Medical Tourism ~ An Economic Boost to the United States - part II

  • Perception ~ A patient may judge the hospitals in a particular country to have better quality and/or a faster response to their needs.
  • Affluence ~ A patient may have insurance or the financial means to cover medical care, lodging, transportation and other expenses related to traveling abroad.
  • Technology ~ Current or relevant medical technology may not be available in a patient’s country of origin.

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Medical Tourism ~ An Economic Boost to the United States

Patients come mainly from Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. Many are cash paying patients, usually wealthy people traveling to the U.S. looking for high tech care, but the largest medical tourism group consists of patients with international insurance policies. These policies cover most medical expenses, leaving patients with the normal co-payments and deductibles. In addition, hospitals benefit financially from international insurance policies because reimbursement rates from these commercial payers are usually higher than government sponsored plans.
These international policies, along with strategic relationships with international insurance companies, third party administrators and cost containment companies, boost revenues and contribute positively to the bottom line of US hospitals.

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US Hospitals to Discuss Inbound and Domestic Medical Tourism at Los Angeles Conference in September

... One of the most overlooked aspects of medical tourism is domestic medical tourism, often referred to as regional medical tourism, where patients do not leave their country but travel to another region within their country, and inbound medical tourism where foreign patients travel to the US for healthcare.

Domestic Medical Tourism is starting to grow in the United States much like it has done throughout Eastern and Western Europe as American and EU patients start understanding the healthcare that is offered outside of their home town or city. American domestic medical, sometimes referred to as domestic medical travel, is where medical tourists are starting to travel to other cities and states across America either to receive higher quality of healthcare or healthcare at more affordable prices. Domestic Medical Tourism presents a huge opportunity for US hospitals and for surgeons who specialize in specialized procedures such as orthopedics, heart procedures, eye surgery and other specialized procedures.

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Economic Report: Inbound Medical Tourism in the United States

As medical tourism continues to grow, developed nations, such as the United States, see large number of Americans traveling abroad for medical procedures.  However, there continues to be a growing interest in inbound medical tourism in the U.S.  There are an increasing number of international patient departments in U.S. hospitals marketing to these patients.  These hospitals and clinics are offering inbound medical tourism services to patients who come to the U.S. for higher quality than they can receive in their home country, access to procedures that are not available in their country’s healthcare facilities, freedom from long wait times or the rationing of procedures because of national governmental regulations, because of the ability to combine tourism opportunities in the U.S., and/or (believe it or not!) because the price differential- paying for services in cash in the U.S. may be less expensive than in their home country.

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USA, UK: Inbound medical tourism to the USA and UK

The USA is also an often forgotten destination. David Goldstein of Health Options Worldwide (HOW) explains, “The popular notion in medical tourism often defines it as Americans leaving the U.S. for inexpensive medical treatment and low cost surgery. However, the business model works both ways. In the world of medical tourism and medical travel, the United States is certainly a power player, offering high quality care and modern technology to attract international patients. Most people hear of medical tourism and they think of American patients seeking healthcare in Asia or Latin America where the services are much less expensive. But cost is not always a factor; quality is."

Goldstein argues, “Medical tourism is a huge business opportunity for American hospitals to bring in revenue. What is interesting about this trend is that international medical tourists do not come to the U.S. for healthcare because of economics. International patients are attracted by the quality of doctors and state-of-the-art medical technology for which the United States is renowned. American hospitals offer pioneer treatments that are not available anywhere else. Another factor impacting international patients is the fact that the wait for medical treatment in their home country is too long. But quite simply, many of these patients can afford the best and can find it in the U.S.Travelling to the U.S. for healthcare can be costly and complicated for international travellers. Usually, the patients are wealthy people who can afford high quality care. In this fast growing market the U.S. has a chance to be very competitive."

