rapidly growing sector. Some experts have forecasted that a depressed economy may even push more travelers out the door in search of more affordable and accessible healthcare options. Destinations that take this time to improve their position and prepare for the market’s return are likely to reap the benefits in the future. The reality is that destination that handled the management of the coronavirus pandemic well likely will emerge as more desirable destinations for medical travel over those that failed to respond timely to protect its citizens.
Some entities may believe only one or two factors truly matter in the creation of a medical tourism industry or a marketing initiative, but surveys conclude that many more factors are taken into consideration when patients consider traveling abroad for treatment. The MTI reveals these primary factors, as well as an entire subset of items that should be considered. In the end, developing an adequate strategy requires a deeper analysis of what factors might influence a medical traveler, especially when benchmarked against those same factors from other destinations.
The methodology that drives the MTI focuses on supply-side factors, or “pull” factors. A wide variety of “push” factors can spur patients from any destination – including and especially those from wealthy western nations – to seek treatment at home or abroad. However, their decision to choose a specific international destination is likely influenced by destination details – the abundance of good doctors, or the absence of political instability. Thus, the MTI is constructed around factors like tourist popularity, medical facility quality, hospital accreditation, healthcare costs, economic stability, and the overall environment of the destination.
Because the MTI focuses on key pull factors to explain how to bring medical tourism customers to a specific destination in the world, this report can offer a more concise and relevant analysis of each region. The main objective of each destination profile is to provide basic context for each region as a medical travel destination before explaining the results of the most recent Medical Tourism Index. The MTI highlights established strengths, areas for growth, and potential opportunities that will help destinations develop a strong strategy that drives inbound traffic and incremental business.