WestJet Connects Canada, Gulf Coast

Toronto and Sarasota will soon be just one cheap plane ride apart. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials announced Monday that Canadian airline WestJet, a low-cost carrier, will begin nonstop service between the two cities starting in December. For the tourism industry on the Gulf Coast, that means a stronger connection with the entire Canada market at a time when visitation from the Great White North has grown increasingly important.

“This is very exciting for Canadian customers traveling to our beautiful Gulf Coast communities,” said SRQ airport President and CEO Fredrick Piccolo, “and will provide additional opportunities for locals to explore Canada and other destinations worldwide.”

WestJet starting Dec. 18 will offer nonstop service on Fridays and Sundays between SRQ and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The flights will be offered seasonally, running through April 29. Flights will be on a Boeing 737-700 with 136 seats. Morning flights are scheduled to depart Toronto at 8:05am and land in Sarasota at 11:06am, with afternoon flights departing Sarasota at 11:55am and landing in Toronto at 2:39pm.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, said more visitors to Sarasota County originate from Toronto than any other international city, and the city is the seventh-most important origin city to the county. Since Oct.1, around 72,000 visitors to the county have come from Canada, compared to some 25,000 from the United Kingdom and 18,000 from Central European nations (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). She said WestJet should open access to more Canadians as well. “This is the first time a low-fare carrier comes from this market,” she said. “If ever there is a complaint from Canadian visitors, especially from Toronto, it’s that they feel they have to go to Buffalo for low-fare alternatives.” 

In Manatee County, tourism officials say Canada still trails Europe in terms of importance as far as visitors. In the first quarter of the year, for example, some 14,530 visitors originated from Europe while 14,050 came from Canada. But Elliot Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Center, said getting the WestJet connection may be most important to the area as a means to serve seasonal residents who live in Toronto but winter in Sarasota. With the nonstop flight, Falcione said a concerted effort would be made toward boosting travel from Toronto to Manatee County. “With these additional flights in and out of Toronto, we will look at putting more advertising and public relations in that area,” he said. 



Doctors Hospital of Sarasota has been recognized for patient safety with an A grade in the Spring 2015 Hospital Safety Score, which rates how well hospitals protect patients from preventable medical errors, injuries and infections. The Hospital Safety Score is compiled under the guidance of the nation's leading patient safety experts and administered by a national, nonprofit hospital safety watchdog.

Please join Flordia Medical Retreat is congratulating Doctors Hospital on this outstanding recognition.

Rethink sun, sand and surf

Inbound Medical Tourism

Rethink sun, sand and surf. Medical Tourism is taking Florida by storm. If you haven't heard the news about Florida lawmakers' multi-million dollar push to bring both domestic and international patients to the Sunshine Staute -- you should. Watch the video (see links).


Tourism Patients Finding More to Florida under Sun


Like many tourists visiting Florida, she and her son went to Disney Worldbefore driving east to the beach to check out a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. Before Amy Caterina returned to her home 2,500 miles away in Southern California, she made one last stop in Orlando again to visit a team of plastic surgeons at UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health.


Beyond warm sunny days at the beach or pool, Caterina now has a greater appreciation of the Sunshine State. Health and tourism officials are hoping more visitors like Caterina, who returned four months later to undergo vascular lymph node transfer at UF Health Cancer Center, will transform the state’s sun and sand into a hot spot for medical tourism.


Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm, said that grants totaling $2.5 million will be offered to bring this goal to fruition. One will strengthen Florida’s position as a medical tourism destination of choice for both international and domestic healthcare consumers; the other will be to market related medical conferences, meetings and training programs.


"Patients around the world are no longer looking for procedures and treatments only within their own neighborhood, state or national boundaries," said Renée-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association®. "When these potential patients combine Florida’s attractions, and warm weather with healthcare services that are not only readily accessible, but super-specialized – like in this case, a side effect to breast cancer — Florida becomes a serious consideration for medical travel."


Fly Orlando


Few hospitals offer the type of comprehensive approach to lymphedema that Caterina found at UF Health Cancer Center, where surgeons have now performed the procedure more than 55 times including at least 7 on medical travel patients.


