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Amanda Haar, Editor
Clements International has been a leading provider of international insurance programs to individuals and organizations living and operating abroad since 1947. More recently the company has begun crafting products that specifically address the liability issues faced by medical travel facilitators. What follows is a conversation with Dan Tuman, vice president of Commercial Sales at Clements regarding the company's philosophy and approach to the market.
Medical Travel Today (MTT): Let's start with you. Tell us a bit about your background.
SPOTLIGHT: Steve Lash
In 2008, Steven Lash and a team of 10 experienced healthcare professionals launched Satori World Medical, the first global healthcare network with a specific focus on employer/plan-sponsored medical travel. And while such a targeted approach is noteworthy, what's gaining more attention is the shared savings aspect of their offering.
Through its "Health & Shared Wealth Program™" (patent-pending), Satori World Medical enables payers to share the cost savings associated with receiving care abroad with plan sponsors, employers, and for the first time, employees.
But shared savings is not the only appealing aspect of the company's offering.
In addition to managing the financial aspects of medical travel, Satori World Medical provides all patient care coordination, including booking flights, making all hotel accommodations and travel arrangements for the patient and their companion, and coordinating follow-up care.
Medical Travel Today recently spoke with Satori World Medical founder and CEO Steven Lash about how the company's launch is going, what obstacles they face, and his expectations for growth in the months and years ahead.
Medical Travel Today (MTT): Yours is a very diverse background. Tell me how and when you first learned about medical travel and what inspired you to start Satori World Medical?
Steven Lash (SL): In my professional career I've always been involved in healthcare. As an executive, I am concerned about the rising costs of healthcare and the economic burdens that healthcare continues to place on U.S. companies and their employees. I became aware of medical travel and once I was convinced about the real potential cost savings and high quality of care internationally, I began developing a business model that would work for a company in the same way it does for an individual. At the time, the benefits of medical travel were enjoyed by individuals: they went and they saved. Prior to Satori World Medical, the employer may not have received some of the economic benefit and the employee was not really incentivized to go. I learned about Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) and recognized that there was a tax-advantaged way to share the savings with all stakeholders (the employer, payor and employee) and make the option available to more Americans. A HRA is funded by the employer for each participating employee. Funds deposited can pay for eligible health care expenses typically covered under the medical plan. Unused funds can be carried over to the next year to cover future health care expenses.
In July of 2008 I filed a patent on our business model. By filing the patent we are assured that Satori clients and their employees will share in the savings generated through the utilization of the Satori Global Network™. We anticipate our program will lead the way in the globalization of healthcare delivery.
MTT: As I understand it, your offering works specifically with an employer’s HRA. Is that correct?
SL: Not entirely. We work with insurance companies, plan sponsors, and employers. We also anticipate including in our offering Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and other methods of sharing savings.
Currently 17% of employers offer Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), tax-exempt accounts where funds grow to pay for medical expenses, or HRAs coupled with a high-deductible plan. Many insurance companies have plans which offer a HRA and some employers have self-funded health plans. For those we can offer them a format for a HRA and even suggest a vendor to work with if they're interested in pursuing this model.
Self-funded employers are a main focus for us as they make their own decisions and can easily implement our medical benefit.
We've been actively marketing our company and innovative global healthcare model since January and thus far have one agreement in place with many others on the horizon. We're in deep negotiations right now with several health plans that are looking to add Satori World Medical as part of their offering. We're also close to finalizing contracts with two Third Party Administrators (TPAs) to offer our product to their large self-funded clients.
MTT: How are you conducting your marketing?
SL: We have an internal sales force that sells directly.
I'm also involved in sales because of my strong relationships with a number of national insurance firms. I find it helps that I understand the space thoroughly. It makes it easier to understand a company’s needs and concerns and create something that works for them specifically.
Let me add that from the very beginning of the company, we built our offering to focus on the financially sponsored patient. Everything is built around the requirements of health plans for their domestic networks. We replicated that as the model for contracting with our international network.
MTT: I realize it's early in the game, but what kind of cost savings have employer groups been able to realize?
MTT: What are the most common objections or obstacles you face in introducing your program to employer groups?
