Medical tourism, meet Miami

Plans to make Miami a medical tourism mecca were revealed at the recent South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Marketing Association (SFHHA) Healthcare Summit.

More promising than any “exotic” travel trend since luxury safaris went mainstream, medical tourism is one to watch. Folks needing anything from inexpensive dental work to cosmetic procedures or life-saving surgeries have become a massive boon to the economies of Costa Rica, Singapore, Bangkok and, soon, Shanghai. Here at home, Houston, Texas is a model for how to market one’s city as a medical tourism destination. Then, there’s Miami.

At the recent South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association (SFHHA) Summit, a panel of local experts described efforts currently underway to make Miami the medical tourism mecca it should be. After all, not only do we have some of America’s finest healthcare … and no disrespect to Houston … but we’re MIAMI, for crying out loud! Given the choice, who wouldn’t want to recover from, say, a quadruple bypass on Miami Beach?

Jackson Memorial Foundation President & CEO, Roland D. Rodriguez, told attendees that medical tourism is driven by three factors primarily; the internet (speed of infomation); the growing number of insured inbound patients; and increased affiliations between onshore and offshore facilities, ensuring continuity of care as patients return to their countries of origin. Identifying Latin America as one of the world’s top three medical tourism feeder markets, Miami’s proximity to and popularity with Latin Americans makes us a natural for this effort.

Jackson’s international arm now employs 40 people, said Rodriguez, who is very active in a cooperative effort to brand Miami as a medical tourism destination city. Through the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the five powerhouse hospitals (Baptist Health International Center of Miami, Florida International University College of Medicine, Jackson International, Mercy Hospital, Miami Children’s Hospital, and UHealth—University of Miami Health System) have banded together to create, a resource for healthcare seekers curious about what Miami has to offer.

Also giving his insights during the SFHHA panel was Miami Children’s Hospital President and CEO, M. Narendra Kini, M.D., MHA. Kini noted that Miami faces deeply entrenched competition in medical tourism, saying that roughly 100 medical centers in six or seven countries dominate the field. But Kini is clearly optimistic about branding Miami as a medical mecca, noting strides such as the GMCVB website, U.S. entities becoming more active by taking equity in foreign facilities, building U.S.-owned feeder facilities abroad, and being more proactive in “reabsorbing” American patients who have traveled outside of the United States to receive healthcare.

Also making excellent presentations were Robin Fiorelli (VITAS Innovative Hospice Care), Dr. James Howell (Nova Southeastern University) and Frank Swaans of Gresham, Smith and Partners.

– Owen McDonald

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