Continuum of Care

Medical tourism

Compassionate, efficient and responsive handling of patient or his dependents is of utmost importance

India is on the way to fast emerging as a formidable destination for Medical Value Travel (MVT), this being a sunrise industry. As national borders become increasingly porous,
MVT experts and healthcare providers need to explore new ways of managing international medical travel. This business is driven, inter alia, by word of Compassionate, efficient and responsive handling of patient or his dependents is of utmost importance mouth and things could go awry pretty quickly, if the patients are not handled appropriately. In the long term, only good quality of overall patient experience, affordability and exceptional outcomes will drive this business. Lately, however, we have had challenges in delivery and there have been alleged instances of cheating, suboptimal outcomes and cost escalations.

Right from the time a query is raised till a patient reaches a hospital, compassionate, efficient and responsive handling of patient or his/her dependents is of utmost importance.
Continuity of care post treatment is equally important too. A typical MVT value chain may involve the following:
• Receipt of investigations and diagnostic reports from
the patient and a feedback by provider to patient on
diagnosis, line of treatment, scope of services and commercials.
• Assistance in pre-travel formalities and procedures
(medical visa, travel & staying arrangements and arrival
formalities et al).
• Treatment in the hospital in line with best practices.
• Provide post-travel post treatment support and ensuring
continuity of care to the patient.
• Extension of language and cultural support.
• Financial support.
• Optimising the respective roles of the physician/surgeon,
International Patient Services Team (IPS) hospital,
nurse and case manager in risk reduction and patient
clinical care.
• Minimise potential risks and clinical care deficiencies
in medical/surgical travel practices, hospitals and aftercare

Maximising the Hospital Experience: Most hospitals have a full-fledged IPS team and translators who help the physicians in delivery of care.
Prevention of Malpractices: Canvassing and pestering of patients right from the airport onwards have been reported occasionally, at least in NCR. Such is the competition that there have also been reported cases of patient ‘theft’. Cases of inflated billing, ill-treatment and botched outcomes have also been reported off and on. The menace must stop, as it gives a bad name to the industry and dents overall industry image.
Accreditation of MVT Companies: A notable trend in accreditation of MVT facilitators also augurs well for the industry. This will set benchmarking standards for many others to follow suit and bring in quality and improvements into the MVT protocols.
Telemedicine & Post Treatment Review: Telemedicine is fast catching up in the country and can provide follow up consultations and clinical reviews for patients coming
from Africa, MEA and other regions.
Country Visits: Continuity of care by doctors visiting some of these countries for OPD, medical camps and other promotional activities can also see the patients and review their medical condition. This helps build trust and provide continuity of care.
Self Help Groups: Some hospitals have also created selfhelp groups in social media to help answer their medical queries and mitigate post treatment clinical and lifestyle related concerns.
Physical Presence: Some providers are establishing hospitals and other healthcare facilities in some of these target countries to ensure care. Many others have opened facilitation centres or have even started ‘surgery camps’ with some local players to bring care closer to patients. These initiatives have their definitive upside in increasing patient outreach and establishing long-term partnership and confidence.

Accreditation of the providers, including those of healthcare facilitators, will help drive quality. All hospital staff needs to be trained too. The following KPIs will need to be monitored to ensure exceptional patient delight:
• Patient satisfaction at critical touchpoints outside the clinical setting such as the hotel or transportation.
• Average treatment charges.
• Service delivery times and TATs – many providers struggle on this count.
• The average time it takes you to respond to a prospect.
• Patient follow up.

To ensure the continuum of care, HIPAA compliant ICT technologies are being developed globally to store and retrieve medical information in hospitals, in a centralised information infrastructure about treatment and care plans, while preserving personal information confidentiality. Telemedicine, AI, EMR/EHR sand Blockchain are the future of medicine in the country and going to help the MVT industry immensely. These will also help ensure continuity of care, long after the patient has left for his/ her own country after getting good treatment.

Some cases of violence have been reported in the recent past because of fatalities or lack of transparency in pricing. This has gotten the industry a bad name and affects India’s story as a destination for medical value travel. The presence of large number of touts and many other fly by night operators severity affect the patient interests and dent the quality of healthcare delivery.

The MVT industry is becoming highly competitive. The continuing regulatory pressures will further put downward pressure on healthcare providers. This may increase costs of treatment and derail the movement of people moving to India, seeking world class treatment at cheaper rates. It is very important for any organisation to identify problems and opportunities and to increase productivity wherever service levels are lacking. Continuity of care is important to caregivers and patients alike, and it leads to an improvement of the satisfaction level, reduces costs
and improves health. Patient feedback is equally important. Care giving and following up clinical staff need to be adequately trained for the job. Many clinicians are themselves not up to the mark and need to be upskilled.

Providers will have to up the game to remain ahead of the curve to provide value to patient throughout the treatment value chain. There are no short cuts to success here. Optimizing processes and providing continuity of care will help build trust and long-term relationship and take the MVT industry to the next level.