As many as 6.8 million Americans have lymphedema, which prevents lymph fluid from draining from body tissues. The fluid builds up, causing chronic, painful, disfiguring and even immobilizing swelling. Many patients must wear special compression garments, have daily compression massages and have the fluid drained regularly.


"More and more people are flying into Orlando for this operation," said Richard Klein, M.D., section chief of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Center at the UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health. "In fact, we’ve been performing this surgery just over a year now, and in that time we’ve already consulted with patients from 22 different states about it. I think we’re going to become more and more known for this type of procedure and we hope that patients are going to fly in not only from around the country, but from around the world as well."


When they do, healthcare providers, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions near hospitals and clinics in Florida stand to benefit from the medical tourism grants, funded by the state legislature during the 2014 session


Economic Boon


"The establishment of these grants is a tremendous first step in our strategic planning process to spotlight Florida’s world-class doctors and facilities," said Will Secombe, Visit Florida president and CEO.


Visit Florida received $5 million in state funding to promote Florida medical tourism. Each grant awarded under the new medical tourism promotional program will be matched by private funds. Stephano, who serves on the Visit Florida Medical Tourism Taskforce and the gran subcommittee, said the goal of the grant program is to promote new service lines and enhance target markets to increase existing inbound patient flow.


That’s fine with patients like Caterina, who, before the grant program, was fortunate to learn about the lymphedema opportunity at UF Health Cancer Center on social media.


"I researched it (lymphedema)," said Caterina. "Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find anything close to home, which is ironic because I live in San Diego and it’s a big city. So, I decided to come to Orlando."

SMH and Venice Regional Medical Center Win Blue Distinction for Spine Surgery & Total Knee/Hip Joint Replacement

Both Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and Venice Regional Medical Center received the highest level of distinction by Florida Blue, Florida's Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, as a high performing hospital for quality and efficiency in spine surgery and total hip/knee joint replacements. The Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care® program is a national designation awarded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to medical facilities that have demonstrated expertise in delivering quality specialty care - and has recently been expanded to include more robust quality measures focused on improved patient health and safety as well as new cost-efficiency measures.

Medical tourism....it’s not just about price!

There’s a quote about price and value by John Ruskin, an English writer and thinker that many who market medical tourism services would do well to heed.

“It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Ruskin’s quote sums up the problem faced by the prospective medical tourist when researching the options for treatment in another country. It seems to be all about price. “Come to our clinic, our hospital, our country... and we can save you thousands of dollars, pounds, euros on what it would cost for surgery in your own country.”

The clinic/hospital/destination supplements its claims of lowest cost with the usual highest quality/latest technology /best standards claims. And that’s where the disconnect occurs. Cheap implies low quality/high risk purchase.

As Ruskin says, "....if you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run"..... which is why it is never a sensible choice to be the lowest cost offering in the medical tourism market. This is the thorny problem faced by destinations such as India where price is without doubt a major competitive advantage, but the price differential is so significant that patients will ask themselves: "Why is it so cheap?", "How can it be so cheap?", "If it is that cheap, there must be something wrong with it?" "Am I putting myself at risk, if I choose the cheapest provider?"

Comparing medical tourism prices

The other difficulty that the prospective medical tourist faces is making realistic comparisons of price between their own country and the destinations that they are considering. This problem arises on two sides of the comparison.

Firstly, the patient needs to know what they might pay for the surgery or treatment in their own country. Let’s take a patient needing a hip replacement...how easy is it for him or her to find out what the price options are in their own country?

Original Post:


USA gets organized on inbound medical tourism


Until recently US hospitals all acted independently on inbound medical tourism so there was no co-ordination or co-operation. There are several new initiatives as part of the US government’s aim to make the country the top global destination for travel, to improve the economy, and discourage outsourcing to other countries.

The US Cooperative for International Patient Programs (USCIPP) was recently launched as a means to increase the global competitiveness of US healthcare providers and to improve access to healthcare in the US for patients from around the world.

USCIPP is a partnership of the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce, UHC, and Rush University. The aim is for domestic providers catering to international patients to share best practices and potentially grow their business collectively.

