An American Appeal to Overseas Hospitals
Until the emergence of an official accreditation agency to identify and credential the minimum standards of a credible Medical Travel Agency (MTA,) MedRetreat would like to encourage all International Hospitals to consider 5 issues before agreeing to an affiliation with a MTA for the purpose of attracting North American patients.
1) Develop an affiliation approval process
- Don’t go into an affiliation with an MTA blindly - just looking for increased business…that could be a dangerous proposition and could affect your potential involvement in the medical tourism industry. It only takes one unsatisfied patient to damage your reputation.
- Don’t just accept any MTA that expresses an interest in you. There are multitudes of new MTAs popping up every year looking for hospital affiliations. Perform your due diligence and hand select the best agencies in alignment with your business standards and ethics.
- Research the medical travel industry’s past and potential future to better understand the risks and rewards.
- Understand the different service levels of MTAs.
- Understand the needs and expectations of North American medical tourists.
- Develop a minimum time-line to begin an affiliation…the best MTAs believe in establishing a good relationship before any business is conducted.
- Develop a list of questions for the MTA to answer…the answers to these questions should reveal the level of commitment to overall quality and safety the MTA is willing to provide.
2) Verify the MTA is a legitimate business in good standing
- Ask for business references. Check them.
- Ask for personal character references. Check them.
- Check the company status with professional agencies such as the Better Business Bureau.
- Perform an Internet search on the company and its key personnel to find information relating to positive and/or negative feedback. Remember to verify the source and always allow the MTA an opportunity to respond to any negative press. As you can imagine, some information is simply incorrect.
3) Insist that the MTA visit your hospital facility
- Serious MTAs insist on performing a site inspection of their hospital affiliates.
- The MTA must understand your structure and process.
- Accommodate meetings between the MTA, administrative staff, executive staff, and chief surgeons to discuss the importance of understanding each other’s roles – discuss the communication process. Disclose all areas of interest.
- Explain the patient experience within your facility. Walk them through the entire process.
- Establish a conduit of communication between companies ensuring quick responses to emails and phone calls.
4) Ask the MTA to disclose their process of facilitation
- Have them walk you through the process.
- Check with past clients to confirm that their process is being followed.
- How do they handle problems?
- Are the solutions to these problems being incorporated into their process to mitigate being duplicated?
- Test the process with a virtual patient to ensure effectiveness.
- Determine how their process works with yours. Make adjustments if necessary.
5) Determine the level of service the MTA provides
- Do they handle all aspects of the medical travel experience? Or, just a referral service?
- Is the MTA always available by phone or email? And, what is their response time?
- Talk to their case managers to determine their level of ability to help medical travelers.
- Check their website to determine the level of professionalism they display.
- Agree on a mutual commitment to offer unlimited services in providing a safe and stress-free medical travel experience to the patient.
In summary, it’s important to make sure your business principles and those of the MTA are similar in nature. The MTA is an extension of your hospital and your health tourism reputation… choose wisely.