Will Unethical Behaviors of Medical Providers and Agencies Further Impact Rebound of Medical Tourism Post-COVID?

Lack of Transparency and Ethics Continue to Prevail in Medical Travel Industry 

In the past decade, the medical travel industry has seen uncontrolled growth. COVID shut-down has impacted everyone in the medical travel industry. With the lack of any oversight in the industry, the corruption among medical providers and agencies supporting such initiatives is growing at a rapid rate.

In countries like Turkey, India, Egypt where medical tourism has seen exponential growth in recent years, corruption among medical providers and agencies has also grown dramatically. Whether it is botched procedures, wrong diagnosis, performing unnecessary tests, or paying for customer acquisition services, the industry is seeing an unprecedented increase. With lack of transparency, ethics and over-selling, it started to show a lack of trust among patients, providers, agencies and everyone involved in the whole supply chain of the medical travel process. 

Key Issues:

Poor Patient Care: Corruption and poor patient care are increasing in many countries like Turkey, India and Egypt. Botched procedures, unnecessary surgeries and tests and a general increase in costs are taking advantage of the patient vulnerability.

Turkey is one of the leading markets for medical tourism globally. In the last ten years, the government has invested immensely in this sector and there is a huge demand for procedures like hair transplant, cosmetic surgery, dental, cancer treatment, and even organ transplant. Despite that, some corrupt players are luring and cheating patients, which is damaging the prospects of the huge sector.

India, which is another popular medical tourism destination, is also getting affected due to scams. Medical travelers who come to India are duped frequently into paying extra by hospital touts and middlemen. Even if the patients do not understand what is going on, they are forced to do expensive tests, and many hidden charges once the patient is in the medical facility.

Similarly in Egypt, which has all the right ingredients of becoming a medical tourism hub. With proximity to GCC and other African countries, affordable medical services, Egypt is evolving as a potential medical destination. Yet, it is evident that Egyptian medical centers seem to be not prepared for providing transparent and trusted services to all involved in the medical travel industry.   

Transparency: Several sad instances are taking place in these countries where patients are being cheated or suffering due to the lack of transparency, ethics and poor care. Such practices are putting the entire medical tourism industry in a bad light. When the world is looking at 2021 with new hope after the devastating pandemic year, such instances can further dampen the prospects of medical travel deeply.

Corruption related to medical tourism has increased in these countries significantly. Fraudulent medical tourism victims suffer botched medical procedures performed by physicians who are inadequately trained, prescribing inadequate medicines, transplanting infected organs, or offering fake treatment for serious diseases. 

Such lack of price transparency, commitments, overselling of services and poor patient expectation management is resulting in deprived patient care and sometimes bigger damages.

No recourse: Patients or other service providers generally have no recourse in these countries as there is no centralized authority to take patients’ grievances or any complaints when centers are cheating or practicing unethically. These scammers don’t care about patient well being and going around the system as there are no setup rules either by local health officials or by the governments. 

What could be the Possible Solutions to overcome these Practices?

Complaint Board: Patients can file complaints to an independent ethics board to review their claims. Same for companies dealing with these providers can file complaints for the board to take action against bad companies who are deceiving. 

For example, in Korea, there is a governmental agency to help people who have been scammed by medical tourism agents, facilities and operators. They take unethical behaviors very seriously and this has resulted in the creation of a trusted medical tourism environment.

Establishing and getting access to such uncorrupt consumer complaint boards can help to identify problem providers and agencies that are not complying with regulations, agreements and take some strict measures against them. This is essential to maintain integrity and trust.

Digital Footprint: The adoption of digital health can play a big role to avoid miscommunication and unreasonable expectations. The use of communication tools like email, online chat, instant messaging, or other digital systems to trace what was committed vs what was delivered must be enforced. 

Improving the relationship between patients and providers can work towards the growth of the medical tourism industry. When providers engage patients digitally, it can eliminate wrong expectations, misunderstandings, while improving transparency and customer satisfaction.

PlacidWay is the leading medical tourism company that constantly focuses on innovative means for patient-provider direct communication. Apart from communicating via regular emails and text messages, PlacidWay also enforces digital health in medical tourism to bring transparency and trust in the industry. Experience various communication features such as email messaging, chat, phone calls, and video chats to establish transparent and successful communication with the patients. This helps providers to understand patients’ needs properly and address them with the personalized human touch. Such improved communication creates trust and reliability and increases strategic relationships between the patients and the providers, which further leads to the growth of the medical tourism industry.

Punishing bad actors in the industry is critical to the growth of the industry. Countries like India, Turkey, Egypt among others must understand that instituting complaint boards and enforcing digital footprint could build a trusted environment. The emergence of the medical tourism industry post-COVID depends on how players in the industry behave and address these basic elements of running an ethical business, especially in healthcare when people's lives are at stake.

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