More than 70 nations have announced their ambitions in medical tourism, wellness, and health travel as part of a comprehensive health system restructuring aimed to improve threatened national economies. In each nation, scaling up healthcare services and continuous quality and safety improvements are important keys for the swift transition. As a result of the state and privately led health system reforms, and an influx of private investments, privatization, and public private partnerships in each nations' healthcare landscape, these nations now offer strong alternatives for international patients seeking access to healthcare for a number of reasons. For some, the attraction is healthcare treatment anonymity. For others, the attraction is rapid access to care otherwise unavailable in their community for a serious or painful medical or dental condition. Still others seek price arbitrage, or the opportunity to combine a relaxing spa-like vacation and attend to simple and straightforward preventive health matters or minor cosmetic procedures or check up exams.
With the number of private hospitals, clinics and thermal and health resorts on the rise, Many European, Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American private medical and health infrastructures are now a growth sector in the global medical tourism arena. Each one offers some geographical advantage as well as its unique cultural richness as an important factor in securing a solid place in the industry. The forerunners of these national transformations have been local private healthcare investors.
Health industry entrepreneurs, doctors, dentists, therapists, and hospital executives have not only created a unique opportunity for local patients, but also for these global healthcare pilgrims. Public and private investors have shifted their local and regional health service standards and quality and safety protocols by employing state-of-the-art treatment centers and the latest in medical technology, creative evidence-based healthcare architecture, sustainable "green" environmentally friendly buildings, and upscale hotel-like rooms on VIP floors of international departments. We've inspected some amazing real estate in the recent months. With successful service outcomes, competitive price levels, and unique geographic locations, each country and region is on its way to becoming a preferred health partner for insurance companies, assistance companies, self-run and government health funds. What we've also witnessed along our travels is one common element missing across the world that will hinder progress and cause patient satisfaction scores to plummet if not addressed sooner rather than later.
All of the high technology hardware is operated by technicians and patients that are attended by staff nurses with limited Medical English and other source market languages such as Medical Russian. Without this critical service component, many of these other fascinating attributes will suffer inordinate market hurdles similar to competing medical tourism regions and miss the opportunity for solid competitive advantage. While health care facilities and clinics may capture a first buyer, if the buyer is uncomfortable with the treatment by the staff nurses, has trouble understanding the nurse or making themselves understood, encounters difficulties with pain management, answers to questions about their treatment and care, finds it difficult to communicate meal choices, and other challenges in the direct patient care experience, they may be hesitant or find it difficult to recommend the hospital or clinic to their friends and colleagues.
Rebuttals and Excuses
Many hospitals give immediate rebuttal, almost defensively, that their hospital or clinic offers interpreter services. Others defend that one or two nurses in their international department speak English on each shift. These answers are inadequate and offensive to those of us on the fam tour who have medical background! From me, they often receive a facial expression that I cannot repress. Often this rebuttal comes from a marketing person who has no clinical background and who really believes what they are saying because they don't know what they don't know. In several countries, the marketing person conducting the fam tour has never been a patient in a place where the nurse did not speak their language, and most often, they are fresh out of college or university and they have no healthcare experience whatsoever in a clinical setting.
Having been trained and having worked as a nurse, I can tell you first hand that when a patient needs to communicate a symptom, a serious concern, or ask a question about a medication being given, there's no time to wait for a phone-in interpreter from International SOS, AT&T, or someone in another department. Also, when I question further, the midnight shits are often sadly understaffed. While hospitals often quote a 4:1 patient to nurse ratio on their medical and surgical floors, and 1:1 on intensive care units - this is not always true around the clock. There is a reason that those numbers are not higher. It is because the nurse is adequately busy with their own four patients - adding attendance to another patient on another floor removes that nurse from the attendance of his or her assigned patients for an unknown period of time. Sometimes the rebuttal is that the doctor speaks Medical English. This too is grossly inadequate, because often the doctor is only present for about 20 minutes per day while conducting rounds.
One excuse we hear from hospital executives and nursing supervisors (assuming they themselves can communicate in English - which is not always the case) is that they fear that if they provide capacity development for the staff nurses, that those staff nurses will be poached by other competing healthcare facilities and clinics as soon as the training is over, leaving them in the same position as before. One way this can be avoided is to contract with the nurse that the hospital will pay for the course tuition provided that the nurse work at that organization for a certain period of time. If the nurse chooses to leave prior to the completion of that commitment, he or she must repay the course fee and a liquidated damage amount set in advance as a condition of departure or have it withheld from final pay. Alternatively, the hiring hospital can pay the amount in question for an early release from that commitment. Many hospital executives also state that the nurses complain that to learn Medical English brings with it extra responsibilities and that they feel under compensated for their role expansion. This too is easily remedied.
Hospital executives also explain that they are concerned about training costs. The courses that we provide are not expensive. They run about USD $270 / € 210 for Level 1 (45 hours of classroom instruction) courses, and the same for Level 2 courses (also 45 hours of classroom instruction). The course workbook runs about USD $30, and can be purchased in quantity from the publisher or in single copies from Amazon.com. The trainer comes for three weeks and the hosting organization must cover airfare, 23 nights hotel, and per diem to cover meals and incidentals, such as travel to and from the training venue. Courses are scheduled with a minimum of 15 students and a maximum of 20 students per instructor, run three weeks in duration for each level and are offered twice a day. The courses can be organized as two Level 1 courses, or one of each Level 1 and Level 2, or two Level 2 courses. Each course runs 3 hours per day, Monday through Friday with a 15-minute coffee break. Mercury Advisory Group has 5 accent-neutral instructors available to respond to training requests.
To learn more or request a proposal to train your staff or bring training to a regional cluster, please call us.
The Mercury Advisory Group is seeking experienced global health and USA health administration experts with at least 15 years of professional work experience for projects in the USA and abroad to expand its operations.
Leverage your extensive expertise with the largest, and longest established global health boutique consultancy in the world. Our 70+ team members belong to an elite squad of experts in global health, medical tourism, managed care and healthcare planning and operations on six continents. We backstop one another, rely upon one another to and learn from one another in an environment of mutual support, respect, and unselfish collaboration. We collaborate on projects and business development knowing we can depend on the internationally acknolwedged experts we refer within the team to deliver as promised. Between us, we have published more than 60 professional book titles, presented thousands of panel discussions, training and development workshops and keynote speeches.
We recruit new expert team members based on the correct balance of new and current experts, geographical balance, qualifications, experience and availability.
As a global health consultancy we work on the following types of projects:
Mercury Advisory Group's main asset is its team of experts. We follow a non-discrimination policy in engaging professionals of different nationalities.
All senior consultants and experts work as independent contractors as projects may require. Excellent original written communication skills and original technical writing is required for all project reports, proposals and scopes of work. Multilingual fluency in at least three languages is preferred. All applicants will be screened and vetted by a council of peer reviewers and experienced team members. Excellent interpersonal relationship skills, including leadership, project management, cultural competency, confidence, poise and professional dress and demeanor are required. Must work well within in a team setting or alone.
Interested parties can apply to be considered for one or more indicator areas and should send (in English) their CV, complete with cover note specifying which indicator(s) they wish to be considered for, and why they would like to be part of the Expert Panel (max 500 words). For any queries on this call for experts, please contact the Mercury Advisory Group secretariat via phone at +1.800.727.4160.