In November 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the Rush University of Chicago, in partnership with the University HealthSystem Consortium, a three-year $500,000 Market Development Cooperative Grant to help increase medical travel to the country. The idea is to stimulate growth through better data that tracks international patients and services, networking across institutions and the implementation of the best strategic business development practices. The grant is intended to support President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double exports (any form of U.S. medical care purchased by people outside the country) by 2015. The aim is to create millions of U.S. jobs with the influx of thousands of patients with a vast array of needs.

Plans include establishing a forum for international patient programme, creating a standardized set of data elements to be reported on international patients, determining the value of medical care exports, hosting a series of meetings focused on strategies to increase the global competitiveness of US health care providers, and developing strategic relationships with ministries of health and private payers abroad

The federal government has been making determined noises about encouraging international travel to the USA. The new Brand USA is a public private partnership with the mission of promoting increased international travel to the United States. The Department of Commerce is forecasting an increase in international arrivals of 6% a year in 2012-16. President Obama’s ambition is to make the USA the world’s top travel and tourism destination. In 2010, 59.7 million international visitors went to the America, generating some US$134 billion for the economy. The USA remains the world’s second most visited, after France. The US administration and UNWTO estimate that 62.5 to 63.0 million international travellers visited the USA in 2011. Tourism is already the USA’s most important export service industry. It is also seen as a way to boost job creation - an urgent priority in the current economic climate. Tourism represents nearly 3% of the country’s GDP and is responsible for some 7.5 million jobs, according to the US Department of Commerce.

Among the steps to be taken by the US administration to boost tourist arrivals is a streamlining of visa formalities. Efforts will be made to expand the Global Entry Program place this year, making it easier for frequent visitors to the USA (who have therefore already undergone a background check) to travel across US borders. More countries will be invited to join the list of those whose citizens are allowed to visit America without a tourist visa under the visa waiver programme. Steps will also be taken to accelerate travel formalities for booming markets such as Brazil, China and India.

Medical travel has representation in the new travel and tourism strategy, with the appointment of Steven Thompson of Johns Hopkins Medicine International, to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Thompson is one of 32 member of the board, which advises the Commerce Department on policies and issues affecting travel and tourism. Steven Thompson commented,” There is a growing demand for US health services coming from the international community. The adoption of travel policies that encourage and support growth in international travel are vital.”

Medical Tourism News - March 22, 2012

Med Travel Gets Voice in Obama's Tourism Strategy

Johns Hopkins Exec Appointed to U.S. Travel Board Medical travel has representation in the Obama administration’s new travel and tourism strategy, with the appointment of Steven Thompson, chief executive officer, Johns Hopkins Medicine International, to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Thompson is one of 32 members of the board, which advises the Commerce Department on policies and issues affecting travel and tourism.

“I enthusiastically accepted the appointment, due to the important and growing demand for U.S. education and health services coming from the international community,” Thompson told Travel Market Report.

“The adoption of travel policies that encourage and support growth in international travel are vital to these business sectors within our economy.”

Thompson is not the first representative from the medical travel sector to serve on the board. Dr. David Hayes, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, served on a previous board.

“The Department of Commerce recognizes the important role that both medical travel and educational travel and tourism play in strengthening our economy,” said Mara Lee, deputy director of communications in the department’s International Trade Administration.

Commenting on Thompson’s appointment to the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, she said that it “signals the Department’s continued recognition of the value that medical and educational travel and tourism contributes to U.S. exports.”

Original Post: Travel Market Report http://www.travelmarketreport.com/medical?articleID=6872&LP=1

Canadians Warming Up To The Idea of "Medical Tourism"

More than 60 per cent of Canadians would be willing to leave the country for medical procedures if they were covered by healthcare, according to an upcoming report by an international consulting firm.

Medical tourism is a growing industry, said Mark Fam, a senior manager with Deloitte's National Health Services. The industry is divided into two sectors: inbound, the number of patients travelling into a country to receive treatment; and outbound, those travelling outside the country.

In terms of outbound, "over two per cent of Canadians right now are already travelling outside the country to receive services," Fam told CTV News Channel.

According to the report, to be entitled "Evolving medical tourism in Canada -- Exploring a new frontier," this presents insurance companies an opportunity to provide additional coverage that includes medical tourism; and also offers Canadian hospitals a chance to free up bed space.

Procedures sought outside Canada include cosmetic operations, fertility treatments and cardiac care.