MTT: Is the Health & Shared Wealth Program™ customizable by client? In other words, how much control do employers exert on how much is shared with an employee?
MTT: What are your plans for expanding your network of care beyond the existing countries you now work with?
Fairly soon we'll be adding a high quality cosmetic and dental network, as well. This is being done at the request by employers who would like this available for their employees.
About Steven Lash
IMTA Membership Update
The IMTA invites hospitals and provider organizations involved in medical travel and global care to become members. The IMTA represents many of the world’s leading medical travel brands, and is run by credible, experienced and trusted healthcare professionals.
Members are actively involved in developing guidelines and initiatives that promote quality, patient safety and continuity of care, and enjoy the benefits of working with colleagues to move the industry forward.
Become a member and join us in Singapore for Healthcare Travel Congress, June 28-30, 2009, to learn about new IMTA initiatives, strategies and partnerships.
The IMTA is THE platform and voice for medical travel and global healthcare.
MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS in IMTA include:
PROFESSIONAL PUBLICATIONS AND REPORTS
WHO SHOULD JOIN IMTA?
Deloitte survey casts shadow on medical tourism
CNN Focuses on Medical Travel
Rudy Rupak, co-founder and president of PlanetHospital, was kind enough to share the following link to a CNN video clip featuring Sanjay Gupta, M.D. Click here to watch.
The piece focuses on the logistics, quality issues, and even the ethical issues related to receiving care in India.
A companion print story can be viewed at this link
BlogTalkRadio Airs Story on Medical Travel
UnitedHealth Scouting for an Indian Partner
NEW DELHI: UnitedHealth Group, the biggest U.S. health insurer, is scouting for an Indian partner to set up a standalone health insurance joint venture (JV) in the country. The proposed venture would pitch UnitedHealth Group against other global rivals Bupa and DKV Group, which has recently entered India hoping to tap the highly underpenetrated local health insurance market.
India’s health care insurance market is at a nascent stage with only 2 percent of the country’s 1.1 billion population having health insurance coverage.
"We are actively looking for an Indian partner and have already shortlisted some names. The JV should be launched in 2009. We are very bullish on India as a market that has huge underpenetration for health care insurance," UnitedHealth Group's executive vice present, David Wichman, told The Economic Times (ET). He declined to disclose the names of the possible partners.
In 2008, the United States’s largest health insurer company had revenues of $81 billion in 2008. These include revenues from premium collection, services , products, and other investments.
Under current foreign direct investment (FDI) norms, foreign companies can hold only up to 24 percent stake in health insurance, and the rest 74 percent has to be owned by an Indian partner. Other global health insurers such as U.S.-based Aetna, Inc. and Cigna Healthcare are also reportedly looking at an Indian foray, while some have already set up operations.
In 2007, the country’s largest hospital chain, Apollo Hospitals, forayed into the segment with a 76:24 JV with German health insurer DKV. Last year, Max Healthcare formed a similar JV with U.K.-based insurer BUPA to enter the health insurance market. The third player, Chennai-based Star Health and Allied Insurance, is also a JV between Oman insurance company ETA Ascon and a group of insurance veterans from India.
Malvinder Singh, who co-owns hospital chain Fortis Healthcare and financial services firm Religare,which offers life insurance, had earlier told ET that he is also mulling an entry into the segment, as it complements his existing businesses. This could be through a JV.
Consultants who advise insurance firms say more international players are expected to come to India once the sector opens up further. A government proposal to increase the FDI limit in insurance sector from 24 percent to 49 percent is awaiting approval.
UnitedHealth Group has already had a presence in India for the past three years. It operates a captive business process outsourcing unit in Gurgaon employing about 2,000 people. The Gurgaon facility includes two business units -- IT Operations (ITO) and Healthcare Business Services (HBS).
Treatment Abroad announces the appointment of its first overseas medical tourism franchisee
Treatment Abroad, part of Intuition Communication Ltd and the leading providers of online information for medical tourism, has appointed its first overseas franchisee -- the In Malta Online Group, which will operate the Treatment in Malta Web site.
The new site will be aimed at inbound medical tourists to Malta. The In Malta Online Group currently operates a number of online services and has invested in the franchise to expand its range of Malta-based Web portals into the health care market.
