So you are interested in medical tourism startup? Pull up a chair and pour a cup of tea or coffee. Let's talk about it.

Every medical tourism market entrant (hospital, clinic, doctor, consulting specialist, dentist, rehabilitation center, spa, wellness center, thalasso or balneology center, and referral agency or facilitator, among others) faces many decisions that must be made and tactics and strategies to be developed that far exceed most clinicians' or facilitators' professional training and experience to launch and make a profit from a medical tourism service or product startup.

The 10 basic steps of medical tourism startup include:

  1. Finding a product or service niche orientation you want to develop
  2. Developing the idea into a tangible, marketable product with a cost index and a price
  3. Targeting a distinct group of consumers would need and would be willing and able to buy what you sell
  4. Growing your preferred clinical and non-clinical provider/supplier/partner network into a unique "product" differentiated from all relevant competitors
  5. Building the service delivery administrative infrastructure including choosing the purpose-built software that will support the user experience and logistics, follow up and outcomes measurement
  6. Designing the user experience into a describable product with a predictable and quotable price
  7. Designing the marketing strategy and unique campaigns with compelling messages, measurable results and effective calls to action
  8. Building the marketing and advertising tools, collateral, graphics, images, videos, slogans and tag lines, mission, vision, and value statements and customer testimonials that describe and support your unique brand
  9. Certifying your quality and service and risk-based thinking by achieving ISO 9001-2015 certification which is globally recognized and highly applicable to health tourism business development
  10. Scaling your sales of medical tourism / health travel and wellness travel packages to achieve profitability.

An image of the best selling book on medical tourism startup, The handbook of medical tourism program development by maria toddHow will you prepare for these 10 basic steps to medical tourism startup?

What assistance will you need to get your project from ideation to sustainable profitability?

Your first step may be to do a little reading on the subject. This book is currently the best-selling resource about "how to" enter medical tourism.

You'll save thousands of dollars on consulting fees and startup assistance by reading this book - first for an overview to the business of medical tourism and health travel, and a second read with a pen and paper in hand as you jot down all the questions you have that you need to source answers from experts ready to assist you.  In fact, do yourself a favor and streamline the process even more as you enter your notes in a spreadsheet tool you can make yourself:

Column A: Your question or concern
Column B: Who will be assigned to research the answer or solution?
Column C: What expert might provide you with the answer or solution tailored to your specific requirement?
Column D: The expert's contact details and information about the fees they charge for consultation.

Once you've determined these four things, use the ease of re-prioritizing each row on your spreadsheet. When you do this, you''ll notice how easy it is to create you a customized, linear technical assistance plan that aligns your unique priorities and requirements to better use the time and budget you have available.

Next, start crossing off the items on your list as you achieve them, complete research or talk with an expert to gain insight.  That way, you will also be better equipped to commit resources of money and time to the professional assistance you believe you need rather than accepting a consultant's proposal for what they want to sell you.  That doesn't make you into a less valuable client in my book.  It turns you from a challenging and perhaps difficult client to the kind of client I really enjoy working with: One that is prepared and focused.

When you do this, you'll also gain the control of  your business development into your own hands, right from the start. You also benefit by better project scoping because you can inform the consultant "This is what I want assistance with at this time and this is the deliverable you are meant to produce. No more; no less." And when you get what you want and it helps you succeed, the trust factor between client and consultant is enriched organically.

Avoiding expensive lessons learned in medical tourism startup

So often, the root cause of what I find in failed or distressed medical tourism startups is that the client was sold on renting a stand at a medical tourism event prematurely, renting stands at the wrong events (where there were no customers present or walking by the stands), and wasting time and money that should have been invested in business development and service design first, and marketing the product they've created to a targeted audience second.  Trade shows and event marketing have their place in the strategy and time line. It just isn't where most exhibit stand and sponsorship buyers believe it belongs.

The most frequently encountered problem I face as a medical tourism startup expert and business development coach is that the client reduced the business of medical tourism down to an oversimplified approach. They jumped from ideation to execution without developing a product.

Their rationalization for renting the stand is that they've found what appears to be the perfect solution that aligns with this flawed thinking. Many tell me that their thinking was as follows:

"I have an empty operating theater and surgeon appointment availability I'd like to convert to revenues. All I need to do is let the world know that we have it and that it is cheaper than what they have in their country and they will beat a path to my door to buy it."

So with that in mind, it is no wonder that they can be vulnerably "plugged in" to a conference organizer's easy solution of renting a stand at a medical tourism industry event to let the world know of their existence.  The stand itself isn't "expensive" to rent - as long as the strategy works.  But when their anticipated results are not achieved, they realize they've wasted money, time and opportunity. Hindsight reveals that what they thought would be an easy and affordable solution was instead, the most "expensive" lesson learned in medical tourism startup.  

Many medical tourism startups never recover from this devastating and costly mistake because the capital they set aside for the startup and launch into medical tourism is exhausted and they have nothing to show for it.  Others were undercapitalized from the very beginning because they didn't finish the first of the 10 steps I listed above.  As a result of their inexperience, they jumped from ideation to advertising. It is likely they didn't even know there were 10 steps to medical tourism startup.

Medical tourism business development is much more than selling off excess operating theater capacity and surgeon or non-surgical specialist appointment availability

In hindsight, those who attempt to reduce the business to that simplistic a level frequently confide that they are surprised by how much money they've lost by this gross oversimplification.  Most never recover from those losses and abandon medical tourism in 12-18 months.