With pressure growing on hospital systems to find new sources of revenue, many healthcare executives are turning to international patients as an attractive option.
A substantial number of overseas patients are willing and able to come to the U.S. for diagnosis and treatment. They typically are patients with more complex disorders from countries where high-level specialty care may not be readily available. More importantly, they can afford to pay for their care out of pocket or have their care fully funded by their governments or private insurance.
It's a tempting business. But revenue is only part of the picture. Any healthcare executive who starts with dollar signs dancing in their eyes is in for a shock. The real challenge in establishing a thriving international patient business is modifying some, if not most, aspects of a hospital's basic infrastructure.
Some of the hospital systems that have succeeded in this market, including Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine, had the large advantage of international name recognition. Yet even they struggled to meet the unique demands and realities of serving this nontraditional market.