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© 2012 Medical Travel Today

Medical Travel Today is a publication of CPR Strategic Marketing Communications, a public relations firm based near New York City that specializes in healthcare and life sciences, with an international clientele. CPR, its Partners, and clients are at the nexus of where medical travel is today, and where it will be tomorrow.

Publisher, Laura Carabello

Table of Contents

From the Editor

From the Editor: This week in Medical Travel Today, Amanda Haar

News in Review

CNN Reports: Egg freezing changing fertility treatments

Bloomberg: The Real Cost of Medical Tourism

Patient outflow to India have Nigerian doctors worried

Inside Look

PART TWO: Medical Travel Today Follows One Employer's First Foray into the World of Medical Travel


Debbie Wafford, Senior Specialist, Southwest Airlines Community Relations and Giving Team

Industry News

Princess Haya announces Dubai Healthcare City reorganization

PBS News Hour: Health Costs -- How the US Compares With Other Countries

Temos Certificate “Quality in International Patients' Care” for Mediterraneo Hospital Athens, Greece

A U.S. Country Tune for Worldwide Audiences

Upcoming Events

Patients Beyond Borders®CEOto Present at November Indian Medical Tourism Conference and Alliance in Hyderabad, India

The 5th International Health Tourism Congress
Ankara, Turkey, November 18-21, 2012

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Global Health Voyager

Volume 6, Issue 22

by Amanda Haar, Editor


We're happy to present Part Two of our INSIDE LOOK column following one company's exploration of medical travel as a benefit option. Now a month or so into the effort, the company is begin to fully appreciate how medical travel may or may not work for their 450+ insured lives. We will continue to follow this effort as it unfolds.

It's also interesting to note that both Bloomberg and the PBS News Hour offered recent comparisons of healthcare costs in the US versus other countries. While the PBS piece was intended really to offer a deep examination of the causes of the high cost of care, in some ways it did as much as Bloomberg's pro-medical travel story to promote the industry.

As always, we welcome your comments, story ideas, and press releases.


Amanda Haar, Editor

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Inside Look

PART TWO: Medical Travel Today Follows One Employer's First Foray into the World of Medical Travel

In Issue 20 of Medical Travel Today we introduced Sam Shallenberger of RJ Young, a $100 million equipment and leasing company based in Nashville, Tenn. Like many US companies, RJ Young faces the challenge of providing affordable healthcare coverage to its 450 employees.

Currently RJ Young offers a high deductible health plan with an employee HSA and an employer HRA, all through Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee.

Excluding preventative care, the risk layers are:

First $2,500 annually - Employee
Next $1,500 annually - 80/20 BCBS/RJY
Remainder - BCBS fully insured

After some initial research, Shallenberger requested that his broker, Alex Tolbert of Bernard Health, begin investigating medical travel as an option.

In the few weeks that have elapsed since Issue 20 published, Tolbert has been in contact with several medical travel companies exploring the opportunities and how they fit with RJ Young's needs and plans.  

It's important to note that prior to offering a consumer-driven plan, RJ Young was self-insured. The company expects to move back to self-insured at some point in the future when premiums for fully-insured or modified fully-insured are disadvantaged compared to self-insurance expectations.

Tolbert's initial research indicates that a great deal of the financial benefits to medical travel have a greater impact for self-insured employers. However, Tolbert notes there are a number of non-financial benefits that need to be considered.

For example, says Shallenberger, “We are learning that some providers may have demonstrably superior outcomes for certain categories of procedures. ...We are exploring the option at renewal in September of 2013 of offering certain categories of procedures - such as cardiac - and providing network coverage for non-emergency treatment for those categories at selected providers which offer both better outcomes and better pricing.”

Shallenberger remains open to either domestic or overseas providers.


Debbie Wafford, Senior Specialist, Southwest Airlines Community Relations and Giving Team

Debbie Wafford, Senior Specialist, Southwest Airlines Community Relations and Giving Team

Editor's Note: In Issue 20 of Medical Travel Today we featured a link to blogsouthwest.com where a grateful mother by the name of Shannon Robertson was singing the praises of Southwest Airlines' Medical Transportation Grant Program. Thanks to the program, Roberston, who lives in Louisiana, hasn't had to worry one day about expenses associated with transporting her daughter to Boston Children's Hospital for ongoing treatments for bladder extrophy.