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Sarasota Memorial Named One of HealthGrades' Elite "America's 50 Best Hospitals"

Last month, Sarasota Memorial was recognized among the top 5% of hospitals for clinical excellence” by HealthGrades. Today, the leading independent health care ratings organization announced that our superior clinical quality ranks us even higher — in the top 1% – placing us among HealthGrades elite “America’s 50 Best Hospitals.”  

Please call Meghann Ryan at 917-6219 or 928-4100 (cell) if you would like more information or to arrange photographs/interviews.

Sarasota Memorial Named One of HealthGrades’ Elite “America’s 50 Best Hospitals”
HealthGrades study: If all U.S. hospitals had performed at the level of Sarasota Memorial, more than a half million Medicare deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2009

SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2011) – Just one month after being named among the nation’s top 5% of hospitals, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System’s superior clinical outcomes resulted in HealthGrades’ highest ranking for 2011 – the elite “America’s 50 Best Hospitals.™”

“America’s 50 Best Hospitals” rank among the top 1% of the nation’s 5,000-plus hospitals for consistent clinical excellence in HealthGrades annual studies. To be recognized with this distinction, hospitals must have had risk-adjusted mortality and complication rates in the top 5% in the nation for the most consecutive years. Indeed, according to the HealthGrades study, if all U.S. hospitals had performed at the level of Sarasota Memorial, more than a half million Medicare deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2009. Based on an analysis of more than 140 million Medicare patient records, the study found that on average, patients treated at America’s 50 Best Hospitals had a nearly 30% lower risk of death and 3.45% lower rate of complications.

“As our nation searches for a solution to providing American’s with access to high quality health care at an affordable price, Sarasota Memorial is setting the standard, demonstrating that consistent, sustainable clinical excellence is achievable,” said Dr. Rick May, HealthGrades vice president of clinical quality services and co-author of the report.

Sarasota Memorial has been ranked among America’s 50 Best Hospitals each year since its inception five years ago. It is the only hospital in the Suncoast region (Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties) ever to make the list. Unlike other hospital quality studies, HealthGrades evaluates hospitals solely on patients’ clinical outcomes: risk-adjusted mortality and in-hospital complications. Hospitals cannot opt out of the study, pay for their rankings or achieve extra points for reputation.

“Quality is not a designation or destination – it’s a way of thinking and working that requires dedication and diligence by every member of our health care team, every day, to continue providing the safest, best care to patients,” said Sarasota Memorial CEO Gwen MacKenzie. “We’re proud to be ranked among the nation’s 50 best hospitals, but the most important measures of our success come from our patients --  it’s their outcomes, experiences and satisfaction that drive our quality of care.”

Last month, Sarasota Memorial earned HealthGrades’ Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence™ for the ninth year in a row. Throughout the years, Sarasota Memorial has consistently achieved multiple HealthGrades quality designations. Other quality designations in 2010 and so far in 2011 include:

• America’s 50 Best Hospitals recognizing the top 1% of all hospitals in the nation for overall clinical excellence for five years in a row, 2007-2011 • Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence recognizing top 5% of all hospitals in the nation for clinical excellence for nine years in a row, 2003-2011

• Patient Safety Excellence Award™– six years in a row, 2004-2010 (2011 not yet announced)

• Excellence in Emergency Medicine – 2010 (2011 not yet announced)

• Excellence in Cardiac Care & Coronary Intervention – 2010

• Excellence in Gastrointestinal Care & Gastrointestinal Surgery–2010 & 2011

• Excellence in Maternity Care – 2010 & 2011

• Excellence in Spine Surgery – 2010

• Excellence in Pulmonary Care – 2010 & 2011

• Excellence in Critical Care – 2010 & 2011

• Excellence in Women’s Health Excellence – 2010 & 2011

HealthGrades’ Hospital Ratings
As part of this study, HealthGrades rates each of the nation’s 5,000 nonfederal hospitals in 26 procedures and diagnoses, allowing individuals to compare their local hospitals online at HealthGrades’ hospital ratings are independently created; no hospital can opt-in or opt-out of being rated, and no hospital pays to be rated. Mortality and complication rates are risk adjusted, which takes into account differing levels of severity of patient illness at different hospitals and allows for hospitals to be compared equally.

