Medical tourism specialist and hard going analyst Keith Pollard recently wrote an article quoting another great medical professional, professor Glenn Cohen of Harvard university. The quote goes along the lines of everytime you go to a medical tourism conference, you see a lot more business and marketing people then you do medical professionals. This surprises and confuses the good professor, who sees this phenomenon as the signs of an industry in crisis, and bemoans the fact that there are not enough medical professionals in the industry.
Mr Pollard addresses these as facts, and gives a tone of understanding to this statement. He proceeds to write an entire article about how this is the case, and indeed, the article is entitled “The medical tourism industry: health professionals needed”. He laments the fact that there are more marketing specialists and executives involved then there are doctors.
This is surprising to me for a number of reasons. I, unlike mister Pollard, have only been working in medical tourism for a few years, so I am by no means the authority on the subject that he is, I do however, work closely with a medical tourism firm based in Budapest, the dental tourism capital of the world. I see their daily doings, and worked for them in their customer care and their marketing sections. Perhaps this is why I am completely unsurprised by the ratio of people who partake in this industry.
Think about it. You can set up a dental practice with just one dentist, I mean, you probably should work with more, but you can make it work with just one, and let’s say, four assistants, who may be hygienists or nurses themselves. Right now, you have all the medical professionals you need, but you do not have a single patient or any business as of yet. For that, you need to work with someone who gets patients, either a marketing manager or business man or a patient organizer, and this person does not need to be a medical professional, and is unlikely to be one, as he will be making far less than the dentist, which is only fair. You do not go to school for 8 years to be a patient organizer, but to be a dentist, after all. The firms that get patients have several people working for them, and you may also be involved with marketing, because the business is booming, and you want people to know about your specific dental practice, so you need some folks to give you a name, make websites for you, and in general get word out about your clinic. This is also a job for marketing specialists, not medical professionals. Dealing with patients from them will probably also require a few people, who will also not be medical professionals. They may have a crash course in dentistry, to be able to refer you to the correct dentist, but that is about all the medical training they need.
So in reality, I do not see the problem of there not being enough health care professionals, I find the whole issue a little bit silly. You need doctors to provide the essential service of dentistry, and nothing outside of this essential service needs or warrants medical qualifications. And by the way, Mr Pollard, you are not a dentist either, you are a marketing guy, so let’s not bemoan the face of an industry that you fit into perfectly. There are enough medical professionals in this industry, it’s just that most people involved in it do not need to be doctors. I find that this fact should not confuse someone who claims to be an expert in the industry at all.