Traveling to another country for medical care is now more popular than ever, with more and more hospitals and clinics expanding their service regions into international waters. Now called medical tourism, traveling abroad for a certain medical procedure is especially common in aesthetic, cosmetic, and dental procedures, as well as radical treatment plans including CyberKnife, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Here is everything you need to know about medical tourism, basic medical tourism examples, and the most common medical tourism packages you can choose from if you, too, are looking for international medical options.
What is Medical Tourism?
Before digging into the various countries where medical tourism is especially popular, it is important to know the medical tourism definition and what exactly it entails. Medical tourism refers to people traveling to different countries for various medical care. This may include oncologic procedures such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and bone marrow transplant; various types of hair transplant procedures; cosmetic surgery such as breast lift, tummy tuck, and liposuction; or numerous dental procedures, including teeth whitening and implant surgery. Today, it is possible to obtain inexpensive flight tickets and choose a well-known country in the medical tourism market to receive international healthcare needs.
What are the Advantages of Medical Tourism?
There are many advantages that medical tourism brings to patients who choose to outsource their specific medical treatment. Here are the most common benefits medical tourism provides:
- Medical tourism offers a much affordable way to get certain treatments when compared to the patient’s home country.
- In some cases, patients can receive treatment that otherwise is not available in their country.
- Traveling abroad for optional procedures such as hair transplant or cosmetic surgery can also offer the opportunity for sightseeing and traditional tourism activities the country has to offer.
- Most medical tourism companies help patients with purchasing economic flight tickets, book an inexpensive hotel, and select the best hospital or clinic for a certain procedure, therefore making the process much more affordable than it would be in their homeland.
- Hospitals majoring in medical tourism usually have staff trained exactly for out-country patients; therefore, they can speak fluent English and are able to inform the patient about the procedure accurately from A to Z.
- Most clinics and hospitals that specialize in medical tourism tend to employ doctors, nurses, and medical staff that has worked or trained abroad.
- With these benefits in mind, it is important to remember that qualification, accreditation, hygiene, and experience are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a clinic abroad. It is essential to conduct background research on the selected organization before going through the process of booking a procedure.
How Does Medical Tourism Work?
It is always best to work with a professional medical tourism company when planning your medical treatment abroad. These companies are usually quite experienced when it comes to selecting the right clinic for the procedure of your choice, helping you book a flight and hotel, introducing you to the clinic’s international staff members, and simply adjusting you to the process entirely. Once the plan is in place, all you need to do as the global patient is to travel to the country your procedure is going to take place, meet with your team of international medical staff, and follow their instructions on how the process is going to be concluded. Most of the major international patient-friendly hospitals prefer to accommodate their foreign visitors in hotels near the hospital and provide regular shuttle service to and from the hospital when needed.
Some Popular Medical Tourism Destinations
While medical tourism represents a billion-dollar industry around the world, it is safe to say that it will keep growing in the foreseeable future and create more and more individual health service patients interested in receiving medical care abroad. More and more countries nowadays choose to benefit from this emerging sector, therefore offering premium medical services at significantly low prices. The most common treatment plans global patients seek in medical tourism usually consist of elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery and hair transplantation. That being said, there are some very popular and well-known medical tourism destinations that offer a variety of primary medical solutions such as cardiac surgery, organ transplantation, and cancer treatment. Here are the most popular locations in medical tourism by country:
Medical Tourism in India
India is best known for its cutting-edge technology and superior healthcare systems that have driven millions of international patients from all around the world throughout recent years. While India’s medical tourism industry keeps flourishing visibly, the country is especially a sought-after country in organ transplantation and IVF. Statistics show that patients can save up to 90% on treatment costs when compared to the US.
Medical Tourism in Mexico
Most US citizens choose to travel to Mexico for cheap, convenient, and effective healthcare. Due to the fact that Mexico is one of the United States’ border-on neighbors, patients initially opt for Mexico before looking into other medical tourism options.
Medical Tourism in Turkey
Medical tourism in Turkey has especially risen in the past few decades, with more and more clinics and hospitals establishing exclusive wings dedicated to international patients. Hair transplantation, oncology treatments, and cardiac surgery are the most common types of medical care procedures that are practiced in Turkey’s medical tourism market.
