Medical Tourism

About 6 years ago we were in Berlin on the roof of SoundCloud’s offices overlooking the sun setting on the city having drinks and food. There were only about 50 people in the company then although my memory might not be crystal clear but I do remember an entrepreneur who was building a company on medical tourism.

I loved the whole idea but knew he had a very long way to go. The concept that you would go to the best place in the world for the surgery you needed and insurance would pay for it because the price was better there than at home. It creates global medical competition. That’s a good thing particularly because in the next decade we will see big changes with data and technology in the medical field. You could pay for the balance of your bill with bitcoin or some cryptocurrency. Economies are created.

Our country continues to cut funding to other countries like South America which is actually counterintuitive to stop the flow of immigration. Medical tourism might be small but if this can create bigger momentum perhaps that will force the hand when it comes to the cost of medicine in this country.

I did not invest in that entrepreneur but I am super curious where his business is today.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Fascinating.Currently addressing significant medical issues with an extended family member and this idea, touches on many of the underlying stress points that this brings.Data sharing/securing is obviously key as a starting point.

  2. Semil Shah

    It is really to make this work. I invested in a company that tried this between U.S. and Central America only for one high-margin and routine operation, and it was a bear.

    1. LE

      It is difficult to believe that a version of this couldn’t be done in the US by isolating ‘high margin and routine operations’ and finding hospital and physicians (in the US) that are willing to perform those for a less than market rate cost (where market rate depends on the location).For whatever reason I suspect that in some cases the fact that the operation is being done overseas is working in the favor of the providers more than against them. (Less that you can see and find out means that less you can identify as being a problem potentially and being scared off).One thing that someone has to think about with anything not done locally is follow up care and how that is handled and what happens if errors are made. And errors are made everywhere in medicine it’s people.It’s probably a business opportunity since the market is so large it would seem to be possible to shave off the outlier cases where it pays to travel (somewhere whether overseas or not) but it’s not going to make any dent in health care costs in any way.Personally I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. But there are enough either desperate or stupid and/or people with bad coverage or less resources to make it a business for someone. I say ‘stupid’ because it defies logic to travel to a foreign country even if (in theory) the hospital and physician have been vetted in some way. Why? Small chance of a very very big thing happening.Why are costs going up? People are living long enough to have problems that need care that they didn’t have when they died years earlier do to lack of medical advances that we have today. Also people abuse themselves and then look to medicine to get fixed up. Big problem. Drug abuse and so on (many community hospitals are filled with addicts). And now we are giving drug addicts naloxone so we can bring them back to life!

    2. Gotham Gal

      Just not there yet.

  3. jason wright

    We already have medical tourism in the UK. People arrive on tourist visas and then present themselves at an NHS hospital in the expectation that treatment for their issue will be forthcoming, and it often is. Many of them come from Commonwealth countries, particularly from India. A lot of impersonation goes on too. There’s very little in the way of identity and status checking. It’s a bit of an open door. That might change after Brexit.

  4. Mark Gavagan

    You’re right! I strongly considered a medical tourism startup and (wrongly) chose something else.Step 1 was to provide turnkey service using Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand, which is a beautiful, modern, inexpensive JCI-accredited hospital.The plan was to initially target uninsured Americans needing expensive surgeries, so there wouldn’t be any insurance bureaucracy. All-in, with top-drawer service and travel/accommodations for the patient +1, prices would have been dramatically cheaper.Once a track record was established, Step 2 would have been trying to get a U.S. health insurer to offer Bumrungrad as an option to insureds, with ZERO coinsurance or copays (dramatic net cost savings for the insurer and insured).Looking forward to learning who is succeeding here.