The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.

Medical tourism

Mixed-use concept of hotels bridging health care gaining ground

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8:59 a.m., July 15, 2011--Hospitals and luxury are two words that just don’t seem to go together.  Or do they?  In a recent trend where medical recovery meets the comfort of a luxury hotel, the idea of "hotels bridging health care," or H2H, is gaining ground. 

A mixed-use concept, H2H creates a new and innovative business model for entrepreneurs to fulfill the unmet needs of certain patients and their families in a hygienic, complementary and friendly environment that provides quality accommodations, upscale treatments and state-of-the-art wellness centers for recovery.

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As part of the broader field of medical tourism, which links medical facilities to hotels and/or spas, H2H strategically connects hotels and hospitals to create a total customer experience.

“Medical tourism is a way for medical facilities to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” said Fred J. DeMicco, ARAMARK Professor in the University of Delaware's Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM). “Being able to stay and be pampered at the same place you are curing your ailment is the way many people with medical issues will want to go in the future.”

A case in point, said DeMicco, is that about 75 percent of all hospital services today are hotel and hospitality-related services.

In the recent economic downturn, hotels connected to hospitals also appeared to be recession proof, which is likely a result of the appeal of completing a medical procedure and getting a vacation out of it at the same time.

“Price is a real attraction,” said Ali Poorani, associate professor of HRIM and director of Hospitality Associates for Research and Training. “The cost of surgery in India, Thailand or South Africa can be one-tenth of rates in the United States. A heart-valve replacement that would cost $200,000 or more in the U.S. goes for $10,000 in India and that includes round-trip airfare and a brief vacation.”

DeMicco added that as U.S. accrediting bodies recognize many health care facilities overseas, more corporations and insurance companies are paying for medical travel abroad.

DeMicco and Poorani have been watching the growth of H2H worldwide and are situating the program at UD to play a key role in bringing the concept home.

Earlier this year, the two joined Kathleen Matt, dean of UD’s College of Health Sciences, and held a roundtable on H2H, spas and wellness. The event brought together constituents from Delaware’s health care and hospitality communities in an effort to share information and ideas about the alignment of the H2H concept with potential plans for UD’s Science and Technology Campus.

Building upon the roundtable, as well as research by DeMicco and Poorani, HRIM recently announced a conference on hotel, wellness and medical tourism entrepreneurship to be held at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz – a top medical tourism model – near Davos, Switzerland.

Slated for June 16-19, 2012, the interdisciplinary conference involves several UD departments as well as Max Koppel, M.D., clinical associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and medical adviser to the H2H conference.

Conference sessions will include an overview of medical tourism today and the future and concept of H2H with wellness spas, and panel presentations and discussions on the operational model of Bad Ragaz, the branding of cities and towns for medical tourism, financial and investment issues, potential infrastructure and legal issues and the impact on doctor/patient communication.

For details on the conference, send an email to hrim-dept@udel.edu.

Article by Kathryn Marrone Meier

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