Medical Tourism in Thailand
Thailand is mostly noted for its dental, cosmetic, and dermatological procedures, having the biggest number of hospitals within the Southeast Asia region with global accreditation. When looking for a dental clinic abroad, most resources will lead patients to Thailand and its distinctive dental care foundations. People also choose Thailand for outpatient therapies such as massage, yoga, and other relaxation techniques.
Other popular medical tourism destinations include medical tourism to Canada, Malaysia, Brazil, and Germany. Nowadays, more and more countries are joining the fray with even Eastern European countries investing in more international healthcare solutions. For more information, you can simply choose the type of procedure you are interested in and look for international options various countries have to offer.
How clinics, private practitioners, and hospitals can reach more international patients?
- What is healthcare marketing? How is it different than marketing?
- How did the pandemic affect healthcare marketing?
- Branding & Competitive Advantage
- Healthcare Marketing Strategy & Planning
- Patient Segmentation, Persona, Google Trends
- Healthcare Marketing KPIs & Management with Google Analytics
- Inbound Marketing: SEO(Search Engine Optimization) & Blogging
- Outbound Marketing: Ads & Ads Networks
- Printed Magazine, Webinars, Press Releases
- Website & Digital Patient Experience
- Social Media Strategy
- Special Topics in Healthcare: International Healthcare Marketing & KiwiMedi
- Healthcare Marketing Automation: Email Automation
- Healthcare Marketing Trends & Future of Healthcare Marketing
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Executives in Healthcare Industry
- Healthcare Community discussion: Share your struggles and opinions
At KiwiMedi, we observed more than 400+ healthcare marketing practices varying from clinics to hospitals. A collection of experience in our team, we wanted to share some insights and a framework to think and plan for healthcare marketing. This 10 minutes reading will help you see the recent big picture in healthcare marketing and plan digital healthcare marketing for your clinic or hospital.
What is healthcare marketing?
Health Marketing involves creating, communicating, and delivering health information and interventions using customer-centered and science-based strategies to protect and promote the health of diverse populations (CDC, 2005)
While our daily lives are changing and we are encountering more of digital interactions every day, patient’s attitude to trust a healthcare facility, search for a treatment or choose a physician is changing.
Healthcare marketing is different than other services with the product/service is complex such as a major disease treatment is chosen by a physician rather than a consumer. Also, the sales approach in healthcare is different as healthcare facilities should provide services to patients regardless of their economic situation. However, the digital channels help to attract more of the target market where health facilities and professionals can deliver the maximum value. In healthcare, instead of selling online, the more appropriate and effective way is to connect with patients, educate consumers and encourage them in their health journey.
Healthcare marketing can help health facilities communicate and deliver value to patients.
Healthcare marketing professionals should beware of regulations like HIPAA, FDA, and FTC. It’s important not to mislead patients, so you should craft your message carefully, letting patients know how their data is used and complying with regulations in healthcare.
Healthcare marketing has no exact formula that you can go through the steps, and get the results. It’s rather important to reflect the characteristics and authenticity of the services provided, encourage and educate the patients via content, and offering easy access and instant communication to people behind clinic, hospital, or private practice facility.
Marketing is a channel to observe weak points such as negative patient reviews to improve the patient experience.
The best day to start the healthcare marketing was yesterday. Somehow today is not late, and you can offer an incremental value today.
How Did Pandemic Affect the Healthcare Marketing?
While digital healthcare marketing took a hit during the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare facilities express their intention to increase budget and effort to resume their paid media and ads.
During the pandemic, online directories and online appointments were among the top priorities of the healthcare marketers while telehealth initiatives are becoming prominent. In the 2nd year of the pandemic, we can see that our habits like social distance seem to remain with us for a long time.
Healthcare marketers appear to be doing what they can to make the best of these challenging times. The survey highlights a number of projects and initiatives in the works for the period after COVID-19 (whenever that may be), many of which appear to be an effort to adapt to a world in which social distancing could become more commonplace.
