medical tourismLast week, I had the opportunity to attend a health benefits seminar for employers.  It was a great collection of folks: human resources directors, benefits consultants, benefits vendors, practitioners and, of course, potential patients.   During the seminar, there were a number of interesting presentations discussing present challenges and trends.   For  those living in the world of patient care, the good news is that the market and technology will continue to present new opportunities for you to grow and improve.  The bad news is that the market and technology will demand that you evolve quickly or pay steep penalties.  I want to share some of the highlights.

  • From a patient perspective, the future is about access.  We’re already seeing it, the trend toward retail access to healthcare is moving at full speed.  Clinics are appearing in pharmacies, retail strip centers, truck stops, retail stores etc.   Patients are demanding care whenever and wherever they want it.  Wait a week for an appointment?  No way.  Immediate and convenient access is now the norm.  Primary and acute care are at the front-end of this trend – technology and the portability of patient information will extend the trend toward other types of medicine.  The not-too-distant future?  House calls will return with the advent of technology to facilitate telemedicine.  Over ten years ago, I was part of that future with a service called – we were too early.  Stay tuned.
  • One session I attended discussed medical tourism.  In the recent past, I dismissed this trend as way out on the fringe and only associated it with third world medical care with no controls.  Well, there are now groups collecting outcomes data for these options and the notion of flying offshore for specific treatments and procedures may not be as crazy as I once believed.  The data is yielding compelling cost/benefit results for many  who are exploring this as an option.  When you consider the profound impact of international competition on other U.S. industries, this trend could be a sobering reality.
  • There are information services emerging that will allow patients to shop for medical care in much the same way they might shop for home goods.  Think of or eBay.  A real example is Castlight Health (if you are wondering about the future, take a look at their wild IPO from March 14). If you are looking for a particular item, you can search for it and discover multiple suppliers.  You can read reviews, look at ratings information, evaluate how many others have used a particular vendor and interact with that supplier – wherever they are located.   From a medical perspective, this is still immature and not readily available for consumers.  However, corporate groups are now beginning to negotiate with health systems in a similar way to insurance companies and empowering their employees with the ability to shop prices and quality from various healthcare providers.  These employees are able to see price and quality disparities which are, in many cases, significant enough to justify the time and travel expenses to get the care in other states.
  • Back to the clinic.  Think of the traditional medical office.  The patient drives up to the medical office building (which is most likely not in her neighborhood), looks for parking in a large, busy lot and walks into a big lobby area with elevators, glass and steel.  Taking an elevator, the patient goes to the third floor, walks down a corridor and into the medical office waiting room.  Sliding glass dividers separate the office staff from the patients as the patient approaches and begins the check in process.  The office holds multiple exam rooms, offices, a lab area, perhaps a dispensary etc.  Fast forward.  The patient drives to the clinic which is less than five minutes away and located next to her preferred grocery store.  She parks and is in the clinic in fifteen steps.  This clinic is different.  She enters a small area for check-in.  Within minutes, she walks through a door into a single room that serves as exam room that is the entire clinic.  The practitioner folds a hidden Murphy exam bed down while quickly reviewing the patient’s medical record (which she brought with her on a thumb drive) and in seconds is evaluating her ailment.  The examination takes 10 minutes, the ear infection is identified and the patient is handed her antibiotic, pays the entire bill with her credit card and is on her way.  Variations of this theme are being implemented nationally and the impact will continue to be profound.

A number of arguments can be made for and against these trends.  Regardless of where you stand on these perspectives, the fact remains, things are changing and will continue to change.  Successful innovators will find ways to serve patients with improved access, simplified processes, lower costs, broad services and ancillary products.

Schedule a free claims analysis now.

Let’s Talk now


Betsy Bigler | Mar 7th, 2024
INDIANAPOLIS, March 7, 2024 – Northwind has announced the addition of Tony Purkey as Senior Vice President, Client Strategies. “Demand from our self-funded employer and union clients is driving rapid growth,” said Phillip Berry, CEO. “Tony Purkey joins Northwind at a time when we need high-integrity leaders with expert knowledge in employer-sponsored health and the … more »

continue reading

Voices Lost in the Noise

Phillip Berry | Jan 31st, 2024
In the health benefits world, the mad scramble toward January renewals/starts has subsided and attention has turned to the annual cycle of review necessary to gauge progress. How did we do? The plan review process generally centers on analytics to gauge progress or regress and to identify “areas of opportunity.” Good. The right data with … more »

continue reading