This heart-warming post prompted me to reach out to the good folks at Southwest to learn more about the program. What follows is my conversation with Debbie Wafford, a senior specialist on Southwest's Community Relations and Giving Team.

Medical Travel Today (MTT): Tell me about the program and how it started.

Debbie Wafford (DW): We're actually celebrating our fifth year as a formal program. Prior to that we received intermittent requests for consideration and we helped out as best we could. But we really treated those instances like one-offs. Over time, though, the number of requests started to grow. A lot of it was word of mouth, and we were fielding calls from individuals, as well as family members or friends of those needing care, explaining the need and seeking help.

Pretty quickly the need started to outgrow the capacity of our team. Concurrent to that, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws started to take effect. At that point the restrictions made it impossible for us to operate the way we had in the past. The direct consumer-to-us approach was no longer an option.

Of course we weren't going to abandon the effort; we just needed to figure how to do it within, or rather around, the confines of HIPAA, as well as more effectively and efficiently.

With the formal program now in place, we have the opportunity to support many non-profit hospitals across the country, as well as medical transport charities.

MTT: Exactly how does the program do that?

DW: What we do is offer partner hospitals and transport providers with in-kind donations in the form of complimentary roundtrip tickets. They in turn give the tickets to deserving patients who must travel for medical care, as well as to their companion caregivers. In just the past year we donated 6,000 tickets, which equates to about $2.4 million USD.

MTT: Wow. That's a lot of tickets.

DW: Yes, it is. This has been the largest year thus far in terms of budget and the number of hospitals we've partnered with.

MTT: And how does that work? How does one become a Southwest partner hospital?

DW: Well, it's an annual program. Our partners reapply each year along with potential, new partners. What they do is fill out an online grant application. Our team then evaluates them based on a number of parameters.

First, we're looking for facilities in cities served by either by Southwest or AirTran, which we acquired last year. We do that because we don't want to challenge an individual who is traveling for health needs to require additional ground transportation.

Second, we're looking for hospitals that we consider to be destination hospitals. That is, they offer a specialized service or treatment, or are highly recognized. We're looking for a facility that people need to travel to for care that they can't get locally.

We also look at the hospital's need. How many patients do they have traveling in for care? That tells us a lot. We also want to make sure that we're working with a variety of hospitals, not just one type of specialized care center. This ensures the program works for a broad range of patients with varying medical needs.

And finally, we're looking to make sure we're covering as much of the country as possible.

MTT: What's your involvement in approving patients?

DW: We have no input on those decisions. Each hospital establishes its own set of criteria for determining who is eligible. Our only request is that the ticket is issued to a patient, caregiver or family member.

MTT: All your hubs are US-based. Does that mean all the patients utilizing the program are American?

DW: Good question. While we only service domestic cities, the hospitals do provide care to patients from other countries. What I understand they do is get them to a close border town and then onto a Southwest location where they then go for care.

MTT: Are you satisfied with the current size and scope of your program?

DW: We are happy with where we're at but there are a few hospitals we'd like to have consider partnering with us...a few well-known ones that we think would be a great fit for the program. It's really such a young program. For the moment we're focused on making sure we're hitting all the destination hospitals. That said, we're certainly having some conversations about the future and trying to figure out what might be next, and how we can be ready for it.

About Debbie Wafford

As a senior specialist in Community Relations & Giving for Southwest Airlines, Wafford manages Southwest Airlines Medical Transportation Grant Program, and also specializes in developing relationships on a national level with a special focus on organizations as they relate to “Families Facing Serious Illness.”

Debbie oversees the team's reporting-tracking Southwest's donations and employee volunteerism. These metrics help quantify and share Southwest's story to all of our employees and external stakeholders through Southwest Airlines One Report.