As such, telehealth initiatives take the lead (50.3%), with physician directories and online appointments being the second-most common plan among healthcare marketing teams (42.8%). These teams are also planning to resume paid media and ads (36.2%), increase brand awareness (35.9%) and e-mail marketing (35.9%) and update/optimize listings (32.6%)
Branding & Competitive Advantage
In planning the authentic digital experience to encourage and educate healthcare consumers, it’s crucial to stand out amongst the competitors. While the aging population is increasing, healthcare market size is exponentially growing; high technology generates new competitors while empowering existing competitors with new strength. So how will you maintain a competitive edge and place your brand in a competitive healthcare landscape?
Here are 6 strategies maintain competitiveness by Siemens:
1 – Become Larger
M&A market size reached $542 billion. (Bain & Company, Global Healthcare Corporate M&A Report, 2016) You can expand your service line by merger and acquisitions, or joint venture
2 – Retail & Walk-in Clinics
Retail clinics are becoming an affordable alternative to emergency rooms with convenience and accessibility.
3 – Leave the customers satisfied
Utilizing high technology to manage processes decreases the workload of the healthcare professional so that they can engage more with patients to leave them satisfied.
4 – Focus on smart staff management
Make sure trainings are maximizing the skilled healthcare workforce and the organizational design leaves to place for a toxic office politics but value-driven work.
5 – Cultivate referrals
In healthcare, referrals weigh before consumers make any decisions. Patients are also referrals, so ensure that you express your intention to value patient experience and improve your services by conducting surveys
6 – Ability to invest
Consider leasing options to lead an efficient way to manage operations without hindering the investment potential.
Healthcare Marketing Strategy & Planning
Start with a persona research & Consumer Segmentation
To derive a functional and effective strategy, we recommend you start with consumer persona research. Using Hubspot’s Persona tool, you can build patient personas with existing consumers, and collecting, analyzing, and clustering consumers can give you insights on making better decisions.
What are Brand Promises & Competitive Advantages?
What message do you want to communicate? What advantages your facility, staff, and services have, and how it’s different from competitors?
Answering these questions in-depth will help you articulate the value of your services to patients and distinguish your brand in the competitive healthcare landscape.
When you know the value of your services, and to whom, you know where your customers are. Think about what channels you can use to reach your customers. If you are a hair transplant specialist or clinic, you may want to reach out to men aged between 24-35. Do they go to football matches? It may be worthy to partner with a football team. If you could identify subsegments like Swedish mommies, your influencer marketing can be more effective. You can choose a micro-influencer identifying herself as a Swedish mommy as it’s more effective as close-knit communities are more influenced by significant people in the community.
Inbound healthcare marketing is reaching consumers while they are looking for the services, hence creating value, content, and experiences to connect with them. Such as blog posts when patients searching for a symptom and find your website or looking for a clinic and when they enter your website, your offer a conversational interface to interact with them on how you can help them get treatment or learn about a disease or symptom. While the results in inbound marketing can take time, once you achieve desired results, you don’t need to spend an advertising budget every month as your brand is among the top search queries, and you can build trust with patients when they visit the clinic website.
Outbound marketing, unlike inbound marketing, is to reach out to consumers when they are not looking for your website or your service. An example could be online advertisements or any advertisement or a press release.
Now, you can choose which channels you will use, how you will measure success, and how you will connect to patients. Strategy is often a dynamic material that keeps you on track and helps you optimize relentlessly.
Healthcare Marketing KPIs & Management with Google Analytics
If you have not installed Google Analytics on your website, you should immediately consider doing it now. Google Analytics offers a 360-degree view of the consumer journey who has visited your website.
Google Analytics can measure your website’s performance such as the number of visitors, how long they stayed, and where they are from. You can also compare your website with the industry averages based on the sector, clinic/hospital scale. You can display this information in the benchmark section.
We recommend having a patient journey from the awareness stage to the after-treatment stage where at each step, you can keep performance statistics.
KPI(Key Performance Indicator)s such as number of visitors, number of people asked questions or sent a message, number of people who called us, etc. KPIs are a great way to measure success and see if your decisions improved the patients’ experience and the number of patients served. But keep in mind, it’s more efficient to optimize one KPI at a time.
Word of mouth (WOM)
Otherwise known as references, it can be one of the influential metrics. Tracking keywords on who finds the website with organic searches can offer valuable insights on what people are talking about your brand, how they found the clinic website, and where they are from.
GDPR & Cookie notice
Keep in mind to notice website visitors that you track some information about them to improve services and offer them a better experience. Cookie notice is obligatory to comply with GDPR now.
