MEDICAL TOURISM IN ITALY

Stefano TMI

23 May MEDICAL TOURISM IN ITALY

MEDICAL TOURISM IN ITALY: INTERVIEW TO STEFANO URBANI, FOUNDER& CEO OF TMI

TMI is a company specialised in Medical Tourism Sector in Italy. Its Founder, Stefano Urbani, provides in the following interview, a complete analysis of the market situation and a cross-section of Italian competitive strategies in this field.

What does TMI do?

TMI, Medical Tourism Italy, deals with Medical Tourism on 3 business lines that are exclusive and complementary in a young market with high potentials: the Italian one. First of all, TMI works as a facilitator for the incoming (foreign patients interested in Italian health facilities) and outgoing (Italian patients interested in foreign health facilities). As an intermediary, TMI aims to link health facilities supply with patients needs in order to provide patients with the most suitable health facility at an international level for any specific need. When the patient decides to travel towards a specific health facility, TMI sets up a “door2door” procedure by planning the travel itself in order to make it as safe and comfortable as possible for the patient as well as for his travelling companions, also by managing pre-treatment phase and the after-care, thanks to references network in the country of origin and to telemedicine. TMI is specialised also in specific marketing strategies for Medical Tourism Sector, and it provides useful services to health facilities bound to increase their incoming flows. Despite Italy’s know-how gap on Medical Tourism, there’s a growing interest on the issue. TMI, the first-mover in Italy (since 2013), structured itself to assist medical facilities by participating to several fairs of the sector all over the world and by defining targeted investments to better understand the demand with a step-by-step path that prepares facilities to manage foreign patients at a functional and operative level.

What is the Medical Tourism situation in Italy? Which is our Country positioning in this competitive scenario?

Medical Tourism situation in Italy is very interesting because of the historical context in which it is taking place. Outbound and inbound flows are to be split. Outbound is led by three main drivers: competitive prices, excellent know-how for some medical specializations in specific foreign countries, and health treatments, available abroad that are not being provided in Italy. About the first case, a good example consists in dental care in Eastern Europe (Croatia and Hungary) and also Hepatitis C. treatments in India; for the latter, we can mention assisted procreation in Spain and gender selection in Cipro. Numbers are high and fast growing and this happens because of high quality provided by foreign players and for the Italian patients attitude to travel and make online researches. Inbound flow is driven instead exclusively by excellence. Italy can provide unique and specialized services, for example: oncology, cardiology, neurology and orthopedics. Number of incoming patients is still very low (less than 5.000 per year) and it’s reserved to a few players that have developed this business opportunity at the initial stage, but there is a high potential with a 30% of yearly increase. Today, Italy has a low profile inside a competitive global scenario. And this is good: Italy can take the opportunity to look at mistakes made by other countries and to work on its strong points, for example by hooking itself to general tourist flows. A consistent investment is necessary to enhance the reputation and international credibility and to prepare health facilities to manage the diversity in patients culture. Italy has all the requirements to compete with international centers of excellence, in some cases with lower prices, but it will depend on how Italian players will decide to move in the next 4 years. At this day, European top inbound countries (Germany and UK) don’t perceive Italy as a competitor and this could drive Italy strongly into the sector, but at the same time, it reveals its youth. Italian private health entrepreneurs will need to invest energy on this business and also institutions are supposed to invest with regulation strategies, education and new synergies.

Who is the Italian Medical Tourism patient? Why does he choose cross-border healthcare treatments? What is he looking for and where does he address himself to find it?

Italian Medical Tourism patients differs according to specific medical treatment. It is impossible to identify a “reference model”. Nevertheless, we can think about the most required specialties not minding the less common clinical records. Dental Care is usually linked to people over 50, with a limited spending power, who need to undergo complex treatments with costs over 5.000€ if provided in Italy. In Eastern Europe the saving could be around 30-60%, according to destinations. On large sums, the travelling cost is minimal and saving is very high. In plastic surgery, the age is lower, between 30 and 45 years: it’s about people ready to travel, web-oriented, with a middle level spending power and a middle level education, who prefer saving money by going to foreign health facilities (in these cases saving could be very high) and they prefer to spend saved money for other personal needs. Last example is about couples who choose to go abroad for IVF (in vitro fertilization). Couples are between 35 and 50 years old, high education level and high spending power. They usually look for health facilities with a safety and reliability perception. Reference is important, some of them contact directly health facilities, while others ask to professional operators in the field (providers, facilitators).

Which are the most required destinations and specialties sought by foreign patients that come to Italy?

The most attractive destination for sure is Lombardy, followed by Veneto and Lazio. The most required medical specialties are: oncology, cardiology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, diagnostics and check up, palliative care, plastic surgery. The most representative countries of origin are Russia, Arab Countries and Switzerland. Inbound flow is characterized by the “Pareto Principle, most of foreign patients move to the same range of 5 facilities.

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