About Sarasota Memorial: Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of inpatient, outpatient and extended care services, with more than 700,000 patient visits a year. Sarasota Memorial’s 806-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s largest, safest and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services– from urgent care walk-in clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to home health and skilled nursing & rehabilitation. For information, visit:  

About HealthGrades
HealthGrades is the leading independent health care ratings organization, providing quality ratings, profiles and cost information on the nation's hospitals, physicians, and nursing homes. Millions of patients and many of the nation’s largest employers, health plans and hospitals rely on HealthGrades’ quality ratings, advisory services and decision-support resources. The HealthGrades network of web sites is a top-ten health property according to comScore and is the Internet's leading destination for patients choosing providers. For more information, visit:

Robotics keeps urology patients close to home

Kidney Care: In recent years, the da Vinci Surgical System has proven an ideal tool for performing minimally invasive prostate cancer surgery. Now, Sarasota Memorial urologic surgeons Matthew Perry, M.D., and Joseph Bilik, M.D., and other leading urolo- gists across the nation are proving the system is equally adept with robot-assisted partial nephrectomies—removing kidney cancers while preserving the rest of the healthy kidney.

A helping hand

The da Vinci robot’s three-dimensional visualization, along with enhanced dexterity and control functions, has made it one of the fastest-growing treatments for a range of urologic conditions. It is particularly suited for kidney surgery because open surgical approaches to the kidney tend to require large incisions with significant postoperative pain.
Historically, the entire kidney was removed in patients with suspected kidney cancer. Two important advances have involved removing only the involved part of the kidney (partial nephrectomy) and laparoscopic total kidney removal—a minimally invasive procedure that significantly reduces pain and recovery time.

“Da Vinci robotic-assisted laparoscopy achieves all the benefits of partial kidney removal with an entirely minimally invasive approach,” says Dr. Perry, a board-certified urologist at Florida Urology Specialists in Sarasota. “Many patients now do not have to choose between a painful open surgery to remove part of the kidney or a less painful laparoscopic surgery that sacrifices the entire kidney.”
To preserve normal kidney function, urologists generally prefer a partial nephrectomy to a radical nephrectomy when- ever possible. Studies show the increased range of motion and visualization of da Vinci robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery make it well suited to the complexity and reconstructive nature of a partial nephrectomy. This includes partial nephrectomy for most tumors smaller than 4 centimeters and many tumors between 4 and 7 centimeters. For tumors greater than 7 centimeters in diameter, a total nephrectomy is often recommended.

Benefiting from robotics

“There’s no question it offers advantages over traditional lap- aroscopic surgery,” Dr. Perry says. “Traditional laparoscopy is like operating with chopsticks. It allows you to move instruments through small keyhole incisions by pivoting and moving them back and forth. But the robotic system has a number of added capabilities, including wristed instrumentation, that allow you to bend and maneuver around a tumor with a high degree of agility and precision.

“The robotic system allows experienced surgeons to achieve the same cancer control and technical outcomes of open surgery, with the reduced pain and shorter recovery period of a truly minimally invasive surgery,” Dr. Perry says.

The treatment of choice

Other minimally invasive approaches are available to treat early stage kidney cancer and suspicious masses, including cryotherapy and radio-frequency ablation (RFA). Because these treatments can have higher local recurrence rates, many urologists prefer surgery for complete tumor removal. American Urologic Association guidelines encourage detailed counseling of patients who choose ablative therapies.
“We offer ablative therapies for renal masses,” Dr. Perry says. “However, now that we can robotically remove tumors so safely and effectively, there are fewer patients for whom RFA or cryotherapy are the most optimal treatments.”

