What is Destination health?
Destination health is all about using digital technology to connect more consumers with information about the quality of care at medical destinations they may consider for medical tourism. Closely linked medical tourism then occurs when an individual travels to a different country/state/city than where they currently live to receive better care quality or more affordable medical, dental and/or surgical care than they could receive in their own country/state/city. Increasingly consumer use of online destination health resources during ‘micro-moment’ decision making represents real growth opportunity for Destination Management Organizations (DMO) with publicly recognized quality healthcare providers that deliver clinical services in the DMO community.
Healthcare reform in the United States is now empowering consumers with more choice thru health savings accounts and portability in their coverage location, and has prompted many people to start to seek digital communities to look for alternative means to getting better quality medical treatment and lower prices1. To address rising healthcare costs, business and industry experts have suggested that payers, employers, and policymakers could increase competition among hospitals by encouraging patients to obtain treatment at medical centers outside their local hospital service areas2. For DMO’s in the US this has created opportunities to promote their destination thru partnering with local high quality healthcare institutions and reaching out to consumers who are farther away. In parallel many countries around the world, including South Korea, India and Singapore, are offering medical procedures at as little as 10 percent of the price one would pay in the U.S. This tandem development has also caused major healthcare facilities in the U.S. to look at what off‐shore medical communities are doing to drive people to their facilities. Medical tourism is a growing industry and in a recovery economy, more informed people are looking for affordable healthcare with quality results, even if it requires travel.
|Figure 1 Types of Medical Tourism (3)|
|Patients traveling to various locations within the U.S. to receive medical treatment.|
|Inbound||Patients traveling to the U.S. from other countries to receive medical care.|
|Outbound||U.S. patients traveling to other countries to receive medical care.|
1 Deloitte, A consumer-driven culture of health: The path to sustainability and growth, 2015
2 Direct-to-Consumer Hospital Advertising and Domestic Medical Travel in the United States. Journal of Healthcare Management: January-February 2020 – Volume 65 – Issue 1 – p 30-43 doi: 10.1097/JHM-D-18-00232
3 Deloitte, Medical Tourism: Update and Implication
Domestic medical tourism today is a tiny market. Still, Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, predicts that “this is where the health care industry is going to migrate.” He says domestic medical tourism could easily surpass the $2.1 billion that Americans spend outside the U.S. on health care. 4 A big incentive for employers to offer a domestic medical travel option to their employees is cost savings. Cost savings to employers result from their negotiating single rates, including the costs for specialists and all medical care, upfront. In addition, providers are able to offer discounts to employers based on their lower overhead derived from their geographical location (i.e., lower cost of labor, etc.).5 Destination health promotion for domestic medical tourism is also gaining ground. Employing a combination of Medicare patient data and user search-engine histories, Visit Aurora (Colorado) targeted patients who could benefit from specialty services offered at University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado, The Medical Center of Aurora and the Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System. “That led to a 600 percent increase in web traffic to the page in 90 days and 300 new patient inquiries to facilities listed on the site…” Hospitals nationwide have tried to keep local patients from leaving the area for nationally known facilities.6
In Jacksonville, Florida, the DMO Visit Jacksonville data finds estimated economic impact for medical tourism in the city is more than $23Million annually. Visit Jacksonville and its local medical partners, including Mayo Clinic, University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute, Ackerman Cancer Center and Market Staging Inc., were awarded a $99,200.00 matching grant by Visit Florida to promote Jacksonville’s award winning medical industry to new patients and medical convention planners. Home to an extraordinary network of high profile healthcare facilities, Jacksonville has plenty of options for patients across the globe to choose from including one of only three Mayo Clinics, one of the first Proton Therapy Cancer Treatment Centers in the world, and the first private physician owned Proton Therapy Center.
4 Inc., Domestic Medical Tourism, Issie Liposky June 2011
5 American Bar Association, Domestic Medical Tourism Gaining Traction, Samuel S. Choy and Stacey L. Stewart July 2011
6 Denver Business Journal, Aurora: Come for the medical treatments. Visit Aurora taking steps to lure patients from other areas to health care facilities as tourism strategy. Ed Sealover May 2013
7 Visit Florida Press Release, Jacksonville Awarded State Grant to Promote Local Medical Industry; Grant Will Be Used to Market Jacksonville as a Premier Health Care Destination February 2015
Healthcare destinations will increasingly rely heavily upon informed consumer awareness to create interest and attract patients. Understanding and connecting with medical tourist digital communities will require knowing which medical issues they value; recognizing what they believe about travel, quality and costs; and diagnosing the destination health ideas that define them. For an authoritative source to sustain a trusted relationship with a destination health subculture, content offered to the group will speak to these group needs in a manner that provides value thru sensitivity to medical issues; thru prompted cues about before and after travel issues; thru the shared experience of patients who want and need quality outcomes connecting with better quality providers.