Revitalizing Medical Tourism: Insights and Innovations for the Future: A Candid Conversation with Pramod Goel, CEO of PlacidWay

Medical Tourism Outlook, a Q&A with Pramod Goel, Founder of PlacidWay

Despite covid downturn, PlacidWay remains as agile as ever, expanding further into new vertices such as wellness tourism, regenerative medicine, global plastic surgery markets as well as new markets such as LGBTQ. It has also been making major inroads into technological evolution of the medical tourism industry. 

Jana Tosic sat down with CEO Pramod Goel about the medical tourism industry outlook for 2023-2024, opportunities to innovate with strategies to consider.

You have survived the Covid-19 pandemic years. How do you see the medical tourism industry recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Pramod Goel: Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major disruptor to the medical tourism industry, but I believe the industry is poised for a strong recovery for several reasons.

There is a significant pent-up demand for medical treatments. Many elective procedures and non-emergency treatments were postponed due to the pandemic. As travel restrictions ease, patients are now seeking to have these procedures done, and often at a more affordable price than they can find at home.

The pandemic also has highlighted the disparities in healthcare systems worldwide. More people have become aware of the options available to them, including seeking treatment in countries where the quality of care is high, and the cost is significantly lower. This increased awareness could boost medical tourism.

Advancements in telemedicine and digital health technologies will play a significant role in the recovery. These technologies allow for pre-treatment consultations, follow-ups, and even certain treatments to be done remotely, reducing the need for long stays abroad and making the process more convenient for patients.

Finally, vaccination drives across the world are making travel safer. Countries with high vaccination rates are likely to be more attractive to medical tourists.

However, the recovery will not be without challenges. Transparency and safety remain a top concern for medical tourists. Medical tourism providers will need to ensure high standards of hygiene and infection control. They will also need to navigate the increasing travel costs, which may pose logistical challenges.

To sum up, while the road to recovery may have its bumps, the future of the medical tourism industry looks promising. It will be driven by pent-up demand, increased awareness of healthcare options, advancements in technology, and the global progress in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are seeing emergence of digital health during covid. In your opinion, how will technology continue to shape the future of medical tourism?

Pramod Goel: Technology has been a game-changer for medical tourism. Telemedicine, virtual consultations, and AI-based diagnostic tools have made it possible for patients to interact with doctors and receive preliminary care and quote remotely before traveling. This has not only streamlined the process but also made it more patient-friendly.

Further, technology has played a significant role in creating transparency. Patients can now access detailed information about hospitals, doctors, and treatments abroad, helping them make informed decisions. Blockchain technology, for instance, has the potential to create secure and transparent medical records that can be accessed worldwide.

Are telemedicine and virtual consultations changing the medical tourism experience and patient acquisition processes?

Pramod Goel: Yes, telemedicine and virtual consultations are indeed transforming the medical tourism experience and patient acquisition processes in several ways:

Initial Consultations: Traditionally, initial consultations required the patient to travel to the healthcare provider, adding to the time and cost of medical tourism. Now, these consultations can happen virtually, making the process more convenient and cost-effective.

  • Building Trust: Virtual consultations allow healthcare providers to build a rapport with patients before they travel. They can address patient concerns, explain the treatment plan, and provide personalized care, thereby building trust and confidence.
  • Second Opinions: Patients can easily get second opinions from healthcare providers abroad without having to travel. This can help them make a more informed decision about their treatment.
  • Pre-Treatment Preparation and Post-Treatment Follow-Up: Telemedicine allows for pre-treatment preparation and post-treatment follow-ups to be done remotely. This can improve patient outcomes and enhance patient satisfaction.
  • Patient Acquisition: For healthcare providers, virtual consultations enable them to reach a wider patient base. They can offer consultations to patients worldwide, thereby increasing their potential to acquire new patients.
  • Ongoing Patient Engagement: Telemedicine can facilitate ongoing patient engagement. Healthcare providers can offer remote monitoring and management of chronic conditions, wellness programs, and health education to patients worldwide. This can lead to long-term patient relationships and repeat medical tourists.

