Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld
Chapter 14: Regional differences: scope and trust among medical tourism facilitators
An industry of medical tourism facilitators (MTFs) has developed to help medical travelers make appointments with foreign healthcare providers and to facilitate their travel and accommodations. This industry has many of the characteristics of monopolistic competition, and as such there is a need for these firms to differentiate themselves from each other. This chapter investigates how they advertise themselves, their services, and the services of the clinics and doctors who will perform the treatment, and what regional differences exist in the firms’ advertising. There is much diversity among MTFs in terms of the sizes of the firms, the number of destination countries they represent, and the backgrounds of their founders. Furthermore, several clinics and hospitals operate international patient departments to attract patients without the use of MTFs. The marketing strategies of the MTFs also differ in many ways. Some of the firms specialize in referring patients for cosmetic services, while others cover a broad range of medical procedures. There are several types of billing procedures. The concierge model charges clients for each service provided, while other firms offer complete packages at a specified price. Many of the MTFs do not charge patients at all, receiving all of their revenues from the hospitals and doctors to whom they send patients. Firms also compete over quality, using various devices to project quality and trustworthiness through their web sites, such as highlighting JCI accreditation, Better Business Bureau membership, having a medical doctor in the firm, and coordinating pre- and post-treatment care. Regional differences are evident in these strategies. Western MTFs tend to emphasize services related to preparing the traveler, whereas non-Western MTFs tend to emphasize the destination and the treatment. There are also differences in the strategies used by these firms to engender trust in the consumers. Rosen (2000) argues that trust in Western societies is based on agreements, whereas in Asian societies trust is based on relationships and on being embedded in a community. Some countries, such as India, South Korea, and Singapore, actively encourage their medical tourism industry. The chapter will review the ways in which they do this and how these affect the marketing of medical tourism.
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