Medical Paradise - Article about Florida Medical Retreat in Gulf Coast Business Review

Debra Sandberg, the administrator at a high-end rehabilitation therapy center in Sarasota, recently set out on a new business mission: to turn the town into a player in the niche world of medical tourism.

It’s an ambitious goal and it comes with a secondary, yet juicy element. Sandberg wants the business, Florida Medical Retreat, to infuse some much-needed capitalism into the national health-care debate. Says Sandberg: “Anyone who has socialized medicine will be a big network for us.”

The company, Florida Medical Retreat, is a partnership that includes the Sarasota Bay Club, Sarasota-based senior living property management firm Roskamp & Patterson and local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Edward Stolarski. Sandberg cites Canada and Europe as places Florida Med-Retreat will seek potential clients, in addition to U.S. cities in the northeast and Midwest. 

“I didn’t even know there was a medical tourism industry,” says Sandberg, the CEO of Florida Medical Retreat and also the administrator of The Inn at Sarasota Bay Club. “But this is for real.”

Sarasota economic development officials agree.

In fact, more than 30 medical practices in Sarasota County reported an interest in medical tourism, according to an Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County survey. Moreover, at least 15 practices have international clients, the survey found, with a focus on vision, hearing and orthopedics, says Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Haley and EDC President and CEO Kathy Baylis say the survey helped build word-of-mouth interest in the industry.

“This is not your traditional kind of tourism,” says Baylis. “To really have medical tourism, it’s not enough to just have doctors doing the surgery. You also have to have the continuum of services.”

That’s where Sandberg hopes Florida Medical Retreat fits in. The concept is to simultaneously plug Sarasota’s first-rate attractions and its medical facilities, then provide concierge-style services from surgery through recuperation and rehab. Accommodations will be provided at the condos at the Bay Club, less than a mile from downtown Sarasota on U.S. 41. Says Sandberg: “[A patient] will be a VIP right through the whole process.”

Surgeons who will perform procedures through Florida Medical Retreat include: Sarasota-based Center for Sight founder Dr. David Shoemaker, who specializes in cataract and lens surgery; Dr. Thomas Sweeney, a leading local physician on minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery; and Dr. Brian Schofield, an orthopedic shoulder surgeon.

The tourism side of the business, says Sandberg, will include trips to places near Sarasota, like Busch Gardens and the Dali Museum. Other trips will be closer to home, such as the Sarasota Opera House and beaches.

One early challenge Florida Medical Retreat faces is one familiar to the health-care industry: how to price services. The company recently joined the West Palm Beach-based Medical Tourism Association for assistance in pricing and other aspects of the industry. 

A second challenge for Florida Medical Retreat lies in another task familiar to many businesses: how to find clients. The company recently hired its first employee beyond Sandberg, a marketing director who will use the Internet and other networking sources to generate interest. 

“We are going to have to build our reputation,” says Pilar von Lazar, Florida Medical Retreat’s marketing director. “People will have to hear about us.”


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Local Orthopedic Surgeon Instructs International Physicians in Beautiful Sarasota

One of our highly specialized Florida Medical Retreat physicians, Dr. Edward Stolarski, performs an innovative hip replacement surgery called Anterior Supine Intramuscular (ASI). ASI is a minimally invasive surgery that allows for a much quicker recovery time and gets patients back on their feet in less than two weeks.

Dr. Stolarski instructed international physicians on his ASI techniques as they joined him in the operating room at the local Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. Watch the video to learn more about ASI as you begin your discovery for a surgery in paradise.



Dr. Stolarski is interviewed on SNN in Sarasota, FL. He discusses minimally invasive total hip replacement surgery. Dr. Stolarski is visited by several doctors from Japan and is teaching them this technique.