Overall, we see that telemedicine and virtual consultations are making medical tourism more accessible, patient-friendly, and effective. They are transforming the patient acquisition process by enabling healthcare providers to reach and engage with patients worldwide. However, they also pose challenges in terms of data privacy and security, licensure, and legal considerations, and ensuring quality of care. It's crucial for healthcare providers to address these challenges to fully leverage the potential of telemedicine.

How can medical tourism industry innovate in next 5 years?

Pramod Goel: The medical tourism industry has the potential to innovate in several ways over the next five years:

  • Digital Platforms and AI Integration: Expect to see more sophisticated online platforms that make it easier for patients to research, compare, and connect with healthcare providers worldwide. These platforms may integrate AI to provide personalized recommendations based on the patient's unique health needs, preferences, and budget.
  • Telemedicine Services: Telemedicine will continue to transform the medical tourism industry. We may see innovations like virtual reality consultations, where patients can take a virtual tour of the healthcare facility and meet their healthcare team. Remote monitoring and post-treatment follow-ups through telemedicine will also improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.
  • VR/AR Technologies: They can be used for patient education, rehabilitation, and even in certain surgical procedures. For medical tourists, these technologies can enhance their understanding of their medical condition and treatment plan.
  • Blockchain Technology: Blockchain could revolutionize the way medical records are shared between healthcare providers in different countries. It can create secure, transparent, and interoperable medical records, making the process more efficient and reliable.
  • Data Analytics: By analyzing data from patients, healthcare providers can improve their services, optimize their operations, and offer competitive pricing. This could enhance the quality and affordability of care for medical tourists.
  • Global Health Insurance Plans: We may see more health insurance plans that cover treatments anywhere in the world. This could make medical tourism more accessible for a larger number of people.
  • Personalized Medical Tourism Packages: Medical tourism providers could offer more personalized packages that cater to the unique needs and preferences of patients. This could include not just medical treatments, but also wellness therapies, dietary plans, and cultural experiences in the destination country.
  • Green Medical Tourism: As environmental concerns grow, there may be a rise in green medical tourism. Healthcare providers could adopt environmentally friendly practices and offer treatments that align with the principles of sustainable healthcare. This could appeal to eco-conscious patients.
  • Holistic Wellness Tourism: The focus of medical tourism could expand from treatment of specific health conditions to holistic wellness. This could include preventive health check-ups, wellness therapies, mental health treatments, and lifestyle modification programs.

The medical tourism industry has immense potential to innovate over the next five years. However, these innovations need to be patient-centered, focusing not just on the quality and affordability of care, but also on the overall wellbeing and satisfaction of patients.

Is there anything that medical centers can do to create a sustainable medical tourism practice which can be resilient from ups and downs of the industry?

Pramod Goel: Absolutely. Medical centers can adopt several strategies to create a more sustainable and resilient medical tourism practice. Some of the critical factors for creating a sustainable medical tourism practice is diversification of their target customer base, specialization in certain treatments or procedures, quality accreditation, partnerships with foreign healthcare providers, agencies, payors, supply chain and ecosystem alliances. 

By adopting these strategies, medical centers can create a sustainable medical tourism practice that can withstand the ups and downs of the industry. However, it's important to note that building a resilient practice requires time and continual adaptation to the evolving needs of patients and the industry.

Those developments certainly seem promising. Lastly, what advice would you give to those patients considering medical tourism in this new age?

Pramod Goel: The most important advice would be to do thorough research. Consider the credentials of the healthcare provider, the quality of the healthcare infrastructure, and the cultural and language barriers in the destination country. Always prioritize quality and safety over cost. Lastly, demand process transparency and virtual consultation with the provider to ensure you can communicate your needs and have a clear understanding on how providers will guide you through the process and ensure a smooth and safe medical journey.

Thank you, Mr. Goel, for your insights. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Pramod Goel: The pleasure was mine. Thank you for having me.

Contact us today to know more about medical tourism.