US medical tourism dollars lost due to Covid-19

New research from Medical Tourism Research Center (CMTR) to the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) found that Covid-19 travel restrictions reduced hospital medical tourism revenue by about $1.9 billion in 2020 and 2021, reports Alex Kacik. Modern healthcare.

Covid-19 travel restrictions reduce medical tourism revenue

Each year, thousands of patients travel to the United States to seek medical care, and many of them pay for expensive procedures out of pocket.

According to the WE International Trade Commissionrevenue from international patients traveling to the U.S. for heart transplants, cancer treatments and other services increased more than 4% annually between 2015 and 2019. In 2019, the U.S. health care system received more than 1,200 millions of dollars from medical tourism.

However, new research shows that pandemic travel restrictions cut more than $1.9 billion in medical tourism revenue in 2020 and 2021, a loss that had a significant impact on many providers.

“It was such a big year in 2019 for medical tourism, and of course we had that downturn because of COVID,” said David Vequist, author of the research, founder of CMTR and professor of management at UIW. “For hospitals, medical tourism offers wonderful margins as treatment is almost always paid in cash,” he added.

According to Vequist, medical tourism accounts for more than 10% of the total net patient revenue of health systems in a typical year.

“The pandemic reinforced the vulnerability of hospital systems that rely heavily on fee-for-service medicine and international travel, and may prompt health care providers to adjust their medical tourism strategy,” Kacik writes.

How the drop in medical tourism revenue is affecting providers

Although medical tourism revenue saw a significant decline in 2020 and 2021, health system executives have reported that international patient volumes are now at or near pre-pandemic levels.

For example, the number of incoming international patients treated by Cleveland Clinic it dropped by around 50% in the first year of the pandemic, from 9,150 in 2019 to 4,939 in 2020. By 2021, its volume had already started to pick up, with 7,686 patients.

“Obviously, the pandemic didn’t do anyone any favors in terms of travel and health care,” said Curtis Rimmerman, Cleveland Clinic’s president of international operations. “We quickly realized that our priority was taking care of domestic COVID patients. But things have calmed down and volumes have recovered significantly in Florida and Northeast Ohio with the reopening of air travel.”

To attract more patients abroad, health systems have increased their marketing budgets aimed at potential international patients. For example, Sanford Health It recently partnered with the Manitoba government in Winnipeg, Canada, to help address the backlog of neurosurgery patients, said Luis Garcia, division president of the Sanford clinic.

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to help with the backlog that the Canadian government has for certain services,” Garcia said.

Still, the costs associated with international marketing and the complex nature of retaining foreign consumers rose significantly during the pandemic, pushing some providers to develop better telehealth strategies to reach more international patients, according to a peer-reviewed paper for pairs of 2021 of Hi Rush medical tourism researchers and consultants.

However, international restrictions can also limit telehealth. “In response to these challenges, academic medical centers will reexamine their foreign market strategies, and those with significant investments in offshore locations will hedge their bets by reducing their exposure to these overseas operations and locations,” said the study

Meanwhile, Cleveland Clinic and Sanford executives said they do not intend to slow down their international expansion plans or marketing initiatives, especially as some countries face years-long backlogs of surgeries for millions of patients.

“We are anticipating an increase over the next five years in the volume of international patients,” Rimmerman said. “Our goals from an international perspective are solid.” (Kacik, Modern healthcare, 8/17; Campbell, the guardian8/3)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.