Surgery in Paradise

In a global economy why not global medical options?  Think of the benefits; Why should a patient wait months for heart surgery due to government regulations on healthcare when there is an option to go elsewhere without sacrificing quality or safety; Or, why should a patient have hip surgery performed at a suboptimal facility when there is a choice for the procedure to be performed, with a minimally invasive technique, by a highly renowned surgeon at a state-of-the-art facility.  Or why should a patient have cataract surgery performed by their local Ophthalmologist, when they have the option to have their surgery performed by a Ophthalmologic Surgeon with an international reputation.  These are some valid considerations for medical tourism.

Medical Tourism is an expanding global industry which caters to the medical tourist (patient) who may want a higher quality of care, access to procedures not available to them, require immediate care and not want to wait due to dealing with frustrations of government regulations or those who require surgery and/or rehabilitation who just want a choice.

Florida Medical Retreat (FMR), based in Sarasota Florida, recognizes the national and international demand for quality health care.  Meeting the needs of the patients, providing outstanding medical care and a full service approach is the goal of Florida Medical Retreat.  FMR services include medical referrals to some of the Nation’s top physicians, high quality and safe surgical care, state-of-the-art post surgical care, rehabilitation services, travel accommodations, concierge services for both the patient and their family/companions.   And unlike other Medical Tourism companies, Florida Medical Retreat is focused on surgical procedures to be performed in beautiful Sarasota, known for the sandy white beaches located on the Southwest Coast of Florida.

When choosing a surgeon, with Florida Medical Retreat, a patient can count on expert techniques performed by world renowned surgeons. FMR’s affiliated physicians have a national and international patient following, in addition to a national and international surgical procedural following.  Specialty physicians include, Orthopedic, specializing in minimally invasive procedures of the knee, hip, spine and shoulder; Urology, specializing in Robotics; Neurosurgery, specializing in Craniotomy; and Ophthalmology, specializing in cataract surgery. 

Sarasota Florida, as a medical tourist destination, has many advantages.  Located on the Southwest coast of Florida, Sarasota is considered a cultural community, with museums, opera, special attractions and excellent cuisine.  Sarasota also boasts Siesta Key Beach which has been rated as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world for several years.  It is assured that the patient will receive exquisite care while their family members/companions are able to enjoy beautiful cultural Sarasota.

With a global economy, medical tourism is an ideal option and Florida Medical Retreat is able to connect worldwide clients with first-class medical care in the US.  Consider it Surgery in Paradise.  

Sun, sand, sea, shopping ... and perhaps a bit of surgery

...This growing economic niche is called "medical tourism." Spending by medical

tourists globally was estimated at $100 billion in 2010. In-bound marketing, in which

U.S. hospitals and medical practices reach out to recruit patients from other cities

and countries, is a relatively new activity.

The conversation in Sarasota County is just getting under way through an initiative

led by a partnership of the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Economic

Development Corp. of Sarasota County. The organizations formed a task force that

includes related businesses to research the possibilities for growing medical tourism


But some local businesses are already beyond the talking stage.

Starting this month, Florida Medical Retreat is marketing to patients on behalf of a

group of medical practices, surgeons and hospitals that want to be in on the action.

Led by Steve Roskamp and Debra Sandberg of the Sarasota Bay Club in downtown

Sarasota, the business will market Sarasota County's medical talent, bring patients to

the community and provide a concierge service for patients and their families.

"In-bound marketing for medical tourism in the United States is less than five years

old," Sandberg said. "People have been going overseas for cheaper surgeries, but we

know there is a market in North America for patients to stay here, where they feel

safer, speak the language and are in familiar surroundings."

In addition to managing transportation, in-take and surgical scheduling, Florida Med

-Retreat can offer patients accommodations at the Sarasota Bay Club during post-op

and rehabilitation, Sandberg said. The organization also plans to offer a VIP-level

concierge service to provide activities for visiting family members, as well as patients

who are well enough to participate. She predicts that the company could hire 30

employees within five years.

"The spin-off for local businesses and accommodations will be substantial as word

gets out about all Sarasota County has to offer in terms of top-notch medical care,

along with all of the cultural and recreational amenities," Sandberg said.

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