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by Uta Leyke-Heß7 Min.

Tapping into Medical Tourism: A Guide for Clinics & Companies to attract patients abroad

Healthcare today is yet another channel of global connectivity, with a vast number of patients travelling abroad for their treatments in a trend known as ‘medical tourism’. Many clinics themselves have adapted to not only meet but actively reach patients from abroad, with dedicated medical tourism companies sometimes offering support. This brings great benefits to both parties: patients have a bigger choice of specialists whose experience and skills they can enjoy; clinics appealing to international patients bring their business into a more lucrative echelon.

Good clinic marketing will encompass an effective online presence through advertising, website optimisation, review management, etc., and optimal use of all communication channels to lead to a solid patient relationship management (PRM) framework. Being ready to engage and receive international patients means amplifying this structure and adding to it where needed. As long as your clinic is ready to provide care to anyone who walks through your doors, your marketing reach should be going beyond borders to present your service to those who are willing to do the same for their health.

Medical Tourism
Medical Tourism

The Patient Decision-making Process

Low cost, efficient timings and high quality are the three main factors that patients want to fulfil in their search for healthcare abroad. For aesthetic procedures, price is a particularly dominant factor, which is why when it comes to medical tourism, Turkey, for example, receives so many plastic surgery patients from Europe; their prices are simply incomparable, yet the quality is just as good.

A clinic looking to capitalise on the huge market of medical tourism will want to involve itself in the whole decision-making process from the beginning. Therefore, the starting point is to realise that it is an intricate and often lengthy process, understanding of course that healthcare choices are above all highly personal. Consider it in its key phases:

Information Phase

You can always assume that a patient’s decision followed online research, whether identifying symptoms, discovering the frequency of an issue, familiarising themselves with the solutions, or comparing various possible treatment outcomes. It’s an extensive step, being the one in which the patient envisages their change becoming a reality.

Finding viable clinics is an inevitable part of this phase since reviews, articles and media are bound to cite or be affiliated with specific ones. The respective points of advantage here are review management, putting out publications and cultivating your social media presence to make yourself identifiable as a serious caregiver in this initial phase. Advertising will also play a role, arising alongside prospective patients’ research and as a result of their search inputs. Such paid marketing will be engaging people of various different levels of knowledge on their treatment, so it’s ideal to tailor it to cater to all of those looking to participate in medical tourism. Turkey, for instance, receives many and therefore has lots of clinics putting out broad advertisements beyond their borders.

These patients know they want to go abroad, but an array of underlying questions are active here, from what treatment is even needed to the specific details of a procedure. As long as the expertise of your clinic positions itself to answer them with quality, trustworthy information, you will be resonating with potential patients around the world at the earliest point in their journeys.

Interest Phase

Now the patient is getting closer to taking action, looking to narrow down their options or even earmark their single desired destination. 75% of patients talk to multiple medical providers at the same time, more than half of which will be speaking to more than two. It’s therefore a crucial moment to stand out with these must-haves that the modern patient requires to commit to travelling to your clinic:

Packages:

Aside from booking their treatments, patients from abroad will need all the extras that any traveller needs: accommodation and transportation. You gain a vital upper hand if you offer these too in the form of packages, so collaborate with the best hotels and driving companies nearby – for even better quality control, some clinics employ their own drivers. This is important for patients and plays a large role in fulfilling their overall expectations of the trip, so transparency in the form of photos and videos of what to expect can be not only reassuring but enticing. That’s why medical tourism companies display a lot of visual media.

Remember that a great treatment experience can be overshadowed by a poor hotel or untimely driver, which is enough to warrant a bad review. As long as you support all the extras you offer with good communication, as well as price transparency, you’ll have an advantage to offer international patients.

Real Patient Reviews:

Building up a portfolio of reviews takes time, but it will serve as one of your main drivers of trust by showcasing your ability to give international patients excellent care that goes beyond just their treatment. Whether it’s an independent clinic or a medical tourism company, exhibiting reviews is going to be one of your primary catching points.

Harness the most out of your reviews by registering with sites like Google and TrustPilot, which garner much more trust than external platforms. Back these up with patient editorials in the form of interview media that pictures them in high quality, as well as testimonials, which are user-generated content sent in as photos or videos detailing patients’ experiences and results through medical tourism. Turkey has many doctors whose own social media platforms include these to attest to their skills.

Giving potential patients someone to identify with is at the centre of why cultivating your reviews is so important. For visual content, make sure you show diversity for your resonating quality to reach more people, including different languages from nationalities that you begin to frequently attract.

Clinic Content:

Photo and video content of your premises and of the staff they’re likely to meet during their trip will help patients to truly envisage themselves being in your care. It’s also worth elaborating on the doctors, stating their experience, memberships, awards and recognitions, languages spoken and other credentials that will reflect well on the expertise of your clinic. Likewise, elaborate on the team: who are the contact persons and coordinators, and what languages are spoken?

Commitment Phase

Following communication that is supportive and transparent, your patient will hopefully select your clinic for their treatment. A sure way to uphold their commitment is through dedicated patient managers who stay in close touch with the patient around the clock, answering all their questions as well as coordinating in the background to ensure all elements of their trip run smoothly. Knowing someone is by their side will have a great impact on the patient’s overall experience and perception of you as a care provider.

Your Unique Selling Points for International Patients

It’s important to simply know yourself and know what you can offer to a wider audience in order to transmit it to full effect. Your unique selling points are what make you stand out from other clinics.

Pricing

Checking on your competitors is good for sharpening your marketing strategy in general, but knowing their treatment prices is also going to help you hone yours. It’s about offering the best value without compromising on quality. Also, familiarise yourself with what the prices are in other countries (since patients who are willing to travel may also be considering these) to really know your place in the market, and check medical tourism companies.

It’s also worth looking into discount possibilities, like group travel or cash payment. Many clinics give themselves advantages with things like these.

Explain Your Edge

What makes you different from your competitors? You’ll want to highlight all your unique characteristics that refine your image as an outstanding, reliable medical provider. Your clinic’s accreditation and awards, the advanced materials and technology it uses, the memberships, publications and leadership of your doctors, how the supporting team interacts with patients, and the guarantee you offer are all examples of highly appealing traits that need exposure.

You can also go the extra mile in building trust. Give introductions to the whole team or even other clinics you may be partnered with. Spotlight the social media of your individual doctors – 35% of international patients state that the doctor’s account played a very important role in their decision. Also consider offering video consultations, which is a convenient way to grant patients abroad a direct conversation with the doctor before booking.

Being ready for international patients will inflate your reputation as a healthcare provider, casting your ability to provide excellent care towards those looking for just that, regardless of how far away they are. That’s why building on your trustworthiness is at the core of serving patients from abroad. You can do this by strengthening your marketing practices to meet a more diverse range of interests, adding to the patient experience you offer by covering all necessary travel extras and tailoring your unique selling points to meet the criteria of a medical traveller. The nature of competition to stand out remains the same, but the business potential of going global is far greater.

Doctor holds a notepad and smiles in the direction of the camera

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