How in the world did that happen?
Trust me, I asked (still ask) myself the same question too. I am not a medical doctor. Neither do I have any medical degree or background. However, I found myself at a medical tourism conference in September. How does a travel blogger/content creator end up at a medical tourism conference? Isn’t that supposed to be for Doctor’s, health professionals or people in the Medical Tourism business?
I’ll be telling tales if I said it was some sort of miracle, it wasn’t. But it was not intentional either. It was not something I looked for. I did something that made them see value in me and I was offered the opportunity to travel to Turkey for the conference. I wrote a feature story. One I’ll never forget.
This trip to Turkey was a trip to remember, full of many firsts; first time in a hot air balloon, first time paragliding, first time visiting my now favorite city in the world, first time seeing the famous Pamukkale pools, first time striking four items off my bucket list in one trip, first time away from my daughter, first time solo traveling and the list goes on…
I’ll tell you all about it later but first, let’s get to what Medical Tourism is and why the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council is spending millions putting their world class facilities on the map!
What is Medical Tourism?
So it’s a great thing I’m not a Doctor. I’ll be able to explain things to you without the medical jargon’s. If you remember, back in March, I did a feature on Medical Tourism and interviewed Dr. Dayo Sobamowo of Hermes Consulting. He’s the Nigerian Country Director for the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council. You can read his feature here. He’s one of the few Doctor’s in Nigeria who offers medical tourism facilitation services to Nigerians. I’m not talking about situations where your GP recommends a hospital in the U.K or U.S to you. He’s a Medical Tourism practitioner who has sought and established relationships with reputable hospitals all over the globe. There are levels to this.
Medical tourism is basically moving from one place i.e your country of residence, to another country to seek and spend money on healthcare. Initially, Medical tourists only referred to people from developed/developing countries that travel to countries for better care and facilities not available in their country. Now a medical tourist means everyone that travels from his or her country to another for medical treatment.
No doubt, the US has one of the best medical facilities in the world. However, according to this article on Voice of America, over 750,000- 1.8 Million US residents leave the country for medical reasons yearly due to high costs of treatments and surgeries . Mexico is a hot destination for American medical tourists because of the low cost of surgeries and its proximity to America.
A tummy tuck will cost you $6,000 compared to $8,800 in the U.S. A facelift will cost $8,300 in San Miguel…in the U.S. it will cost you $12,500. – Huffington post.
Bringing it back home, Nigerian medical tourists seek medical care for better treatment and access to better facilities. Getting care abroad is usually 10 times more expensive but people that have disposable (sometimes non disposable) income do not mind. Patients no longer have trust in the healthcare system. People seek medical attention abroad for things as basic as a skin rash or an eye infection. No jokes. Popular destinations for Nigerian medical tourists include India, the U.S, U.K and UAE.
In the last couple of decades, due to lack of investment in health care in our country, we have had a brain drain, where we have lost a lot of our good doctors. Currently, we are suffering from patients’ drain, where there is a lack of confidence in the sector, and people are now leaving for medical tourism, where we lose over one billion dollars annually. – President, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, HFN, Mrs. Clare Omatseye.
All in all, whether you are from first world or third world country, once you leave your primary abode and head to another country for medical care, either because the facilities in your country are sub par or you are seeking a cheaper alternative or you want to combine your treatment with a vacation, you are a medical tourist.
Who is a medical tourism practitioner and why do I need one?
A medical tourism practitioner is a professional often with a medical background who has received further training in the field of medical tourism. It is also critical for this professional to have legal agreements and relationships with renowned international clinics, hospitals and doctors.
Every medical traveller needs a Medical Tourism (MT) practitioner for the following reasons:
1. Ability to negotiate significantly cheaper medical bills due to their long standing relationships with international hospitals and doctors: In other words using the right MT practitioner will get a patient cheaper treatment than approaching an overseas hospital directly.
2. Ability to schedule faster treatments and consultations for patients: All renowned overseas hospitals cater to a high volume of foreign patients on a daily basis and are therefore either unable or slow to respond to individual enquiries from intending clients. The right MT practitioner is however able to get very quick turnaround time with the hospitals due to long standing relationships and agreements with these hospitals.
3. Ability to arrange discounted flights, ground transport, tours and hotel accommodation for medical travellers.
4. Ability to screen and vouch for the integrity and capacity of overseas hospitals in dealing with all individual medical cases: This is possible because a MT practitioner only works with a network of pre-qualified hospitals and doctors. A lot of medical tourists have been harmed or lost their lives as a result of going to substandard hospitals.
