Medical tourism highlights the importance of patient-centric care

by Mark Wren

Progressive healthcare and life sciences companies are realizing they must respond to the needs of today’s digitally savvy patients, and they now see patient-driven care as an essential part of that effort. This trend is especially apparent — and important — in medical tourism, where organizations hope to target and attract patients from around the globe. Driven by aging populations searching for high quality and affordable healthcare in an increasingly connected world, the medical tourism market is expected to reach $179.6 billion by 2026. In fact, medical tourism is fast becoming an important source of revenue in several Asian markets, including Malaysia, Thailand, China and South Korea.

Healthcare organizations interested in medical tourism — or simply in offering better care — need to move away from one-size-fits-all, poorly integrated approaches to patient management. Instead, they need to adopt a customer-centric approach and develop innovative ways to engage and communicate with each individual.

This is a big change for hospitals and healthcare organizations, which typically haven’t been good at managing patients as paying consumers. They could take a cue from social media companies, which build their businesses on knowing everything about everyone’s browsing habits and use this information to provide targeted services. Similarly, healthcare organizations — particularly those interested in medical tourism — could learn more about their patients from available and relevant social data to become more personal, more available and more focused.

Healthcare organizations could also learn from banks, which a few years ago stopped requiring customers to come and fill in forms to open bank accounts. To connect digitally, they introduced apps designed to meet customers’ lifestyles and needs. The hospitals that excel in medical tourism will be those building a similar holistic, service-based model that engages with the patient when, where and how that patient chooses.

Whether for medical tourism or to build loyalty with patients in local communities, healthcare organizations need to deliver integrated, patient-centered treatment options that are connected by artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled, interoperable systems. With this approach, hospital professionals gain better insight into patient behavior, lifestyle, preferences, goals and challenges — and optimize clinical and operational effectiveness.

Signs of innovation

While many healthcare organizations remain stuck in traditional approaches to healthcare, there are exciting signs of change. Innovative organizations have started implementing secure, integrated platforms that can share large quantities of industry-specific data from multiple sources, including health information systems, social media, published literature, clinical trial databases and the internet of things (IoT).

A prime example is the National Heart Centre in Singapore, which is trialing AVATR technology in a medical study led by Dr. Philip Wong. This AI-enabled application lets patients create, own and share their digital persona with healthcare providers and life sciences companies to improve chronic disease monitoring outside the hospital walls.

The AVATR application allows care teams to tap into patients’ self-generated ambulatory and home clinical data, including real-time data gathered by clinical-grade wearables (such as the Bluetooth-connected Spyder ECG). The medical teams are hoping the technology can dramatically simplify patient monitoring and transition ambulatory data into a simple “active” personal health avatar. More efficient clinical monitoring and intervention would help physicians understand complex patient conditions in ambulatory settings so that they can optimize treatments and recommend lifestyle modification.

Another innovative, patient-centric example comes from Navro Technology Solutions in Bangalore, India. The company’s AI-based, real-time drug safety insight solutions take social media and published information for oncology drugs and turn this data into insights that can be easily viewed, analyzed, reported and communicated via a next-generation analytics platform.

Navro’s innovative technologies provide ubiquitous access to information that was only previously available to hospital professionals, enabling consumers to engage in their own care using a mobile phone or other “smart” accessories. The data helps healthcare professionals deliver evidence-based care that is specific to each consumer.

New opportunities

AI-based technology presents significant opportunities for hospitals focused on medical tourism. Organizations can find and target individuals on the same medical pathway by identifying behavior, genes and other data. They can then engage and collaborate with these patients in real time, regardless of their location, and deliver specialized information tailored to the patients’’ unique needs. Of course, they must do this while adhering to requirements about patient confidentiality, which is no small task. But an intelligent digital platform can help organizations protect privacy and share information to facilitate this kind of personalized care.

Patient-driven healthcare fueled by digital innovation is bound to attract and retain patients, whether they’re from the next state or the other side of the world.

Mark Wren is a visionary leader focused on driving healthcare and life sciences convergence via cloud-enabled innovation, digital disruption and transformation. He has a unique, proven track record of driving innovation and business growth across a broad spectrum of enterprises from early stage start-ups to global, corporate Fortune 500 businesses such as Dendrite, Phase Forward, Oracle and Raytheon.



  1. Great article Mark! But we also need to consider that cybersecurity threats are on the rise, with increased technological endpoints. Entire hospitals can be held at ransom today, with threats of a virus removing every patient record ever. Before we move onto more intuitive technologies, we need to ensure the security of data and integrity of diagnosis tools.

  2. Thanks Evelyn, excellent point and fully agree with you re the importance of having an integrated, enterprise-wide approach to protecting the hospital, enterprise, systems, endpoints, users, processes, applications and data.

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