The issue made headlines last year when former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams travelled to a Florida hospital for heart surgery -- proof, according to critics of public health care, that a private system is better.

"Provincial governments have the opportunity to encourage citizens to seek out procedures abroad to alleviate their health systems' wait times, improve access to care and also position Canada as a medical tourism destination…" the report says. "But before doing this, governments should determine if the cost of medical tourism services be less than the delivery of services locally."

In addition to speedier care, the benefits of travelling abroad to receive treatment can include the prospect of receiving cutting-edge treatment and a chance to relax.

Many patients treat it as a vacation, said Farm. Still, patients need to be diligent and ask questions about the facility they are visiting, post-op recover time and treatment options, he said.


Currently, medical tourism is unregulated in Canada.

If Canadian hospitals were allowed to sell services for "inbound" medical tourism, Farm said it could be a win-win situation. "It's an opportunity to bring in foreign travelers and receive additional funds in the system which actually can be used to provide more services to Canadians here."

Opponents of medical tourism are concerned the industry promotes a two-tiered system that favours the wealthy.

Farm said however, that it's not just the rich who are seeking outside services. "Regardless of income level, we see a range of 15 to 25 per cent of Canadians willing to travel."

What Is Medical Tourism? Let Sarasota Show You

Shopping to get the most bang for your buck isn't relegated to buying a car or the best cell phone plan anymore. Patients seeking medical procedures such as knee or hip replacement and cataract surgery are now shopping around, going beyond their local physician and hospital to investigate places around the world, comparing prices and well, looking into what each has to offer as a vacation destination as well.

Let's face it, if you're going to recuperate from surgery, you may as well do it in a place that offers beautiful scenery, exquisite service, delectable dining and engaging entertainment.

Discover Natural Sarasota

Not only does Sarasota offer all of the above, it also happens to house the best trained physicians, cutting-edge technology and the most stringent safety standards in the world.

Dr. Debra Sandberg, CEO of Sarasota's Florida Medical Retreat, says that while patients had been traveling outside of the U.S. for lower-cost surgical procedures, the trend in medical tourism is beginning to shift back to the States.

"A couple things happened to change industry," Dr. Sandberg explains. "People who had gone to other countries suffered complications because the equipment is just not as good. Our surgeons have had to do repairs on patients who've had procedures performed in other countries.

"So in the last five years the U.S. has been a popular choice for its safety and security," Dr. Sandberg continues. "It was just rated the fifth most desirable destination in world. Also, doctors in U.S. hospitals are willing to work with those who pay cash."

Florida Medical Retreat: Surgery in Paradise

Florida Medical Retreat is designed to accommodate patients who not only desire superior medical treatment, but a superior rehabilitative experience as well. The retreat offers door-to-door concierge service-from assistance in scheduling the procedure to arranging luxury accommodations and entertainment for the family, to planning the patient's medical itinerary.

The retreat boasts 10 specialists who offer medical services that include cosmetic procedures, cataract surgery, orthopedic corrections, vascular surgery, urological treatments and neurological procedures performed at both Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Following surgery, patients can join their families at the luxurious Sarasota Bay Club, where the club's rehabilitation center, The Inn at Sarasota Bay Club, offers physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Post-Op Perks

In addition to world-class medical facilities and staff, Sarasota's advantages include pristine beaches, world-class museums, theater and dining.

Siesta Key's Siesta Beach was recently named the No. 1 Beach in North America by beach expert Dr. Stephen Leatherman. Its powdered sugar sands and island amenities offer serenity and comfort in a tropical setting. But there's also plenty of beach to enjoy on Longboat Key, Casey Key and Lido Key, Venice and Englewood. Sarasota boasts 13 public beaches along Florida's southwest coast.

When John Ringling brought his circus to town in the early part of the 20th century, his love of the arts and discriminating taste came with him, which helped to mold Sarasota into the internationally acclaimed cultural destination it is today.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art houses 600 Baroque masterpieces and a collection of Peter Paul Rubens' work that is considered the finest in the world, and his historic mansion is an architectural masterpiece. Also located on the estate is the Asolo Theater, a genuine 18th century palace playhouse originally constructed and used in Asolo, Italy. Ringling had the theater carefully dismantled, shipped and reassembled in Sarasota, where it now serves as a state theater housing a world-class repertory company.