Inbound Marketing & SEO
Once you began to read and try to learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you will realize many people talk about short-cuts, algorithm changes, and some guaranteed (often the least effective) ways.
Before we try to grasp all the aspects of the algorithm of Google and try to predict how it will change in the feature, it’s important to realize that Google’s ultimate goal is to display the highest quality and more relevant search results on the top of the search queries. For healthcare marketing SEO this principle doesn’t change. Healthcare marketing differs with the more profound impact on patient empathy and weighs on referrals but the most fundamental SEO fact is not very different.
Choosing the keywords for SEO
To appear on the top of search queries, we can decide to choose a set of keywords and invest all of our efforts to boost and create value related to some keywords. Let’s always remember that our goal is not to appear on top, our goal is to create value for the consumer, and appearing on top is only a channel to achieve results.
While choosing a keyword you may get excited about high volume(vast amount of searches) and high competition (difficult appear on top) keywords or more general keywords such as hair transplant. Somehow, it’s wise to get results and appear on top pages using high to medium volume and low competition keywords rather than getting lost in high competition. So instead of “hair transplant”, you can strive with “hair transplant for women”.
Semrush, Ahref, and Google Ads Keyword Tracker can offer SEO insights on healthcare SEO keywords, healthcare landscape, other clinics’ and hospital’s websites, and even a list of websites where your competitor appeared and directing visitors to their websites.
Google Ads Keyword Planner can quickly give you a list of keywords when you search with your website or a phrase along with their competitive difficulty and search volume.
Providers or organizations with blogs see an average of 55% in traffic growth, and 11% growth on ROI in their first year. So, don’t miss this opportunity to inform and educate the patients regarding your services.
- Answer the questions on forums like Quora, Reddit, Stackoverflow where people ask about cancer treatment in Germany or aesthetic and dentistry in Turkey. Search the questions and answer them honestly, offer value to the person who asks the question and people who end up having the same questions and reading it
- Get listed on directories like Yelp, Google Reviews and encourage patients to share their experiences and offer feedback
- Create a profile on treatment search engines KiwiMedi to reach international patients
- There are also some healthcare tourism website where you can get listed and the company operates the processes to bring a patients
The treatment search platforms work with a monthly fee while health tourism networks charge 20-30% commissions for each patient they bring in.
Outbound Marketing: Ads & Ads Networks
While the most common channels are known as Google Ads and Ads on social media like Instagram, there are other alternatives to advertising.
For Google Advertising, it’s more effective to start with search ads to improve quality score before display ads and ensure that ads have extensions that display other page links below the link on search queries.
You can easily use a dashboard on Google Data Studio to see how your ads perform.
Private Marketplace Buys (PMPs): You can also access premium brands for ad exchange and appear on websites like WebMD, Healthline if that’s where your audience is.
If you want to get the most out of your ads, be hyperfocused on audience parameters. If you can identify your audience more specifically, you can derive better results. It’s also OK to test the waters and compare multiple segments, locations, and keywords. So, you can make a data-driven decision on which ones perform better.
Printed Magazine, Webinars, Press Releases
Magazines & Ebooks
People love sharing stories on social media with books and magazines that reflect their identity. You can leverage this opportunity to connect your services with consumers’ identity such as a dietitian can send a premium magazine on healthcare to a limited amount of people. You can encourage word-of-mouth marketing where references in healthcare are crucial. You can also publish e-books/magazines to collect potential consumer’s e-mails.
Webinars often work for B2B business. If you are a clinic in the US, you can use webinars to develop key partnerships such as with insurance companies. Because in the US, more than 90% of the patients still choose their healthcare provider through their insurance company. Somehow it’s hardly effective for B2C businesses.
It works when you have done it right. To do the press release right, you need to share important insights that give people an a-ha moment such as that you can find out hair loss-related searches tripled during the last 10 years. You can explain why and how so that people who experience hair loss – potentially your patients- get insights and a taste of your expertise in the area to build trust in between. Then you can explain your services and how your services differ from competitors while it’s connected to the pain you shared as an important insight.
- Are your landing page simply tells who you are, what services/value and to whom you offer, and why the healthcare consumer should choose you amongst competitors?
- Social proof, patient reviews, video if possible, increase the trust and conversion rates.
