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Could Miami Become a Major Medical Tourism Destination?

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, August 11, 2009

Come for the gorgeous beaches, sunshine, and nightlife—and stay for world class healthcare.

That could be the slogan as Miami tries to establish itself as an international destination for foreign patients. The city is attempting to do so via a collaborative effort that includes the work of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and six (to date) large healthcare providers serving the city.

The collaborative features a Web site called MiamiHealthCare.org that touts the city's "renowned medical services in a tropical, cosmopolitan paradise." The site features links to each of the participating providers' Web sites—which tout how they cater to international patients using attractions, such as concierge services—to help consumers find the best fit as well.

Its slogan is "Miami—A place of complete physical, mental, and social well-being." Participating providers include Baptist Health, Florida International University College of Medicine, Jackson Health, Mercy Hospital, Miami Children's Hospital, and the University of Miami Health System.

"We're going to be the world's number one international getaway for healthcare," Rolando D. Rodriguez of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce told the Miami Herald when announcing the initiative.

Although the initiative has several providers working to market the region's healthcare services, they will remain in fierce competition for patients. The effort is different from an effort in the 1990s called Salud Miami, which was designed to lure Latin American medical travelers. Under that program, eight hospitals contributed an annual fee and the program's directors worked to filter potential patients to the participating hospitals. However, the program failed because the hospitals struggled to share patients with nearby facilities that they competed with for business for so long.

Because of the way it is structured, proponents of MiamiHealthCare.org say it has the potential to improve quality of care for both domestic and international patients:

  • The hospitals involved remain in competition for patients, but the Web site and initiative is another way for them to market their facilities
  • Marketing in this fashion may force the facilities to improve care, and possibly even price competitively, to keep up with the other providers that have joined the effort.

Attracting medical tourists to the city has the potential to help other businesses as well. Southern Florida hotels have seen a huge dip in business due to the recession, and medical tourists could help this industry, as well as other businesses that draw customers from tourism.

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