European Medical Tourism is not a new phenomenon; it has been going on for thousands of years in one form or another. Over the past decade, however, there has been a significant surge in European medical tourists traveling for medical care, mostly in a cross-border fashion. This trend has been fuelled largely by the dental market and patients from the United Kingdom who have faced long wait times at home. The industry has grown so much in the last several years that nearly all 28 member states have declared themselves a medical tourism destination, offering a wide range of treatments.
After years of discussion, the EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare was finally ratified on October 25th 2013. The Directive provides member states with a regulatory framework to promote transparency and high quality of care for patients traveling cross border for healthcare. What influence will this Directive have on the European medical tourism market is still unclear but all the afore mentioned details makes it clear that what is needed within the European Union is deliberation and collaboration between stakeholders, governments and supply services.
Patients are travelling from all over Europe
As previously mentioned, most European medical travelers are engaging in cross-border medical tourism. Popular procedures include dental, cosmetic surgery, infertility treatments, obesity surgery and eye surgery. Saving money is a strong incentive for patients to choose medical tourism, but it is not always the deciding factor in patients choosing a particular hospital or clinic. Most patients have three main factors to consider;
- Quality of Healthcare
It’s not only about the surgery or treatment
As is common in many regions, European patients typically use the internet to research their treatment options as well as the entire patient journey. This process will usually include pre-consultation, information exchange, travel, lodging, language and cultural issues and post treatment assistance. Within Europe, costs and availability are fairly transparent, but quality is not always as easy to determine.
The Key is specialization
Patients expect a high quality cross border healthcare experience. Therefore it is important for healthcare providers to focus on the treatments they are good at and collaborate with all stakeholders caring for international patients across the continuum of care.
However, there was not an effective platform to facilitate cooperation among diverse stakeholders. Recognizing this, the Medical Tourism Association introduced an EU forum and stronger European medical tourism content into its 2013 World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in Las Vegas. The forum proved hugely successful and a circle off collaboration was created.
Prof. Dr. Horst Kunhardt. Deggendorf University. Institute of Cross-border Health Care Management
European Summit on Medical Tourism
In 2014, the MTA will organize workshops in Europe and a European Summit at the 7th World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in Washington, USA, that will be held September 20th-24th.
The MTA has set up a network of collaborators within Europe and the summit will aim to create a structure and action plan that is realistic and addresses the issues that European cross-border medical tourists expect. For those member states that are committed to promoting patient centered care across European borders, participation within the summit is essential.
Agenda Topics of the EU Summit:
- Trends in European medical tourism since the Google search explosion in 2006.
- Opportunities and expectations in elective European medical tourism.
- The future of European medical tourism and the importance of certification, collaboration, quality communication, patient satisfaction, word of mouth and a coordinating organization.
- The EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare
- What are the objectives of the Directive?
- What are the obligations for healthcare providers under the directive in relation to patients’ rights to cross-border healthcare and the introduction of new policies in relation to overseas visitors’ access to free healthcare?
- What is the principle of reimbursement?
- What is the role of national contact points (NCP)?
- Business development opportunities for the future.