Can (Should) You Learn About Medical Tourism Facilitation from Someone Who’s Never Done It?

Can (Should) You Learn About Medical Tourism Facilitation from Someone Who's Never Done It?



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There are an alarming number of "Certifiers" and "Accreditors" popping up all over the world offering to take your money and give you a piece of paper after a seminar or course for a couple of days. But do these pieces of paper and certificates certify competency?

About the Author

About the Author

With over 40 years of experience in medical tourism care coordination and patient movement, Maria Todd is frequently hired as a consulting expert and trusted authority on medical tourism. But she doesn't sell "certifications." In fact, she scoffs at most medical tourism facilitator certifications. Learn why.

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Sellers gonna sell!

Medical tourism certifications keep popping up all over the world. Just who are all these experts? And exactly what are they certifying?

Are they nurses? Travel agents? Lawyers? Journalists? Physicians?  Its becoming increasingly difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff with low barriers to entry. 

In today’s article, I hope to help you become a more prudent buyer of training and certifications, show you where to find training and reveal what you need to know to keep your medical and dental tourism patients safe, happy, and loyal promoters of your business brand to the people they influence with their stories and recommendations.

How Medical Tourism REALLY Works

The ROLE of a professional working as a medical tourism facilitator

A true medical tourism “facilitator” makes the matter of researching, recommending and coordinating care and appropriate travel and accommodation for a special needs traveler “easier” and works as an ADVOCATE of their client. 

The role does not include “selling” the patient on a particular destination or hospital or surgeon or specialist. That’s not patient advocacy. That’s seller advocacy. One cannot do both, simultaneously. Therefore, receiving a sales commission on a successful referral or a spit of a fee paid to a medical or dental provider is not client advocacy unless the client is the provider. That’s marketing, advertising and sales. Not facilitation. 

A professional patient advocate working to “facilitate” care coordination, patient movement, and assisting with international payment transactions and medical records exchange is an independent professional due a fair compensation for the work performed over time. But medical tourism facilitation done properly requires special knowledge and skills, so a portion of the fee is meant to return some value on the time and training investment. The fee reflects time and experience on the job, expertise, and covers overheads, labor, and profit margin. One could conceivably allocate a percentage of the fee to reward the facilitator for the percentage of savings – if they had a hand in creating the savings – but this reward and compensation would be paid by the person for whom the advocacy benefits as a fee for professional services. This is a matter of price integrity. 


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Price integrity is a strategic tool that reinforces brand image. Most medical tourism facilitators have read somewhere that the way medical tourism “works” is that facilitators tie up with providers and take a cut of the fee charged to patients. When one does this, one takes away the focus from the value they provide to their client and places it squarely on the commission fee paid by the seller to give the seller biased advantage. To earn money as a medical or dental tourism facilitator, many “teachers” and “trainers” have advocated this approach to compensation because they know that to maintain higher prices, one must instead be adept at selling value.  And that’s hard to do if all you do is make appointments with doctors at clinics and hospitals across the planet. It doesn’t require any competency at all to book appointments, right? 

If that were the role, then all these certifiers of nothing are certifying “nothing” but attendance at a two day seminar and giving little in the way of value or training, or skills, or sharing tips, tools or technique. What technique is necessary to make appointments? How to send an email or use a phone? How to calculate percentages for commission payments?

That’s a lead sourcer; not a facilitator. That’s a sales rep; not a patient advocate.

According to McKinsey & Co, between 80% to 90% of incorrect pricing decisions are made by charging too little for products and services.  So not only does your medical tourism facilitator brand suffer underpayment, they also lose brand equity. If your targeting and positioning is right and your service of good quality and value, why let someone else set your compensation as a percentage of what they make?

 “Free” reduces the effectiveness of (and the value of your professional expertise, knowledge and service) what you do in the client’s mind

People expect that nobody works for “free” who is any good or produces value for them. 

So if they are not paying you directly for what you do “for them” you must be doing what you do “for someone else” who is  paying you. If as a “facilitator”, you decide to compete on providers’ prices alone, you won’t have predictable sales for your professional services.  You won’t ever be paid for the value you provide. In fact, you will always be paid less. That’s because free has no value.

Volume discounts make sense in a buyer’s mind. But they aren’t buying in volume. People understand that the more they buy, the better discount they should receive, right?

But medical and dental travel clients are buying single transactions through a concierge level service. Right? Or are they? 

If all you do is sell for the provider and make appointments, you should be paid for the time to talk to the prospect, the time to shop for them, obtain a quote, and seal the deal and make an appointment. That’s worth about $25 max; not 20-30% of a surgeon’s fee.

Since brand storytelling is also a component of growing the business you’ve established as a facilitator, what story will you tell that positions what you do in the buyers’ mind as unique, valuable, and worth a discount that you seemingly work for “free” — for them?