Sarasota thriving downtown theater district includes the Sarasota Opera House, the Banyan Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, the Golden Apple Dinner Theater and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida. And there are galleries, too, such as Art Uptown and Artisans" World Marketplace, to name a few.

Sarasota's culinary offerings are no less stellar. This coastal community's international flavor and love of culture have enticed chefs and sommeliers from around the world to call Sarasota home. And their award-winning restaurants offer everything from European fare to Indian flavor, surfside seafood to submarine sandwiches.

Medical tourism: a continuing public health concern?



Two New York academics consider some of the concerns raised in the USA over the development of medical tourism. They raise the question, “Do the benefits of saving on costs in the short term out-weigh the risks associated with medical tourism in the long term?” The article identifies the dilemmas affecting patients post-surgically due to a lack of follow-up care and the high cost to risk scenarios that may develop due to complications once they are discharged.  The authors challenge the assumption that patients actually save on costs and identify ways the United States health care system can effectively deal with this trend. A different view of medical tourism….. but one that those within the industry should acknowledge.

To read the entire story from IMTJ visit:


Risks associated with surgery and ambulatory aides required post surgery for safety

This final segment discusses post surgery, rehab questions. Dr. Stolarski also discusses the risks associated with surgery and ambulatory aides required post surgery for safety. If you have additional questions please contact Florida Medical Retreat, www.floridamedicalretreat.com.

Dr. Edward Stolarski discusses Medical Tourism and how he became involved with the industry

Dr. Edward Stolarski discusses Medical Tourism and how he became involved with the industry. Dr. Stolarski answers additional questions sent in by the viewers. If you have additional questions please contact Florida Medical Retreat, www.floridamedicalretreat.com.


Dr. Edward Stolarski on Knee & Hip Replacement surgery (SNN Interview)

Local Doctors on Call - SNN News 6, May 23, 2011. Host Alix Redmonde interviews Board Certifiied, Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Edward Stolarski on Knee & Hip Replacement surgery. This three part series answers questions sent in from the local community.If you have additional questions please contact Florida Medical Retreat, www.floridamedicalretreat.com.


Why a medical tourism business should engage in a Customer Service Audit

Medical tourism businesses make substantial investments to attract clients including web sites, brochures, conferences, advertising, direct marketing, and more.  With all that money spent to attract customers, you need to know answers to many questions such as, “Are we offering the services that our patients want?”  “Are we easy to do business with?” Equally important is, “Are customers being treated well so that they will buy our services, come back again, and refer other people?”  If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then you have valuable information that can be used as a benchmark for future performance.  If the answer is “no”, then you can identify and correct problems before negative patient experiences do serious harm to your business.

An American Express Global Business Customer Service Survey found that” 78% of customers have opted to cancel a transaction or did not complete and intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience.” (Source)  Poor customer service carries a large price tag for companies of every size.

What is the cost to your international patient business of even one lost client?  For a dentist or clinic, it may be a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  For a hospital, the average amount spent by an international patient may be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.  In this competitive environment, your business needs every advantage to succeed.  You have invested a substantial amount to bring clients to your organization, now invest a little more to make sure you are converting leads into clients.  The relatively modest amount invested in a Customer Service Audit pays for itself simply by saving one client.

Original Post: International Medical Travel Journal, June 2011

Doctors Hospital Announces New Members to the Board of Trustees

Sarasota, Florida (June 23, 2011) - - Doctors Hospital is pleased to announce that Richard S. Duckworth, M.D. and Nicholas Gladding, Esq. will serve on the hospital’s Board of Trustees. 

Richard S. Duckworth, M.D. is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and has been practicing in Sarasota for 29 years.  He attended the University of Michigan Medical School where he received his M.D. cum laude in 1975.  Dr. Duckworth went on to complete his Internship and Residency at the University of Michigan in 1978.  In 1994, he became one of the founding members of Intercoastal Medical Group, which has grown to be a successful, 67-member multispecialty group.  Dr. Duckworth currently serves as the chairman of Intercostal’s Quality Improvement Committee and is a member of the American College of Physicians.