Industry News

Princess Haya announces Dubai Healthcare City reorganization

khaleejtimes.com - Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA), under the guidance of its Chairperson, Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, on Wednesday announced changes to the organization structure and the leadership team responsible for executing DHCA's vision and business strategy.

 The reorganization further supports Shaikh Mohammed's vision to establish a state-of-the-art center for integrated medical services, research and education, and quality healthcare, positioning the organization as a reliable and credible partner to the international healthcare community.

Since its launch in 2002, DHCC has become a leading healthcare center of excellence in the region. With its strong internationally-recognized regulatory framework and healthcare infrastructure, DHCC has continued to strengthen its position as a premier medical tourism hub for the local and international community. Testament to DHCC's success is the continued growth in number of international patients accessing healthcare services provided by more than 100 medical centers and two internationally-accredited hospitals.

To continue reading click here.

Industry News

PBS News Hour: Health Costs -- How the US Compares With Other Countries

How much is good healthcare worth to you? $8,233 per year? That's how much the US spends per person.

Worth it?

That figure is more than two and a half times more than most developed nations in the world, including relatively rich European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On a more global scale, it means US healthcare costs now eat up 17.6 percent of GDP.

A sizable slice of Americans -- including some top-ranking politicians -- say the cost may be unfortunate but the US has "the best healthcare in the world."

But let's consider what 17 cents of every US dollar is purchasing. According to the most recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international economic group comprised of 34 member nations, it's not as much as many Americans expect.

To continue reading click here.


Industry News

Temos Certificate “Quality in International Patients' Care” for Mediterraneo Hospital Athens, Greece

As a tertiary care hospital, Mediterraneo Hospital in Athens, Greece, received the Temos Certificate “Quality in International Patients' Care” and fulfills the Temos quality criteria on the medical and non-clinical service level with top grades.

┬áDr. Georgia Dragini, CEO and vice president of the Board of Mediterraneo Hospital commented:

“The Temos Certification process was a valuable experience for all. Beyond the indisputable gains of reorganizing procedures that systematized our daily work without additional bureaucracy, more importantly teamwork was enhanced, interdepartmental collaboration was strengthened, and corporate identity was strengthened through the adoption of internationally accredited work methods, with differentiating characteristics -- those of knowledge, scientific excellence and professionalism.”

The Temos Certification programs constitute seals of trust and safety for many international insurance companies and medical assistance organizations worldwide. The certification also ensures that quality standards in healthcare services are adopted in accordance with international practices, and the demands of people interested in medical tourism and cross-border healthcare services are met, all in the aim of upgrading the management of international patients.

Industry News

A U.S. Country Tune for Worldwide Audiences

From the Publisher: They say that country music makes one "bilingual" - so I'd like to share this with our international audiences.

The singer is Shelley Laine, one of the best voices in country music. Two of her songs, That Girl Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Back to Austin, belong at the top of the charts.

Ms. Laine has a new song titled "Born Again American," which is not only good listening, but it also tells a story that's just right for the current volatile times we live in - throughout the world. It's about an unemployed person in the U.S. who is about to give up on finding a job... who feels overwhelmed by bills that can't be paid and is trapped on the living-room couch. Ms. Laine challenges her to get up and try again, to fight to get back on track, to become "born again American." It's inspiring and uplifting - wherever you live -- and has a message that transcends demographics.

As Americans approach a key election, I hope this will frame some issues.

Upcoming Events

Patients Beyond Borders® CEOto Present at November Indian Medical Tourism Conference and Alliance in Hyderabad, India

Event to focus on best medical practices and regional partnerships

Chapel Hill, N.C. - Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, will be one of several renowned speakers to present at the Indian Medical Tourism Conference and Alliance (IMTCA 2012), November 2 - 3, in Hyderabad, India. Organized by i-Transition Worldwide (I) P Limited in collaboration with One Healthcare™ Worldwide and the Center for Medical Tourism Research (CMTR), the event will be held at the Park Hotel in Hyderabad, and is expected to bring together key individuals from all sectors of the international healthcare and tourism industries.

