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How to Excel as a Health & Medical Tourism Destination – a review from the International Health Travel Forum in Amman, Jordan

How to Excel as a Health & Medical Tourism Destination – a review from the International Health Travel Forum in Amman, Jordan December 8, 2022

The International Health Travel Forum in Amman, Jordan #IHTF2022 was an excellent setting to review the key points of “How to Excel as a Health & Medical Tourism Destination.

Context / Framework

The place to start, of course, is by defining the framework or context for these markets. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) recognizes four types, or “modes,” of cross-border trade in health services.

Of these 4 modes, Mode 2 health tourism is discussed most often as “medical tourism,” which is when a person travels across a border to consume services and then returns to his/her source country. However, there are three (3) other ways that cross-border trade in health & medical services can occur. One of these is Mode 1, where neither the consumer nor the provider travel, but a digital packet of information does! This digital health model is used widely in teleradiology, for example where X-rays or scans are taken in one location and sent to another location for interpretation or evaluation. This is an important form of cross-border trade, although there’s no airplane involved!

Another method of cross-border trade is when the provider crosses the border to deliver services where the consumers are. This is referred to as Mode 3. And finally, there is Mode 4 where the providers delivering care (doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, etc.) travel across borders to provide hands-on care to health, dental, medical consumers in another country.

To excel as a health tourism destination, all of modes can and should be considered and engaged. For example, offering telehealth or telemedicine services through remote second surgical opinions, diagnosis and rehabilitation is an important form of Mode 1 health tourism. This form of cross-border trade not only delivers desired and or needed services in another location, this form of trade also builds awareness of the destination and its providers from the source country. In the same way, sending professionals to another location across the border (Mode 4) helps to improve awareness of, and appreciation for the source country as a destination and its brand.


The second critical strategic agenda to excel as a health tourism destination is to rigorously offer the highest quality services possible. Here, we stimulate a lot of bias and pride: “Of course, our hospital is the best!” has been heard across the globe. This claim rings hollow without evidence, data, and information to support it.

“Quality” is not a feeling or an experience. Quality in healthcare is the degree to which a service meets customer needs and expectations and is free of controllable defects. This is eminently measurable. Clinical outcomes, time spent waiting, delays in lab results, accuracy of lab results, the number of times tests had to be repeated, infections – the list goes on and is rigorous. In addition, the perceptions of patients, families, as well as the workforce, is critical and this too is measurable if done rigorously and consistently through well-designed surveys.

To excel as a medical tourism destination, providers must collect, analyze, and report quality data. Healthcare quality data reporting has two very effective additional benefits.

First, by making quality data known to providers within the destination and potential consumers and their referring providers in other countries, destinations give themselves an extremely powerful marketing differentiator. Collecting and reporting reliable information builds a destination’s brand as trustworthy.

A second important benefit of collecting and analyzing healthcare quality data is efficiency and cost control. Reliable information about the outcomes of certain procedures, and the comparative performance of providers point the way toward sharing of best practices. Healthcare quality data is critical in evidence-based healthcare and quality improvement initiatives which benefit patients and providers and overall result in lower costs.

The growth of global health insurance is the third important reason to embrace the collection and reporting of healthcare quality data. Hospitals, doctors, clinics and other healthcare providers are receiving payments and guidance from many more intermediaries than ever before.  The increasing role of  international private medical insurance (IPMI) and third-party administrators (TPAs) is a global trend. IPMI and TPAs are enormously sensitive to risk and rely upon quantitative and qualitative data to assess risk and identify “preferred providers”. To excel as a destination, locations must spearhead the collection and analysis of this quality data and standardize it in ways to make it easily accessible for IPMI and TPA review.

Therefore, to truly excel as a healthcare destination, collaborations are critical among providers (hospitals, doctors, allied health professionals and clinics), associations (such as private hospital associations and medical groups) and intermediaries such as insurance, government agencies and regulators. The overarching focus of these efforts needs to be quality, as demonstrated by healthcare quality data, and as defined by the consumers, patients and those being served.

Irving Stackpole, RRT, Med, President of Stackpole & Associates, Inc. can be reached at or WhatsApp +1-617-719-9530

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