Nicholas Gladding, Esq. is an experienced environmental lawyer with the regional law firm of Adams and Reese, LLP.  In 2008, Mr. Gladding was appointed by Governor Charlie Crist to the Florida Energy and Climate Commission which has provided him an opportunity to help create new jobs, help the climate, and enhance National Security.  In July 2009, Governor Crist named Mr. Gladding a volunteer "Point of Light" for his work on energy issues.  He has served as a member of the Steering Committee of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium and as a member of the Policy Board of the Florida Solar Energy Center.

Mr. Gladding received his B.A. from Yale University in 1967, and his J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1970. After law school, he served four years in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, and for two years he was an instructor of military law and procedure at the United States Naval Justice School.  In the local community, Mr. Gladding serves as Chair and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and was a founding member, member of Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence (SCOPE).  He also chairs the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and serves on the advisory board of Mote Marine Laboratory.

“These new board members reflect the hospital’s commitment to excellence and we look forward to their expertise as we continue to deliver high-quality healthcare,” said Robert Meade, CEO.

Make 'Medical Tourism' Part Of System: Report

A billion-dollar industry that helps patients travel abroad for care will only increase in size over the coming years, raising the need for a national dialogue in Canada on how best to use "medical tourism," a new report argues.

The country's aging population, coupled with an increasing willingness to travel abroad for medical care, is driving the need for that conversation, the report says.

"A good point for dialogue... is to figure out what is the right balance to make sure we're taking advantage of what this new emerging opportunity is, but not jeopardizing our Canadian system," said Mark Fam, author of the report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

"It does have the potential of increasing the strain on the Canadian system if we suddenly see many Canadians going abroad and coming back for the follow-up care here."

Medical tourism is defined as patients travelling between countries to receive treatment, be it a surgery, a cosmetic procedure or care for a chronic condition. Fam said about two per cent of Canadians each year go outside the country for care, but that number is expected to grow in the coming years.

A survey of 2,300 Canadians in 2009 and a follow-up this year, which will soon be released, showed that 60 per cent were willing to travel outside of the country for a range of medical treatments, Fam said. He said avoiding long wait times is a major motivation for people going abroad for medical care. Fam said just how many foreign patients are coming to Canada for care is not clear.

The global medical tourism industry is estimated to be worth $40 billion US, according to the report.

Several medical travel companies operate in Canada to connect patients with doctors and medical facilities abroad, much of which is covered by taxpayer dollars, the report says.

Original Post:  Medical Tourism Magazine, June 14, 2011

Sarasota: Come for the beaches, stay for the facelift?

Sarasota's newest tourism pitch: beaches, the arts, fine dining, hip implants.

For years, "medical tourism" conjured images of bargain facelifts in Thailand or Mexico. Now U.S. health providers — including some in Sarasota — have set their sights on luring affluent baby boomers by touting high-quality care and discounting for cash.

Sarasota-based Florida Medical Retreat recently went live with a website promising "Surgery in Paradise," promoting packaged surgery stays that include everything from post-op therapy to theater tickets.

"Miami — Medical Excellence with a Tropical Flair" is the message on miamihealthcare.org, a collaboration of seven South Florida hospitals.

And "America's Health Center" is the brand that Visit Jacksonville claims for its city, touting the presence of a Mayo Clinic and the University of Florida's Proton Therapy Institute.

Renee-Marie Stephano, editor of Medical Tourism magazine, described Florida's push to attract patients as "small but growing."

U.S. travel restrictions after 9/11 choked the flow of international patients to this country, Stephano explained. U.S. hospitals, after seeing those patients diverted to places like Malaysia or Turkey, are "recognizing medical tourism as a valid industry they need to participate in," she said.

Snowbirds and tourists — especially well-heeled Canadians, whose national health plan dictates a wait of 15 months or more for a hip replacement — have quietly had "work done" in Sarasota for decades. Karin S. Billings, a dual citizen of Germany and the United States, sees an eye doctor every year in her hometown of Hamburg, but opted to have her cataract surgery done by David W. Shoemaker at Sarasota's Center for Sight.

"I wanted the most experienced doctor," said Billings. Her German doctor does a maximum of 10 cataract operations a week, she said, while Shoemaker performs 4,000 a year. And in Germany she was offered a choice between lenses that corrected for near or distance vision, not the combination lens she received at Center for Sight.

