Medical Travel Today (MTT): Please share your interests in medical travel.
Adel Eldin, MD (AE): More than 30+ years ago I worked as a tour guide while I was going to medical school, and I have always been interested in education -- educating my own patients and through with my community outreach program.
Seeing the devastation in the healthcare industry and witnessing the need for an alternative model for both incoming and outgoing medical travel is what has prompted me to focus on the issues.
Over the past few years, I have been watching the growth of self insurance, and the role of medical tourism in this model to reduce the costs. The fact is, nobody in the U.S. can afford the costs of care anymore.
I am talking referring mostly to the 65 million middle class, crushed Americans that really need help and relief.
As medical tourism begins to fill that gap in care and to answer the needs of patients, people are now shopping globally for the best price. It is comparable to shopping for the best prices at a mall in Manhattan or New Jersey.
Furthermore, people who are shopping for health care are often surprised: They may get a nice vacation as part of their travel. Many people decide, “I am going to take care of my stress by doing the procedure, by vacationing and by saving money. Additionally, I am going to get a tax break when I get back home.”
MTT: Where do you see people traveling to?
AE: I think there are going to be preferred niche destinations around the globe where people feel comfortable. Then the culture sensitive medicine factor is going to play a major role.
So if you are a Hispanic patient with Spanish roots, you may naturally gravitate towards South America, Puerto Rico or Costa Rica. If you are a patient from Middle East you would want to go to Egypt, Turkey, or Jordan or some other place in that region which has established facilities and staff. They also have century-old natural resources and geography that helps in moving patients. Additionally, there are other attractions -- monuments, sightseeing and nice touring packages. All are available at a reduced price – so you have it made!
MTT: Do you find that patients come to you looking for that guidance?
AE: I am getting the word out. With more education, increased global partner participation, technology, social media and advertising, I believe we can get the word out to masses of folks.
MTT: And how about for patients coming into the US? How do they get to you? How do they hear about you?
AE: Once you mention Florida, people are convinced. Florida is a world attraction because there is only one Florida.
Secondly, Florida weather and the nice attractions of Walt Disney World or Busch Gardens get people’s attention.
Additionally, I find that patients are attracted to my facility, which is extremely nice. We serve patients and cater to their needs. This is especially important for those who are from the Middle East and who can see by our logo that it is Arabic ---one-of-a-kind in Florida. Our sign “Habla Espanol” also attracts Spanish patients.
I provide patients with a cultural sense of medicine, especially those from the Middle East, Arab and Muslim world coming to the U.S. And they are coming here in big numbers.
There are good paying customers but they haven’t been getting what they really deserve -- as far as culture-sensitive medicine. A lot of people don’t know for instance -- and this needs a lot of education -- they don’t eat pork. The ladies should be covered front and back in the hospital. There is also bathroom etiquette… you have to have several flushes in the bathroom for complete cleansing after you use the bathroom.
This presents an awesome opportunity for education for bridge-building that leads to better understanding and for harmony. It will give a lot of people in the chain a lot of business opportunities -- starting with the cab driver that picks the patient up from the airport or the escort to the hotel, the hospital or lab.
Everyone in the entertainment and hospitality industries needs this type of education, so there are a lot of people that are going to benefit from this. Through the interaction and education, I believe this will be a win-win deal.
MTT: Do you think that the domestic medical travel opportunity is going to be well received in the market place where people travel from one part of the U.S. to the other to go to a Center of Excellence?
AE: It may play a limited role right now because there are a lot of politics involved. The bottom line for the average consumer is, “If you give me a good price and good service, I will go to you.”
Now I prefer to stay here and not go anywhere outside the U.S. If you can provide good service and a good price in the United States, people will get their care here. But if you can’t, then people will seek it somewhere else. Today, people are just shopping on their own via the Internet.
We just want to be a source for patients who are looking for help and service. We are known nationally for being strong patient advocates and for acting as a watchdog on behalf of patients.
Therefore, a lot of people know us throughout the country, and there is a natural gravitation toward a provider that they can trust. I believe that is a major factor – and the factor that we offer comfort and confidence to our clients and our patients.
MTT: As far as the types of procedures, where do you see the highest prevalence?
AE: Statistically, orthopedics will be number one. But then you have other procedures -- cosmetic, dental, hair replacement, eye surgery and sometimes cardiac – but heart surgery will be performed less frequency than the others.
MTT: What other aspect of this industry merit your focus?
AE: We have been doing the traditional cardiology internal medical practice for 15 years, and at Florida Medical Tourism there is also the value of telemedicine which leverages technology to reach our global patients worldwide.
We also have a very unique niche: my wife Dr. Zaher offers women’s health, which is a very new field and a very delicate and specialized one.
She has basically all of the experience to serve women -- from childbirth through menopause. She worked as a pediatric resident and did internal medicine, and is able to address a multitude of women’s issues – from cancer screening and diabetes to heart disease and so on.
For women to be served by a woman is very important, especially for those who are conservative and folks from Middle East, in particular, with the Muslim and Arabic culture.
I think to have someone who is bilingual and understands both cultures is an important trend here in the U.S. It is key to have global experience and I think this will be a very comforting factor to female patients.