7/11/2007 11:22:34 AM
By Marion Edward
“Hospitality healthcare is right around the corner,” forecasts Katie Hurley, Founder of
Spa Hospitality, as she references the two medical/surgical suites in service for the past
few years within the Four Seasons Miami and the therapeutically-conceived private
residence club, La Amanezca, currently being built north of Cabo San Lucas.
Addressing the 2007 Medical Wellness Summit along with Graham Simpson, M.D.,
Hurley bridges the portals between spa, wellness and medical tourism. “There are five
trends transforming the healthcare industry today,” said Hurley. “Employer-paid health
insurance, self insurance and pre-paid medical plans; rising co payments and premium
deductions; commoditization of healthcare providers; patients opting for generics;
concierge medicine as a consumer-value proposition between patients and clients.”
“Companies like Blue Cross and CIGNA offer plans that only cover medical
necessities,” Hurley continued. Individually or collectively, these realities have and are
paving the way for blending hospitality with healthcare and transforming consumer
offerings into another lifestyle niche: medical tourism or concierge medicine.
With the portability of health care delivery via video technology; mobile pharmacies to
resorts, hotels, and hospital suites; wireless sensing and telecommunications; and $27
billion revenue, it’s no wonder every hotelier is examining this lucrative dimension to the
practice of hospitality.
In truth, medical tourism has been around for years. At the beginning of the 20th century,
John Henry Kahler introduced the Kahler Hotel to answer patient needs of the adjacent
Rochester clinic founded by Dr. William Worrall Mayo. Sometimes categorized as
“concierge medicine”, this additional revenue generator for hotel marketing leverages
itself as a venue to promote destination marketing while creating strategic alliances
The development of medical tourism gained attention with the recent creation of “luxury
floors” within some of America’s top hospitals. Conceived as an amenity for those
patients who can pay out of pocket, luxury floors’ revenues contribute to cross
subsidization of hospitals’ services. Some hospitals like Orlando Regional Medical
Center, recruit experienced hotel employees to assist them implementing their guest
Conversely, The Peabody Orlando utilizes a preferred vendor and appropriately
licensed agency for handling medical services needed by their guests, thereby avoiding
potentially litigious situations. The Peabody Orlando’s Marshall Kelberman, Rooms
Division Manager, understands the variety and responsibility of those occurrences:
”We get 250 medical references per year. Our concierges do not have to be in the
touchy business of referring generalists or specialists,” said Kelberman. “No one can afford to be down for the count when they’re visiting us. Our guests, including medical guests, indicate a noticeable comfort zone here. Likewise, the referrals from Taekwondo and soccer associations, who stay with us in the summer months, illustrate satisfaction with their return visits. ”
Charlotte Wytias, Program Manager of the Integrative Medicine Center, The Springs of Clifton, at Clifton Springs Hospital in Clifton Springs, New York, has seen continued expansion of the natural springs’ spa within the hospital, providing alternative and complementary therapies with traditional healthcare using local hospitality venues for patient stays.
Scott Galens, Proprietor of The Clifton Pearl B&B recalled when Charlotte organized a meeting with the hospital CEO, a local restaurateur and himself to propose patient “packages” inclusive of meals, stays and medical-spa services. Physicians, hospital
staff, patients and their families use these services. Wytias said the hospital’s founding
physician, Dr. Henry Foster, referred to his patients as guests.
“Even though we don’t always have people who come here as guests, it is our intention to have that commitment as the guiding principle for how physicians and staff treat everyone,” said Wytias, who noted the words hospital and hospitality have the same root.
This year, the hospital added Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine and opens a total joint replacement center this fall, both including therapies from The Springs. Wytias explains that adding Springs’ therapies offer optimum preparation of the body and quicker recovery for patients, using treatments such as acupuncture, massage, guided imagery meditation, Reiki, mineral springs, etc.
Occasionally, a destination’s medical reputation supports the local economy’s very existence. Such is the case in Trinidad, Colorado, nationally acclaimed for successful sexual reassignment surgery during the past 15 years.
Service providers anticipate an additional dimension to the Five Star concept in the offering of medical tourism. According to Steven Ferry, Founder and Chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers, “The medical tourism industry is another excellent avenue for providing the five-star service of the English butler along the lines of the specially-trained Spa Butler. In the latter case, the spa guest experience is made seamless by continuing attentions from the Spa Butler in the hotel suite. Or, optimally, a Spa Butler is a spa therapist who is also trained as a butler, and so provides mostly en-suite therapies while also servicing the guest on the hotel side. For instance, taking all the guest’s metrics, establishing the diet, exercise, and treatment regimens, and then guiding the guest through all of them, or delivering them, down to laying the table and serving the freshly made spinach spelt sandwiches or whatever.”
Medical tourism continues to evolve as a natural outgrowth of lifestyle marketing in the
hospitality industry and public preference for preventive rather than crisis or
rehabilitative care. According to Graham Simpson, M.D., Medical Director of La
Amanezca and founder of Ageless Zone, meta resorts engaged in the practice of
integral health are taking the place of traditional resorts by combining expected
recreation and amenities with lifelong learning and symposia on a regular basis. “There
is a good opportunity in the years ahead to enable people to take advantage of this age
of managed information and the ability to stay connected with their own health guides
through the hospitality industry’s identifiable resorts,” said Amanezca.
Jami Doucette, M.D./M.B.A. concurred: “The medical tourism and concierge medicine
industries will continue to experience rapid growth as the consumer-driven model of
health care expands and evolves in the USA.”