The In Malta Group is the first franchisee that Intuition Communication has appointed. The new Web site will follow the successful Intuition business model and reflect the branding and content of Intuition’s other medical tourism portals such as: Treatment In Cyprus, Treatment In Spain, Treatment In Hungary, and the recently launched Treatment In India.
Intuition Communication will work closely with the In Malta Online Group and provide web technology, business development, marketing, and operational support to set up the Web site to ensure its success once it goes live.
Keith Pollard, who runs Intuition Communication, says, “Franchising our business model and brand is a logical step for us in expanding our business, particularly into overseas markets. We see this as an opportunity to grow our revenues by licensing our technology and business model to Web businesses and health care operators in other countries that wish to develop health information portals or medical tourism content.
Franchising will enable us to benefit from the use of local sales and marketing franchisees to achieve these revenues. We are looking for businesses who, like the In Malta Online Group, want to extend existing Web businesses or set up new Web ventures, whilst minimizing the investment required to develop and set up such a site. Our franchise will offer them the expertise, knowledge, and ongoing support to build a successful portal within the health information sector of their own country.”
Companion Global Healthcare Clients May Choose Brazil for JCI-Accredited Care
Columbia, S.C. – Medical travel facilitator Companion Global Healthcare Inc. announced today that it has accepted Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo, Brazil, into its international network of accredited hospitals that treat American patients at affordable rates.
The announcement means Companion Global Healthcare’s individual clients and employer group members may choose Albert Einstein, along with any other network hospital, for surgery or other treatment at a fraction of the price typically charged by U.S. hospitals.
Albert Einstein hospital offers a variety of surgical services, including cardiac and orthopedic. It has held the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation since 1999, and has specialized in treating international patients for more than 15 years.
Companion Global Healthcare (www.CompanionGlobalHealthcare.com), based in Columbia, S.C., is a full-service medical travel firm that helps clients arrange travel to its network hospitals, set appointments with physicians, transfer medical records to their hospital of choice, and arrange follow-up care in the United States. The company serves uninsured and underinsured individuals, and contracts with self-insured employers and insurance companies that offer a global care option in their benefit plans.
Rates at Companion Global Healthcare network hospitals are up to 90 percent less than those at U.S. hospitals, meaning individuals and self-insured employers can save tens of thousands of dollars on a single procedure.
Companion Global Healthcare’s network includes 16 hospitals in India, Costa Rica, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Ireland, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil. All network hospitals are JCI accredited, and all have completed Companion Global Healthcare’s extensive credentialing process.
“We are pleased to welcome Albert Einstein hospital into our network,” Companion Global Healthcare president David Boucher says. “The facility is state-of-the-art, and it has a well-deserved reputation for upholding high standards of care and welcoming international patients.”
Henrique Sutton de Sousa Neves, Albert Einstein hospital’s CEO, adds, “Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein was a pioneer in international medicine as the first hospital outside the United States to be accredited by the Joint Commission.We have been treating international patients for more than 15 years, so our staff understands their needs and expectations.
“We are excited about this partnership with Companion Global Healthcare because it shares our vision of excellence and respect in patient care.”
About Companion Global Healthcare
The company serves uninsured and underinsured individuals, as well as employers and insurance companies that have included the Companion Global Healthcare network in their benefit plans. Employer groups interested in restructuring their benefit plans to include Companion Global Healthcare’s network and services should call 1-800-906-7065.
Expectations too high for medical mart complex, some experts say
CLEVELAND -- Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI) president Christopher Kennedy proclaims his company's plan for a taxpayer-funded medical mart and convention center here would turn Cleveland into "a Disney World for doctors."
Yet some medical-industry insiders and convention-world experts wonder whether MMPI's business plan for its partnership with Cuyahoga County isn't as fanciful as a Disney fairy tale.
The predictions for success -- which include nearly $1 billion a year in local economic benefits -- are based on assumptions that skeptical observers say are optimistic at best and grossly bloated at worst.
A potential consequence: the actual boost to the region could turn out to be a small fraction of the annual $990 million economic-impact turbocharge that has been forecast.