- Are you easily accessible, how long does it take someone to figure out and reach you after they visit your website? Chatbots can make it under seconds!
- Make sure your website is optimized for the mobile experience and website speed is optimized by some techniques like compressing images.
According to EyeWideDigital, a video on your landing page can increase your conversion rate by 80%
FAQ along with a rich schema
Rich schema can help you to better introduce the elements on your website to Google such as FAQ, Blog Post, Patient Reviews, etc. Including rich schema helps with semantic search results.
Social Media Strategy
For setting a social media strategy, you should be familiar with regional usage statistics. Especially if you are marketing for patients abroad! In India it may social media usage may be low, but it can help you access particular people in India, while in England a social media platform is widely popular. In Germany, it can be Facebook, and in Spain, it can be Instagram. Regions have different behaviors and attitudes regarding social media platforms.
If your patients are younger people and teenagers, you can leverage Snapchat, while for executives working at some companies, Linkedin may be a better channel.
It may be tempting to choose many platforms but it hinders the potential of the main channel. So make sure you know where your audience is and aggressively invest in the main channel to get a higher return on investment (ROI).
Special Topics: International Healthcare Marketing
After the pandemic, Telehealth initiatives take the lead (50.3%), with physician directories and online appointments being the second-most common plan among healthcare marketing teams (42.8%) (MarketingChart, 2020)
So, the physical proximity to patients is no more of a concern. You can reach more international patients.
- Create a profile on treatment search engines KiwiMedi to reach international patients from Europe
- There are also some healthcare tourism website where you can get listed and the company operates the processes to bring a patients
The treatment search platforms work with a monthly fee while health tourism networks charge 20-30% commissions for each patient they bring in. You can get involved in both to serve more patients abroad.
Patient experience can be improved with after-care communication consistency, satisfaction surveys, and follow-ups after patient’s inquiry. To automate the process you can use an e-mail automation tool like MailChimp. You can also send a monthly newsletter to patients’ email and keep them satisfied and stay in touch.
Healthcare Marketing Trends & Future of Healthcare Marketing
- Conversational Marketing: Chatbots
- Communities: You probably know the wellness app, Freelytics. If there is one thing that helped Freelytics to reach millions of user which was the FB groups and communities where people engage
- Voice Search
- Machine Learning & AI: From taking patients’ history to pre-diagnostic
6 FAQ in Healthcare Marketing by Executives in Healthcare
Does marketing affect our reputation negatively?
As long as your purpose is to communicate, connect and create value for your consumers, marketing improves the patient experience.
We decided to do marketing with an agency, how can we choose the right one?
Define a simple problem such as reaching out to high-value customers where you can tell who is your high-value customers and their habits, and ask agencies how they could approach to find a solution to that problem. Can they define risks and tell you how to manage those risks? If you could define a specific problem it helps with a more in-depth comparison. Most agencies are good at optimizing and some agencies good at building out from scratch. Make sure the agency’s strengths align with your needs.
When we have decided to do marketing in-house, how can we hire the right people?
If you hire a younger person to keep the budget low, it may cost you more as an inexperienced person will experience the learning phase and you need to be patient to deliver the desired output. Be careful with seniors as well, because getting accustomed to a certain tradition and repetition of a certain task can create habits that are no longer as effective as before. Someone who is aligning with culture has a similar yet fresh experience may be the most valuable to the clinic or hospital.
How to get the maximum returns on our marketing budget and efforts?
The maximum returns are often results of in-depth knowledge about the consumer, where impact of the decisions measured and decisions made with data. So start with identifying the brand value and customers right and make sure to leverage analytics in all processes.
What are common mistakes in healthcare marketing?
Some mistakes hurting your digital reputation or leaving unused potential are
- The website is not optimized for the mobile experience
- Not paying attention to patient reviews or enabling fake reviews
- Not using clear everyday language while informing patients
When we get listed on websites like KiwiMedi, how can we know that our investments pay off?
As with any decision you measure the impact with analytics, you can also compare the website visitor, calls, and patient numbers before and after you get listed on KiwiMedi. If more than a couple of hundreds of people visits KiwiMedi and also your website, you can measure the overlapping percentage through SEO tools like Semrush.
What do you think the current struggles in healthcare marketing and the future look like?