Medical tourism product strategies are often overlooked to the detriment of the market launch and growth potential. Most independent clinics and private hospitals tend to assume that the medical tourism product is the hospital care and it already exists.
Clinics owned by a physician or group of physicians, often make the incorrect assumption that they exist, and the patient care facility exists, so the product strategy speaks for itself. After years of examination, this is a common feature of every medical tourism program that has failed to thrive.
Maria K Todd, MHA PhD
“Building a Medical Tourism Master Plan Strategy for Ukraine”
Medical tourism product strategy is divided into three distinct components:
Core product – this is the end benefit for the buyer and answers the question: What is the buyer really buying? For example, the buyer of a car is buying a means of transport, the buyer of an aspirin is buying pain relief. What is the medical tourism consumer really buying?
Formal product – this is the actual physical or perceived characteristics of your product including its level of quality, special features, accreditation, brand prestige and promise and packaging.
Augmented product – the support items that complete your total product offering such as pre- and after-sales service, outcomes, service delivery, local transportation, accommodation, tourism attractions, shopping, air travel and destination management.
Medical tourism products incorporate the following characteristics:
Quality and Safety – It encompasses two key elements: 1) quality level – how it is made or perceived, and 2) quality consistency – how it performs over its life. So often, medical tourism start ups promote JCI accreditation status as a definition of quality. The big gold logo on the poster in the lobby doesn’t tell people about quality or safety, it only tells people that the facility has been surveyed and passed what was on a survey checklist on a given day.
JCI accreditation is not an abbreviation for quality or safety. To suggest that it is, is to expose the highest level of one’s ignorance about accreditation and how healthcare services are produced and delivered and assumes facts not in evidence about the consumers’ awareness and importance attributed to one brand of accreditation over another.
Maria K. Todd, MHA PhD
“Comparison and Contrast of International Hospital Accreditation Schemes”
1st Medical Tourism Congress
Johannesburg, RSA (2009)
Features – the physical or intrinsic characteristics of your medical tourism product that contribute to the benefits it offers. What makes your medical tourism product strategy unique?
Design – a combination of how the product looks and how it performs. Medical tourism product design is the key to differentiation and singularity in the mind of the consumer. To design your medical tourism product strategy, you must know the target market for whom the product is intended and what they want to buy.
Branding – Branding is an important part of a product and contributes to its personality and perceived value. To develop a brand strategy, the product must own a word that describes its function, promise, and category. The power of a brand cannot be underestimated – many people buy on the strength of brand alone with no regard for price or performance. This is why consumers choose premium, branded hospitals, clinics and world renowned doctors over an unknown, unbranded local hospital or doctor selling low-priced healthcare.
Packaging – Packaging incorporates the wrapper or container for your product. In medical tourism, the packaging is actually the website used to describe the product, the informational materials, forms, photos, and price quotes. It serves to enhance the product, and also conveys the personality of your brand and important safety and statutory information.
Medical tourism product positioning strategy is critical
Product positioning is the way a product or service is seen by consumers and how they view its important attributes in relation to competitor’s products. So many medical tourism product positioning strategies are poorly developed or skipped over entirely. They simply aim at the USA and make some comparison claim regarding lower prices. Medical tourism product strategies should position the product on a combination of brand performance, safety, historic outcomes, volume frequencies that speak to experience, prestige, destination, and unique provider capabilities and reputation.
Choosing and implementing your medical tourism product positioning strategy is an important task. You need to determine your product’s competitive advantages (ie: what important benefits you offer that sets your product apart from its competitors) and then based on this information, decide how to position your offering to a targeted market keen to buy it.
The importance of service in your medical tourism product strategy
Many medical tourism providers underestimate the importance of high-level quality customer service. Consumers from developed countries are more informed, more discerning, and more demanding. To disregard the customer service element in your product strategy could be a costly error. The customer service strategy must span from pre-arrival to post-departure, and touches sales, air travel, logistic coordination, medical records handling, nursing language and cultural competency, physician bedside manner, wheelchair pushers, lab and radiology technicians, floor sweepers, elevator attendants, information kiosk attendants, destination managers, drivers, hotel staff, and more.