Great Care or a Great Care Experience?

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders Media , January 6, 2009

This week I'm enjoying the thin air and picturesque scenery of Keystone, CO, as I spend the week at a unique consulting company called Starizon. Here, Gary Adamson is taking a few of us from HealthLeaders Media through Starizon's process of exploring, designing, and implementing compelling corporate experiences.

After only a day here, I found myself considering how the concept of experience design should influence global healthcare organizations. You might recall I mentioned that I participated in a medical travel conference in Washington, DC, last month. I heard a couple folks there bemoan the fact that some global hospital executives are complaining that outbound medical travel from the U.S. hasn't accelerated as quickly as they had hoped.

These execs figure they have developed medical travel departments, invested in marketing, entered into networks with medical travel facilitators, and seen positive buzz in the media about the cost and quality of care abroad.

So when are they going to see the major influx of American patients that they've heard about?

It would be all too easy to blame the global recession and the wait-and-see attitude by U.S. employers and insurers. But perhaps those who work in the medical travel industry need to reconsider how they promote and deliver their healing experience.

Sure, consumers know about the value proposition of low-cost, high-quality care abroad; and top-tier global hospitals like Bumrungrad International, Parkway Health hospitals, and Bangkok Hospital are providing excellent experiences. I wrote some time ago in HealthLeaders magazine that it is the modern-day healthcare marketer's mission to cultivate a legion of loyalists to advocate on the healthcare organization's behalf.

That's especially true today for global providers—and not just the experience within their walls, but instead work to make the experience incredible when the medical traveler:

  • First learns about medical travel
  • Gathers information
  • Makes arrangements
  • Travels to your facility
  • Receives care
  • Recovers
  • Travels home
  • Receives post-discharge care

In other words, look at the totality of the experience from the lens of a usability or experience designer.

In a presentation, Starizon's Adamson reminded about the story of Roger Bannister, an English physician who became the first man to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Many at the time thought the feat was impossible until Bannister ran the mile in 1954 in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. And then a curious thing happened after Bannister broke the 4-minute-mile barrier. Within three years, 16 other runners run sub-fours.

That's the power of true innovation—proving what was thought impossible is possible. For global health providers the challenge is to look beyond the value proposition. Health consumers, employers, and payers expect high-quality care. They know the cost differential. But they need to believe in the experience.

Rick Johnson is senior online editor of HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at
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