If you’re like most people you probably hate surprises; unless of course, the surprise is an unexpected raise or that dreamed-of birthday gift you never thought you’d get. If you are a patient seeking treatment in another region or country then you certainly don’t want any surprises associated with your treatment or travel. On the contrary, you want to know exactly what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen and why it’s going to happen before you commit to it. You will also likely have many questions you want answered. “Should I bring my own medications?” “Will I need to pay extra for the EKG?” “Do I need a visa?” “Who is picking me up at the airport?”
From a healthcare provider’s perspective, a good practice is to assume that every single prospect that visits your website or contacts you knows absolutely nothing about your organization or your medical travel program. Your goal should be to paint a detailed picture of the entire Medical Travel Care Continuum™ (the entire medical travel process) so patients are informed and well-prepared prior to traveling to your organization.
A simple and convenient way to do this is to create content that anticipates common questions and also provides a birds-eye view of the Medical Travel Care Continuum™. You can do this a number of ways: using short videos, patient testimonials or using a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and “What to Expect” page. You can then insert a link to this content in your email communication or on your social media channels to share with prospects and patients.
With a FAQ page, the goal is to provide answers to your traveling patients’ most common questions. Group questions within themes or services areas to help your visitors find the relevant answers to their challenges. For example, by stages: “Pre-arrival,” “Admission, “Treatment,” “Discharge,” or by services: “Billing,” “Language services,” and “Transportation.” This eliminates the need for patients to scroll through non-relevant questions looking for what pertains to their situation. When answering a question, a good practice is to link to an article or video that provides more in-depth information. Not only will this help to educate the patient; it will also help your website rank higher in the search engines and potentially bring you more traffic.
What to Expect
As the name suggests, the goal of a “What To Expect” page or section is to provide a step by step description of a certain process or event. An example of a “What To Expect” page is shown below (feel free to customize for your own website):
Inquiry stage & assessment stage
During the inquiry stage it is important for us to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure or treatment you are requesting. With this goal in mind we will send you a link to an online medical history questionnaire and then schedule a call with a physician to ask you some questions (and for you to ask us questions). During this time we may need to request additional tests and/or your medical records so these cam be reviewed by our medical team. We will also provide your with information about the hospital, our physicians and answer your questions regarding potential treatment options. Finally, we will provide a detailed treatment plan and price estimate.
Planning & Preparation
One of our International Patient Services coordinators will be in touch with you to confirm your procedure date and help to arrange travel, accommodation ground transportation. We are also available to assist with passport and visa coordination. Prior to your departure, you will be provided with a detailed itinerary with packing tips and indications as to which medications you should bring.
Airport Meet & Greet
At the airport you will be met by a hospital representative holding a sign with your name. He or she will take you to your private transportation for the trip to your hotel, and then assist you with the brief check-in process. Expect a welcome call from a hospital representative shortly after your arrival. Your hospital liaison will brief you and answer any questions that you may have about your itinerary.
Arrival at the Hospital
On the day of your appointment a hospital representative will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the hospital. There a hospital representative will welcome and brief you, and then accompany you to your pre-operative exams and then to your doctor’s appointment. During this meeting, the doctor will review your medical reports and may conduct additional tests to ensure that you are ready for your procedure. Once this is over, you will be taken to billing to pay for your procedure and then transferred back to your hotel.
You will be picked up by our representative an hour and a half before your scheduled admittance time and then taken to the hospital where you will be greeted by your hospital liaison and assisted with admittance to the hospital. A nurse will then take your vital signs before you are taken to the surgery ward or a waiting room to be prepared for surgery.
Post treatment & recovery
After surgery you will be taken to a recovery area for approximately two hours. You will then be taken to a private room or released from the hospital depending on the procedure. If you are staying overnight, you will be in a comfortable private room with 24 hour nursing care. Once the doctor is satisfied with your condition, you will be released from the hospital and driven back to your hotel to begin the recuperation process. A representative from the hospital’s international department will assist you at the time of your discharge. He or she will make sure transportation is arranged and your hotel has been notified.
The accommodation options recommended by our hospital all include either 24 hour nursing care or scheduled nursing visits. Depending on the nature of the procedure, and if your physician is satisfied with your progress, you will be given authorization to go sightseeing or enjoy some tours. The follow-up appointment is usually scheduled a week after your procedure though this may vary depending on your procedure and recovery. A doctor will evaluate you to ensure you are fit to travel and provide you with a Fit to Travel letter along with a medical report and medical records.
On your departure date, a hospital representative will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport. For most patients, wheelchair service is arranged in advance. This will make your trip much less stressful and more relaxing. Upon your arrival home, our staff will provide periodic follow-up service via phone and email, and will be available to assist you with any questions you may have.
Providing prospective patients with such information allows them to anticipate and in some ways live through the entire medical travel process before the fact, instead of confronting it in bits and pieces. The most obvious benefit being a higher level of familiarity, comfort and trust in your hospital or clinic before arriving.
The benefits of good communication
Looking at the larger picture, there is a growing body of evidence that links good communication practices with improved healthcare outcomes and a better patient experience.  Why is good communication so powerful?
- It builds trust between the patient and healthcare provider
- It may help the patient disclose information
- It enhances patient satisfaction
- It involves the patient more fully in health decision making
Your prospects want to know what the medical travel process is like ahead of time. The more information you provide in the beginning, the stronger foundation you will lay for a great patient-provider relationship – especially if what you say actually does happen!
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 The Impact of Communication in Healthcare. The Institute for Healthcare Communication. https://healthcarecomm.org/about-us/impact-of-communication-in-healthcare/
 Six Physician Communication Strategies to Increase Patient Engagement and Improve Outcomes. http://sheridanhealthcare.com/news-events/blog/six-communication-strategies-increase-patient-engagement-improve-outcome
 Addressing Patient Beliefs and Expectations in the Consultation. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521694209001582
 Lang, E., A Better Patient Experience Through Better Communication. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587056/
 Patient-Centered Communication and Shared Decision Making https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK202146/