"And you come out of the operation room, you get a cookie, a coffee and a video of your own operation," Billings said.

She has already convinced one friend in Germany to come to Sarasota for the same treatment.

Selling Sarasota

Florida Med-Retreat was formed by the leaders of a Sarasota rehabilitation center. They have partnered with two hospitals and 10 surgeons, aiming to turn Sarasota's trickle of health tourists into a tidal wave of picky patients with cash.

"Health care is one of the gems in the Sarasota crown, and the quality of that health care is not fully appreciated," said Shoemaker, one of those surgeons. "Florida Med-Retreat will help expose this asset."

Debra Sandberg, director of the Inn at Sarasota Bay Club, a rehabilitation facility at the bayfront retirement center, took the medical tourism concept to Steven Roskamp, a partner in the company that owns Sarasota Bay Club. he two enlisted orthopedic surgeon Edward Stolarski and Scott B. Elsbree, medical director of the Inn, to decide which doctors would join their exclusive roster.

Stolarski's knee and hip practice draws young, active candidates for a minimally invasive procedure known as anterior supine intermuscular surgery. He said he and other surgeons who take out-of-town patients welcome a chance to have their care coordinated by Med-Retreat.

"Athletes, police and firemen seek me out," he said. "If they're from out of town, I keep them three days in the hospital, and then what? My problem has always been: What do I do with you after surgery?"

Roskamp said Sarasota's two major hospitals are essential to the business model. Doctors Hospital has already carved out a niche with its 44-room "concierge wing" for joint replacement patients. Luxury amenities include in-room refrigerators, movie rentals and gourmet coffee. And Sarasota Memorial Hospital's new nine-story tower, to open in December 2012, will devote its top floor to orthopedic care.

"They have to serve a client that is demanding," Roskamp said.

Finding a web MD

Sandberg said most patients used to rely on referrals from people they knew, but now they search the Internet.

"If you're going to 'go private,' as they call it in Sweden — which means you're going to travel and pay for your surgery — you start looking for the best," she said.

After 10 years of dizzy spells, Tammy Dilbert, a 34-year-old Cayman Islands resident, used the Internet to seek a cure, and found her way to the Ear Research Foundation at Sarasota's Silverstein Institute. Jack J. Wazen, a research fellow at the institute and a Florida Medical Retreat surgeon, is treating her for Meniere's disease, an inner-ear disorder.

"Everything went so smoothly," she said of her visit to Sarasota. "I think it's a really nice place."

Deedee Yoruk, international patient manager at visitandcare.com in Istanbul, said Florida Medical Retreat's rates are attractive globally.

"As far as I know, they're one of the first ones to jump on this boat and offer fair prices for quality care," said Yoruk.

She also sees Sarasota as a viable destination for domestic travelers. Since only 37 percent of U.S. citizens have a passport — compared with 71 percent in the United Kingdom — few Americans actually travel abroad for surgery. An estimated 540,000 of them did so in 2010, down slightly from a pre-recession peak.

"I get a lot of people in the U.S. right now that are looking for affordable treatment," Yoruk said. "Maybe between 5 and 10 percent will travel, and the rest will stay in their home country."


Original Post: Sarasota Herald Tribune, June 20, 2011 By: Barbara Peters Smith

Baby Boomers ~ Unprecedented Global Issue

Technically speaking, a Baby Boomer is anyone born within the year span of 1946 to 1964. Generally speaking, they are our parents, our teachers, our CEOs and our politicians. Doctors, bus drivers, novelists or celebrities – there is not one demographic, occupation or personality type that does not include at least one, if not several dozen, Baby Boomer by definition.

“What makes the baby boomers so interesting is that there are 76 million of them,” Columbia University Dean of the School of Social Work Dr. Takamura said, “and the fact is, they all are different.”

According to her, being healthy means something entirely different to each and every individual within the Boomer generation and their healthcare needs will never be met as a whole. Each person is different, each segment of this generation adheres to different concepts and each social class has different needs. Consequently, products cannot be delivered in a one-size fits all for this eighteen year-span generation. “Those who are born in 1946 knew well the music of Mick Jagger, and those who were younger, really don’t consider Mick Jagger their musician.”