Americans flocking to Mexico for dental care
While American medical authorities fear for patients because of the lack of regulation --meaning some providers won't be punished for shoddy service -- discounts on the cost of care can be as much as 70 percent, or more. One reason for the high costs in the United States, some experts say, is the fear of a malpractice suit.
Kevin Earle, executive director for the Arizona Dental Association, said he and his colleagues worry about patients who cross the border to receive care. He recounted one instance where a patient who received treatment in Mexico came to a hospital "bleeding heavily from the mouth" because the dentist did not take into account that the patient was on a blood thinner.
Carlos Rubio, one of the more highly-regarded dentists in Los Algodones, worries that such incidents and less-professional dentists will only worsen the town's reputation.
"Wherever you go -- London, Canada, Chicago -- you're going to find the best, the average, and the bad," Rubio says. "We are no exception. Sadly, there are too many businessmen taking advantage of this phenomenon, who will say ‘Do you want to work with me? How well do you work -- who cares?'"
For more on Los Algodones:- read this Chicago Tribune story
Fibroids are the number one reason for a hysterectomy followed by abnormal uterine bleeding, endometriosis, and uterine prolapse. Hysterectomies are also performed for cancers and pre-cancers but account for only 10 percent of the procedures performed.
Today, hysterectomies can be performed a number of different ways. The most common procedures include:
- Total abdominal or "open" hysterectomy is the "traditional" hysterectomy. The most common hysterectomy, it involves removal of the uterus and cervix (with or without removal of the ovaries or fallopian tubes) through a large abdominal incision and requires a stay of three to six days in the hospital and up to six weeks of recovery time. This is the most invasive type of hysterectomy and may be recommended in the instances of large fibroids, severe endometriosis, and for some types of cancer.
- Vaginal hysterectomies remove the uterus completely through the vagina. This method is often chosen to treat uterine-vaginal prolapse and early cervical or uterine cancer. This procedure requires a hospital stay of one to three days and recovery time of approximately two weeks.
- Laparoscopically-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH) is similar to a vaginal hysterectomy in that the uterus and cervix are removed through an incision deep inside the vagina. However, this procedure involves the use of a laparoscope inserted through a small incision in the navel. Sometimes referred to as a "keyhole hysterectomy," this procedure has similar hospital stay and recovery periods as vaginal procedures.
* Source: The National Women’s Health Information Center, CDC
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Costa Rican Medical Care Announces Health Care Seminar
Lake Geneva, Wis. (PRWEB) March 15, 2009 -- Costa Rican Medical Care (CRMC), a division of HSA Clearing Corp, will be sponsoring a health care seminar in San Jose, Costa Rica, May 12 and 13, 2009.
Self Insured Firms
Patients Beyond Borders Author Josef Woodman to Deliver Plenary Session at CISTM 2009
Chapel Hill, N.C. (PRWEB) March 23, 2009 -- Josef Woodman, president and CEO of Healthy Travel Media, has been selected to be a featured expert panelist at the 11th Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine (CISTM). The conference, which historically attracts up to 2,000 delegates from 50 countries, will be held in Budapest, Hungary, May 24-28, 2009. Plenary sessions throughout the 4-day event will highlight issues of global healthcare and medical tourism, with noted speakers and industry leaders from around the world.
Woodman's plenary session, entitled "Globalized Healthcare and Medical Tourism: Definition, Scope, Impact, and Players" is slated for Monday, May 25, 9:00-10:30 a.m. Woodman will address new trends in medical tourism vis-à-vis globalized healthcare, including emergent issues related to insurers and employers, liability/malpractice, quality-assurance metrics, continuity of care, and telemedicine.
As the author of Patients Beyond Borders, Woodman spent more than three years touring 100 medical facilities in 14 countries, researching contemporary medical tourism. The co-founder of MyDailyHealth and Ventana Communications, with a pioneering background in health, wellness, and Web technology, Woodman has compiled a wealth of information about global health travel, telemedicine, and new developments in consumer and institutional medical care. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Healthcare Summit, and as program co-chairman of the Global Healthcare Congress 2009. He has lectured at Harvard Medical School and the UCLA School of Public Health. Woodman has emerged as an outspoken advocate of global consumer healthcare and medical travel.
