One of the most pertinent questions that clinics and medical professionals around the world are concerned with is:
When any patient is confronted with the need for surgery or treatment, there are several factors that come into play. Decision making is not an easy process and it can be quite a prolonged affair especially when a patient is not satisfied with the information they possess.
The big question is – What is the process and what are the catalysts in a patient’s journey towards finding the right medical services or centers?
After months of research on patient behavior and following their choice patterns, PlacidWay has been able to define certain parameters of decision making. These parameters clustered together forms what is known as the
“MEDICAL TOURISM PATIENT LIFE CYCLE”
There are three stages in the patient life cycle and they are:
EXPLORE. CUSTOMIZE. EXPERIENCE.
Let’s look a little deeper into what the three stages of the patient life cycle is all about!
What does “Explore” define?
Life is a journey of exploration where patients often find themselves stuck at a specific point with no solution at hand. For example: if an individual requires a dental implant then where will his or her thought process really begin from?
The thought process begins from the EXPLORE or EXPLORATION STAGE.
The “Explore stage” is the most important stage in any patient life cycle as it helps them to identify the need, research, and establish criteria. Hence, this stage can be divided into three categories, which are:
What is the problem I have that I need to solve? Do I really need this treatment? Is there any alternative treatment available? Am I really interested in a dental implant or can I live without a smile or enjoying good food? Is it necessary? What medical facilities offer the best treatment locally?
These are some of the common questions that develop in the mind of a probable patient looking for a dental procedure. How these questions are best answered?
They are answered through the next category called “research”
In order to find all relevant information regarding dental implants and their need for it, a patient has to conduct research over the internet. Some of the alternative that every individual gives a shot include referrals and recommendations by family members, friends, and colleagues.
Once, the need for a specific treatment like dental implant is identified, the next thought is to search for procedure options available locally first. The regional or global option is not considered during the initial search.
The third category in the exploration stage is setting a criteria or prioritizing what is more valuable to them for example: for one individual the cost of a treatment is weighs more while for another individual, the reputation of a clinic is of utmost importance.
This brings us to the second part of the model, which is “customize.”
“What does customize focus on?” Is it a customer oriented approach or is it the flexibility of choosing options? Well! It is actually a little of both.
Customizing deals with three core areas and they are:
This looks quite simple and easy! Isn’t it?
Well! This is not all! Patients will always be prone to asking a lot of questions and the thought process starts all over again. One important question that pops up in every patient’s mind is – How do I select the right clinic and how do I go about making an appointment?
This brings us to the third part of the model, which is experience.
Experience is an integral part of any decision making process. Whether that is the experience associated with a medical treatment center or pleasant experiences shared by other patients.
This stage can also be divided into three categories, which are selection, purchase, and satisfaction.
The selection category is one of the most impacting categories as it has the ability to influence the decision making capabilities of a patient. This category is based on the cost of the treatment and the ability of a specific medical center to address their medical need.
Cost plays a fundamental role in decision making and any patient will take into consideration the following:
- The cost of the a treatment
- Cost of each consultation
- Cost of medication following surgery or other procedures
- Cost of stay and travel in a foreign country
- Miscellaneous costs
The patient will then compare the same with the cost of getting the treatment done locally or regionally. This comparison will help them in making an informed choice.
Apart from cost, a patient is definitely going to consider other important aspects, which include
- Location of the medical center
- List of therapies or treatments available
- The medical team
- Hospital support staff
- Ease of taking appointment
- Patient Facilities
The selection of a medical center to get treatment is a very personal one. Logic, emotions, justification among many other elements comes together before a client selects a clinic for treatment. Medical centers need to align themselves with this process to successfully being chosen by the customer!
This helps the patients follow through with the next two categories, which are purchasing a package and getting financially, mentally, and physically prepared for the treatment.
The final category in the patient life cycle revolves round satisfaction. Once the treatment is over and patient recuperates completely, they can leave a feedback or provide valuable details regarding their overall experience. This will help other patients or individuals to make their decisions.
The patient life cycle starts all over again!!
In the medical tourism industry it is extremely important for providers to understand the patient point of view. Understanding patient’s selection process, medical tourism providers can align their processes, marketing programs, in accordance to the patient needs and be more successful in offering their solutions which will give them competitive edge. This process requires a thorough understanding of patient value chain, needs, desires, and offering solutions, options, packages that meets the needs of a medical tourist.