"Medical Tourism" Examined By Health Business Blogger

Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD

Disclosures

July 31, 2007

Many Americans and Europeans are traveling abroad in search of high-quality, low-cost healthcare. A new Web site that capitalizes on that trend is the latest brainchild of David Williams, an entrepreneur in the business of medicine. His site, MedTripInfo, provides news and commentary on "medical tourism," along with discussion boards that focus on particular countries.

Williams was also one of the first healthcare consultants to recognize the benefits of blogging and start one of his own, called the Health Business Blog. I spoke with him last year about his online activities and his job as CEO of a consulting firm. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with him again to discuss his new interest in medical tourism, and to get his thoughts on other trends in medicine.

Dr. Genes: When you first started blogging, you were one of only a few healthcare consultants online. Now there are many others. Do you interact with these other bloggers to compare notes? Does your online activity boost your firm's business?

David Williams: There are a lot more blogs out there focusing on the business of healthcare. Quite a few are published by corporations and think-tanks and have relatively big budgets behind them. One place to see these blogs is the Health Wonk Review, a blog "carnival" about healthcare policy and business.

I still don't use my blog to generate consulting business directly, but it does help me stay on top of topics that are important for my business. Also, as blogs in general have started to garner respect and as my own blog has gained prominence, I've been on the receiving end of a lot more proposals than before. I've done several podcast interviews in the past few months and now receive requests from companies (or their PR firms) to interview their executives. Some of those companies could become clients; on the other hand, if I'm perceived as a journalist it won't necessarily help generate consulting projects!

Health Business Blog hosts Grand Rounds
July 31, 2007

Dr. Genes: I'm curious about your new interest in medical tourism. Is this something you've considered for yourself? Would you someday consider booking medical tours as a business?

David Williams: You could say that MedTripInfo is how I'm handling my midlife crisis. I just turned 40, and rather than buying a sports car or chasing women half my age, I'm starting this site. I'm on my way to Singapore now for a tour of hospitals and am excited about the trip.

My objective with MedTripInfo is to present useful information on international medical travel for patients, policymakers, and providers. I'm kicking it off by interviewing leaders in the field: book authors, medical travel agents, accreditation bodies, and hospital executives. I'm also doing some blogging on the topic and providing reference materials on various countries and providers.

My hope is that users will gradually take over the site. Patients who have been overseas for medical care will share their wisdom in the discussion forums. Overseas physicians and medical travel agents will introduce themselves there and share their wisdom. Patients who are considering medical travel will be able to ask questions and get authoritative answers.

I'm also lining up bloggers -- in the US and internationally -- to contribute their thoughts to the commentary section of MedTripInfo. Anyone out there who would like to contribute a post, please get in touch!

I started looking into medical tourism as an outgrowth of my interest in US healthcare reform. Reform sometimes seems hopeless here, yet somehow, providers in places like Singapore, India, Thailand, and Argentina have found ways to offer high-quality medical care and excellent customer service at much lower prices. I think these providers can provide a real alternative for US patients and possibly offer a model for restructuring care within the United States.

Dr. Genes: I love the fact that you tell jokes on your blog! What are some of your favorites?

David Williams: I often use humor in my face-to-face interactions and don't hesitate to joke around even with clients I don't know well. I'm comfortable doing it and it often loosens them up. I actually tell many fewer jokes online, but I still like to slip them in from time to time. Healthcare is a really serious topic, which is all the more reason for a little light-hearted fun.

Telling jokes or being funny in a blog is tough. You can't judge the reaction and can't use verbal inflections or nonverbal communication. It's actually even tougher than joking around on email because you can't assume any particular relationship with a reader. Someone may just be reading the one post and not be aware of the broader context. Also, my humor tends to be dry, so it's hard to even get across that you're joking. Sometimes I sneak a joking reference into a post for the benefit of the 1 or 2 readers who may pick up on the reference.

Dr. Genes: Last time we spoke, I noted that you liked to write about greed that's brazen enough to cross a boundary, but clever enough to require some illumination. Have you had any other running themes this past year?

David Williams: Recent themes include concierge medicine (I don't really like the concept though I understand why docs are interested), the impact of cost increases on healthcare reform, and biogenerics (I prefer post-patent price regulation).

Dr. Genes: Travel over to the Health Business Blog this week, as David Williams hosts Grand Rounds, the weekly collection of the best in online medical writing, submitted from bloggers around the world.

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