In addition to healthcare providers, regional entrepreneurs, government, and non-government organizations (NGOs), the two-day conference will also include dignitaries from thehttp://www.ficci.com/ Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Indo-American Chambers of Commerce, as well as Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of India.

“We have organized this event to augment worldwide awareness of the Indian medical tourism industry, while bringing attention to the vibrant and growing Hyderabad healthcare community,” said Varsha Lafargue, founder/chair of IMTCA. “Amidst growing international competition, it is important that India raises its place as the value destination for the medical traveler.”

Hyderabad, India's fourth largest city, is one of the subcontinent's leading healthcare, information technology (IT), and healthcare IT hubs, bringing together an array of medical, pharmaceutical, research and academic enterprises. Dozens of leading international hospitals make Hyderabad a preferred medical travel destination within and beyond India's borders.

Josef Woodman will present two plenary sessions at the conference. The first, entitled "Views about Indian Medical Tourism," is slated for 11 a.m., to be followed immediately by a brief Q&A period at 11:30 a.m. His second session, entitled "Best-Practices for Marketing to the International Patient," will offer advice to Tier I and Tier II facilities.

The 5th International Health Tourism Congress
Ankara, Turkey, November 18-21, 2012

Organized by the Turkey Health Tourism board, The Fifth Annual International Health Tourism Congress will be held November 18-21, 2012, in Ankara.

Participants are expected to include representatives of health organizations from Turkey and the world, government representatives, and bureaucrats from Turkey Health, Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The Congress is expected to serve as an effective background for showcasing Turkey's potential to create new business and investment opportunities with partners from neighboring nations, the Middle East, Central Asia, Balkans, Europe, North Africa and the United States.

To learn more or to register click here.

Medical Travel Today: Opinions and Perspectives on an Industry in the Making

Medical Travel Today - the authoritative newsletter for the worldwide medical travel industry - is pleased to announce publication of a new book, "Medical Travel Today: Opinions and Perspectives on an Industry in the Making.

Featuring 40 of the newsletter's most compelling interviews from the first five years of publication, the volume chronicles the explosive growth of international medical tourism as witnessed and experienced by some of the key stakeholders and players. A must-read for anyone interested or involved in the industry.

News in Review

CNN Reports: Egg freezing changing fertility treatments

Other women's eggs have not been kind to Debbie Vernon. When fertility doctors determined Vernon's own eggs were kaput, they enthusiastically recommended a young egg donor who'd already helped two other couples get pregnant. Vernon tried to use this woman's eggs in combination with her husband's sperm, but the eggs, so successful for others, didn't work for her.

Bloomberg: The Real Cost of Medical Tourism

bloomberg.com - About 1.6 million Americans will travel overseas this year for medical procedures ranging from facelifts to heart bypass surgeries, according to the Medical Tourism Association -- a number that is expected to rise 35 percent next year. Some go because they don't have coverage in the US, or their plans don't cover certain procedures. 

Patient outflow to India have Nigerian doctors worried

newstrackindia.com -  India's trade relations with Nigeria might be improving, but the growing trend of Nigerians seeking medical treatment in India has become a cause of worry for the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), which says that the huge outflow of patients is a matter of concern.

"We are worried by the huge numbers of Nigerians who travel to India for medical tourism annually and want the government to help stem the tide," NMA president Osahon Enabulele told IANS in a telephone interview from Lagos, the Nigerian capital.

Does Reproductive Tourism Treat Women Like Cattle?

Huffington Post Canada - There's a photo I often show my audience before starting my lectures on "reproductive tourism." It's from a marketing brochure of a fertility clinic in India, and features its medical director standing regally amongst a group of seated women, each with..


Editor's Note: The information in Medical Travel Today is believed to be accurate, but in some instances, may represent opinion or judgment. The newsletter's providers do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of the information and shall not be liable for any loss or damage caused - directly or indirectly - by or from the information. All information should be considered a supplement to - and not a substitute for - the care provided by a licensed healthcare provider or other appropriate expert. The appearance of advertising in this newsletter should in no way be interpreted as a product or service endorsement by the newsletter's providers.