Turkey via the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council has gone rogue with putting the country on the medical tourism radar. In 2005, the council was established “to strengthen health tourism activities and to unite the national efforts to bring more patients to Turkey from around the world”.
The main objective of the Council is to improve the health of people in other countries by coming to Turkey for medical treatment. The overall goal is “to strengthen the health tourism activities and to unite the national efforts to bring more patients to come in as well as to promote Turkey as a new health destination for the patients around the globe. – Turkish Healthcare Travel Council
The strategy is/was simple.
The first part was to highlight and promote many destinations within Turkey that are ideal travel spots such as Istanbul, Cappadocia and the Mediterranean coast that is a popular hub of the Turkish Riviera. However, the ambitious plan of action also targeted themed travel such as adventure sports, religious tourism, and more importantly the health sector. -Turkey Homes
They understand the importance of rehabilitation and recreation and as the health facilities are improving, the touristic components are too. When foreign tourists come into the country to receive healthcare, they want to offer a lot more than healthcare. Promoting Turkey’s cultural heritage, natural wonders, sites, and art will increase the amount of days medical tourists spend in the country.
Overall, three factors can be contributed to the rise in medical tourism. In some countries like the UK, people wait months for extensive dental treatments while choosing to go private in Turkey means they undergo the work in the same week. Time plays a big part in luring potential travellers to get the procedure over and done with.
The same also applies to cost. Other countries often have high running costs for businesses and extensive regulations, while in Turkey; many industries have received tax-free benefits allowing them to pass the savings onto customers.
Lastly, in some countries like Libya, the standard of medical services is not as high as Turkey. If people have money, travelling abroad for treatment of a higher standard is an acceptable thing to do”. – Turkey Homes
Turkey has gotten a lot of traction in Medical Tourism and the country made the list on CNBC’s article titled “Top destinations for Health Tourism”. Turkey is already a popular destination for European tourist and many European and American trained doctors reside in the country. In comparison with their European counterparts, private hospitals in Turkey are more affordable. You get affordable medical care with a good vacation!
Getting acquainted with the wonders of thermal therapy.
The conference, which held at Denizli, was the 2nd International Thermal Healthcare Travel Summit. Thermal Health Tourism is a niche in a niche. I got acquainted with the wonders of Thermal therapy and had a thermal bath every night before I went to bed. It was such a stress reliever and it made me sleep like a baby.
Thermal therapy dates back to thousands of years ago and millions of people visit Pamukkale to experience this wonder. The Romans first discovered the healing powers of thermal pools and built the city of Hierapolis right by the Pamukkale pool. These thermal treasuries come from tons of different springs and the temperature ranges from 36-125 degrees Celsius.
There are over 1,000 thermal pools all over Turkey and Pamukkale is number one thermal destination in Europe. The thermal water and mud from the water has healing properties. It has been used to cure rheumatism, sciatica, rehabilitation from orthopedic and neurological problems, diseases in skeletal systems, gynecological diseases, removing seizure and hardness in body parts after surgery. Thermal therapy can also be used to cure insomnia and revitalize cells in hair, nail and skin. I hear the water can be drunk too but I would not be trying water everyone baths in!
The Nobel Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation center was one of the hospitals we visited. We had an extensive tour of the hospital’s facilities. The marketing manager of the hospital shared the services they offer and a few success stories. Click here for more on Nobel Rehab center.
Turkey can provide affordable and quality health services with a shorter waiting period. It takes 1 hour to get to Turkey from 4 countries and 4 hours form 54 countries. There is currently a spending of 500 billion on health tourism. As for Thermal Health tourism, there are over 260 facilities in Turkey with 1,728 hotels. Our vision is to rank among the top 5 in the world. In 2023, we intend to provide healthcare facilities for 2 million medical tourists.
I heard this over my translator during one of the sessions at the conference. Though Turkey is rated a top medical tourism destination, the Turkish Government through the Healthcare Travel Council is not stopping there. The medical tourism drive of Turkey is highly commendable. All the speakers had one clear message; we have the natural resources but we need your help to make it work!
Read the first part of the Trip To Turkey Series here
*This post is sponsored by www.hermesconsulting.org. Hermes Consulting facilitates medical travel to Turkey as well as popular destinations for Nigerians e.g U.K, US, Germany, India, Spain, Brazil, UAE, Thailand, e.t.c. The CEO, Dr Dayo Sobamowo, is the Country Director for the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council. For more enquiries, kindly send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +2347055340842.