The covid-19 pandemic has induced a radical change of the conditions in medical tourism. This includes a strong need to develop and implement a modified concept of medical tourism. New technologies and safety requirements should be regarded as indispensable elements of this system. It can be predicted that this alternative solution, which has been developed and adopted due to the epidemic, will constitute an important building block of medical tourism in the future.
President of the Institute of Research and Development of Medical Tourism, dr Anna Bialk-Wolf has delivered the presentation „A new approach to medical tourism” at ITB Berlin NOW 2021. We show the interview, which was published in ITB Berlin News.
ITB Berlin News: How is the concept of medical tourism changing?
Białk-Wolf: Initially the concept of medical tourism included only traveling abroad with the intent to receive medical treatment. Also other activities such as sightseeing, a program for the accompanying traveler or recovering in a spa could been a part of a medical tourism trip.
The concept of medical tourism today concerns additional issues. The first major factor which we can consider as an external one, underlines the conjunction of medical tourism with other types of tourism. In the pre-covid times medical tourism was only a small niche with a few tourism stakeholders and a few medical clinics, which were involved in the process. Currently health matters have achieved a very high rank in developing the image of the tourism destination and the importance of it goes far beyond medical tourism.
A second major issue is connected with increasing popularity of new forms of doctor-patient interaction generated mostly by technology. There is no longer the necessity of personal presence during the process of treatment, because even more can be done using telemedicine. Consequently, the mobility of the patient is not a prerequisite for using medical treatment abroad.
ITB Berlin News: What are the most important elements of this system, and why?
The pandemic reality has shown the strong need for a new solution. The most important element should be the patient, but in view of issues listed by UNWTO we are not allowed to concentrate only on the very tiny group of patients looking for medical care abroad. We have to consider the capacity of the whole system (including climate change). Telemedicine allows us easier contact with more patients and cover the medical needs of more remote individuals.
While discussing about medical tourism more attention should be paid to the mobility of the supply side. Due to the new technologies including telemedicine and the general lack of medicine, these are the crucial factors shaping the concept of medical tourism.
ITB Berlin News: Do you think the current changes will bring about permanent change? If so, why?
Global trends will influence many aspects of our lives. The changes are occurring not only as the result of the pandemic situation, which in turn can be also seen as the effect of global change and the call for structural adaptation, but they are an effect of a long process. That is why, in my opinion it will be a permanent change, that was hastened due to the pandemic.
ITB Berlin News: What are your thoughts about this year’s ITB NOW conference (overall)? Why is it important to bring people together in this way?
Regarding the exceptional situation, it is important to get the feeling of community and continuity. ITB NOW constitutes an important platform to fulfil these needs.
On the other hand, I think that we have to handle more responsibility, and redefine our attitude to priorities and habits. But it is far beyond the scope of the medical tourism problem. The struggle between old and new will continue to shape our future, as always in the time of breakthrough.
(source: ITB news https://news.itb.com/newsroom_list/a-new-approach-to-medical-tourism/)