The aging process for Baby Boomers will be unlike any other generation before them, according to Dr. Takamura, largely due to rapid globalization, medical advancements, healthcare reformation and the unfortunate presence of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. And in general, the top five factors affecting all generations where the aging process is concerned include chronic disease, prevention, education, mental health and physical activity.

“Over time we will see aging enriched by multicultural perspectives,” Dr. Takamura said. “As we see a more rapidly aging population, we will also see more cancer and more healthcare costs coming heavily out of pocket.” In the case of medical tourism, costs associated with this phenomenon will be mostly out-of-pocket. Not just for those who want surgical procedures for improvement, such as cosmetic surgeries, but also for those who are born with deformities, who are able to travel to countries that can assist them.

Truly understanding the implications of globalization as the force majeure’s impact on our world is a long path but health tourism, in terms of medical travel, may be a good option for Baby Boomers. While the 21st century will be primarily considered the century of the developing world, Dr. Takamura espoused a number of key concerns over global aging as a whole. More people are living longer, which is often a sign of high quality of care within a country, therefore being older in larger numbers over a longer period of time is another matter.

Approximately two billion persons will be 60 years of age or more by the year 2050. Retirement pensions are shrinking while the full retirement age and the healthcare costs are increasing. Today, governments from all over the world are looking at the Baby Boomer generation with pride, apprehension and perplexity. Pride as long life represents a form of national achievement, apprehension as to the implications for a nation, and perplexity as to how to solve this universal trend.

According to Dr. Takamura, we may tend to think of aging as one broad phenomenon. However, for example, one aspect of aging we do not often pay attention to is the gendered nature of old age and aging. “We ought to remember that women tend to out-survive men, and that about 55% of elderly people globally are women.” From the perspective of a work environment, it is not an advantage for women to look older in the work place, like it can be for men. This unfortunate dynamic which is part of an aging trend, that of living longer and working longer into the sunset years, though, is beginning to creep across gender lines and we are seeing a great number more of older men elect cosmetic surgery procedures as well.

“As we see transformative changes occurring globally, this demographic reality – the longevity revolution that has been emerging over the last several decades will have profound implications for the medical tourism industry,” Dr. Takamura said.

In terms of looking at ageing and potential medical tourism opportunities, according to Dr. Takamura, it is important to gather evidence based information as to what the elderly want. More and more people in a variety of industries will need to work ever more closely with scholars and researchers who are doing groundbreaking research in universities. In both research universities and teaching universities as well, there is value to be gained from examining evidence based information. Because, to thrive in any industry, as in the case of healthcare services, working hand in hand with partners to understand clients’ needs is essential to fully satisfy any target market; boomers or otherwise.

In terms of representing the needs of boomers and the aging population within the hospitality industry; cruise ships are currently doing a better job than airlines today and some hotel chains with a focused eye on their respective target markets are skyrocketing to the top within their industry in terms of quality of services. With respect to senior living communities, in the U.S. or abroad, the more home-like the environment and surroundings, the better this is in attracting and retaining this market segment.

“Those nations with medical tourism professionals who understand the distinctive interests, needs and capabilities of older travelers will be rewarded with their enthusiasm and loyalty,” Dr. Takamura said.

Original Post:  Medical Tourism Magazine Issue 18

Healthy Food Choices on the Move - Part 2

Cook Much?

When I am on vacation, I hate to cook.  I’m honest with myself.  However, for some other reason entirely, when traveling for business, I do sometimes choose a hotel or motel that has a kitchen.  It allows you to prepare meals on your schedule that fits your healthy eating needs.  Sometimes it actually allows me to cook things I would never have time to at home.  The downside? Knowing ahead of time where to go shopping.  I learned fast.  No point to a kitchen if the nearest grocery store is a 30-minute drive unless you are there for an extended trip.

Pack the Essentials

Only you know your needs.  For me, planning ahead for my well lifestyle means prepackaged protein shakes or bars, fruit bars and vitamin C packets.  OK, I know it’s not five star cuisines, but it does carry me through when there are limited options.  Some other things that travel well are nuts of all kinds, dried fruit, granola bars and depending on whether driving or flying…hard boiled eggs, lemons, limes and seltzer…in a small travel cooler of course.

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