Case Study

Marketing Medical Tourism in Asia

In 2019, Ballistan—a fictional country based on a small Asian nation with a modern healthcare system and a strong economy—recognized that its healthcare system had features that would be attractive to medical tourists. The potential revenue that medical tourism could generate was large enough for the national government to take an interest in ensuring the success of this endeavor. To that end, Ballistan established an agency to attract international business and promote medical tourism. Funded by the national government, the agency was a ministry operated with the full cooperation of the country’s healthcare organizations and directed by a high-ranking government official.
One of the first steps the agency took was to assess the current domestic need for health services and the availability of local facilities. It identified existing capacity, took an inventory of medical equipment, and determined the number and qualifications of existing clinical personnel. It also evaluated the system’s ability to meet domestic needs and to serve an international clientele. Further, it estimated the size of the international market and calculated potential revenue.
Having determined that a large and growing market of consumers with substantial resources to spend on healthcare existed and that the system could absorb a substantial number of international patients, the agency developed a multipronged marketing initiative. The first campaign raised awareness about available services for the countries with the most potential customers (i.e., elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, and the United States). A follow-up campaign promoted Ballistan and its healthcare resources. Related articles were published in newspapers, magazines, and journals. These print materials were supplemented by an interactive website that included a blog, a cost calculator, a map of the country’s health facilities, and colorful infographics about medical tourism. Social media platforms were used to connect with prospects. Although some paid advertising was used, the agency felt that paid advertising was the least effective means of reaching the target market.
The agency installed liaison offices and staffs in several foreign countries to answer questions and coordinate arrangements for incoming customers. In addition, these satellite offices forged relationships with medical practitioners in these target countries to establish legitimacy and ensure a steady source of referrals. The agency negotiated with health insurance plans that agreed to refer some of their cases to these countries’ practitioners.
In convincing potential customers to travel to Ballistan to obtain health services, the agency highlighted the following benefits:

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• Fixed, competitive price

• State-of-the-art facilities staffed by English-speaking clinical experts trained in the United States

• Care and services of a quality equal to or better than that found elsewhere

• Personalized attention before, during, and after the treatment or procedure

• Cultural and sightseeing opportunities available to visitors and their families

The campaign to promote medical tourism in Ballistan was highly successful, particularly among consumers from the United States. People with medical needs or wants have flocked to its cities since. Customers with commercial insurance have been able to cover either the full or partial cost of care, but those who pay out of pocket are delighted to pay only a fraction of what the same care would cost in the United States. Notably, the agency’s marketing research revealed that a high number of these medical tourists were satisfied with the outcomes of care and the delivery of the services—a critical finding in light of the importance of word of mouth to medical tourism.

1. What prompted officials in Ballistan to consider entering the medical tourism business?

2. What steps were taken to identify the current status and future potential of medical tourism?

3. What factors encouraged government officials to develop a marketing campaign to attract medical tourists?

4. What marketing techniques did the agency use to promote medical tourism?

5. What role did relationship development play in implementing the promotional strategy?

6. How effective was the campaign to Ballistan’s thriving medical tourism?

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