About International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM)
The society's 11th Annual Conference will bring together 2,000 members and special delegates to cover a range of topics from "Globalized Health Care and Medical Tourism" to "The Risks and Rewards of Travel Medicine" and "Aviation Emergencies in the Air." Additional information on the conference can be found at http://www.abstractserver.com/cistm11/welcome.htm.
Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau to Sponsor the 2009 World Medical Health Tourism Conference in Phuket
Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is set to sponsor the World Medical Health Tourism Conference: A New Way Forward, which will be held in Phuket, Thailand, September 2009.
TCEB’s participation and sponsorship in this internationally diverse networking event will aim to promote Thailand on an international scale as a medical tourism destination and a preferred venue for international meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition (MICE) events.
The whole of Phuket Island is getting behind the conference, which will cater to more than 1,200 delegates. Local supporters range from local community groups, tourism operators, and many of the major hoteliers and resort owners, namely Woraburi Phuket Resort, Millennium Resort Patong, The Moevenpick Resort, Karon Beach Resort of Kata Group, Aquamarine Resort, Cape Panwa Hotel, and Andaman Seaview Hotel group.
Phuket, dubbed as the medical tourism hub in Asia, is the ideal location to hold the conference because of its infrastructure, capacity to host a massive number of international guests, and the availability of cutting-edge technology and internationally trained medical experts manning their world-class medical facilities.
Sometime within the next month the floor plan or layout for exhibitors at the venue, Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa, will be published online and application forms will be available for the exhibitors to download from the Web site. Many pre-conference and post-conference activities have been planned for the conference, which early estimates expect to bring a windfall to Phuket of about $10 million over the two-week period. Interested parties are advised to visit the conference website: www.sosmedicaltourism.com for more information.
Date Set for Healthcare Travel Exhibition & Congress in Dubai: October 27-29, 2009
With the healthcare travel industry poised to play an important part in Dubai's growth strategy, the Institute for International Research (IIR) Middle East, the organizers of the first medical tourism conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which concluded in Dubai, recently have reported high levels of interest from a potentially huge international market.
"Research unveiled at the event indicated a global market of around two million medical travelers a year and an industry constrained by hospital capacity and lack of consumer familiarity with medical travel," says Sietske Meerloo, marketing manager at IIR Middle East and organizer of Healthcare Travel Exhibition & Congress.
“Large numbers of hospitals and clinics around the world are attempting to tailor their health services to cater to medical tourists," Meerloo added. "Several major insurance companies offer a travel component in their policies, and governments are looking closely at policies to take account of the trend."
The health care event was officially opened by Haidar Al Yousuf, M.D., transition director at the Dubai Health Authority, who highlighted the importance the Authority is placing on the future of medical tourism.
"As we look to develop our domestic health strategy, we also want to develop a joint strategy with our colleagues in the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM), for the future of health tourism in Dubai," says Dr. Al Yousuf. "The health care sector in Dubai will become an increasingly attractive place for international health care investors, providers, services, facilities, and other health care professionals."
PlanetHospital, a California-based leader in medical tourism, used the event as a platform to announce the official opening of its Jeddah Saudi Arabia office to serve inbound and outbound medical tourists from the Arabian Gulf region.
"The Gulf has the potential to drive growth in medical tourism," says Mohammed Alarifi, managing director for the new operation. "It is not only a destination from where patients seek medical care abroad but is also becoming a medical tourism destination itself thanks to major hospital developments throughout the region."
The American Hospital Dubai also had high visibility at the event. There was "a lot of exchange of experience among colleagues from around the world," says Naser Saleh, director of marketing and sales. “On the conference side, the sessions were very informative."
Gary Miller, CEO of Health Travel TV, says the event had been important for them. "We have a unique product, and we’re the only broadcast media here dedicated to this area. I’m coming back to Arab Health in January."
Organized in association with the International Medical Travel Association, the Healthcare Travel Exhibition and Congress was supported by the UAE Ministry of Health and the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi. Platinum sponsors were Singapore Medicine. Gold sponsors were the American Hospital Dubai and Dubai Health Authority.