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cover mof medical tourism program facilitator's handbook

The training of a medical or dental tourism facilitator

There are certain basic knowledge and skills you must possess as a professional medical or dental tourism facilitator. I believe that the trainer must have this knowledge and skills set and many years of experience and practice to have something of value to impart.  So that’s your first vetting question before laying down your precious start up capital in exchange for their “certification” or “accreditation.”

Another way to look at it is this:  What’s it worth to you to learn how to make appointments and calculate a percentage? If that’s all the trainer has ever done on their own, is that what you hope to leave the class with? It is your choice whether you “buy” but exactly what are you buying? Letters after your name? A seal or logo? A paper or plaque on the wall? How much value will a customer assign to those things?

A facilitator is going to coordinate “care”. The language of care is:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical quality standards and safety standards
  • Accreditation standards and rationale for the standards and best practices
  • Medical conditions
  • Surgical procedures – what they are, clinical indications and more
  • Known risks and risks mitigation of further injury or complication

A facilitator is charged with the responsibility to handle and transfer personal health information (PHI) over the internet or telephone line to a fax device.  The knowledge base for this includes:

  • Medical records handling
  • Maintaining privacy and security of the data being exchanged
  • Confidentiality, privileged communications, and privacy
  • Laws and regulations concerning medical records, privacy, security at the origin location and the treatment location, and determining which supersedes  in the event of a conflict
A facilitator is charged with the responsibility to coordinate travel, ground transfers, accommodation and other essentials. The knowledge base for this includes:
  • Geography
  • Immigration and visa regulations
  • Travel itinerary and stopover planning and selection
  • Appropriate seat selection and knowledge of each model of aircraft on the itinerary
  • Knowledge of rules and remedies concerning ticketing, refunds,  interline luggage handling, minimum connecting times, airport services available for the disabled and how to assure coordination and exceptions handling (bumps, flight itinerary interruption, labor strikes, misconnections, cancellations, weather, mechanical, oversold, etc.)
  • Accommodation selection
  • Accommodation conditions ( carpeting, grab rails, trip hazards, stairs, elevators, room location, safety precautions, allergy implications (to laundry soap, toiletries supplied, mold and mildew, bedbugs, ants, spiders, organic plant matter present), location of electrical service outlets, bedding and linens, furniture, languages spoken, safety and security, hotel amenities,  emergency conditions management, proximity to clinic and pharmacy, etc.
  • Ground transfers (types of vehicle used, driver safety and vetting, vehicle maintenance, insurance, leg room, difficulty with ingress and egress and available assistance with ingress and egress, etc.)
  • Food and beverage service (menu, ingredients, food sensitivities and substitutions, ability to communicate ingredients and preparation in the patients’ preferred languages, food handling safety, tap water quality, off menu options, other special needs accommodations, etc.)
To market their business, the facilitator must know: 
  • Branding and storytelling
  • Marketing  and business development
  • Graphics and design
  • Website design and content development
  • Public relations and publicity management
  • Reputation management and soliciting feedback
  • Advertising laws and consumer protection regulations
  • SEO and paid digital campaign strategies and tactics
  • Use of certain design software and internet applications or someone who can manage this for them in exchange for payment of a fee
To establish the business, the facilitator must know or hire: 
  • Legal and accounting counsel
  • Business establishment regulations and requirements
  • Banking and international payment transactions
  • Tax and accounting for expenses
  • Purchase errors and omissions insurance, professional liability insurance
  • Follow best practices and have a set of business protocols, standards, policies, procedures, and a risk management system
  • Establish criteria for client acceptance, hospital and practitioner standards, hotel standards, travel standards, food and beverage outlet standards, and ground transfer standards
To work with insured patients, the facilitator must be fluent with:
  • Health insurance policies and benefit inclusions and exclusions
  • Use of in-network benefits vs out of network benefits, if any
  • Provider vetting and network design
  • Cross border and out of area coverage, if any
  • Reciprocity among networks and wrap around networks
  • Deductibles and co-insurance designs
  • Special laws and regulations about each type of insurance or benefit plan design
  • How to appeal for exceptions or challenge wrongly denied coverage
  • Single case agreements between payer and providers
  • Plan fee schedules and fee maximums, if any
  • Non-allowed services and non-covered services

Summary and conclusion

So if you have all these expected and required skills sets and are ready to go, why do you need a certification or accreditation? Who will care? Who will challenge you if you aren’t certified or accredited? 
Is the trainer offering the certification one who shares tips and techniques and best practices coming for years of training and practical, hands-on experience in these domain areas of expertise? Again, if not, what exactly are you buying? Are you buying at least a component of the above listed skills training? If not, would a college, university or vocational training center offer a better option?

Can one reasonably expect to fill any or all gaps in the above-listed skills in a one- or two-day seminar to the point that the conferred diploma, certificate or accreditation represents competency?

If you were challenged in a court of law by a consumer, a regulator, or someone else to defend the validity of the certification as it relates to competency and job knowledge, could you do so?

And lastly, are you a patient advocate and facilitator or a sales advocate of the providers? What fee is a fair fee to compensate you for the value you deliver? Who should set your fee and how should you be compensated, when and by whom?


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