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Competitors United

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Provider organizations in Jacksonville, FL, are joining forces to promote their region as a medical destination.

Hospitals compete in every metropolitan U.S. market, but in one city—Jacksonville, FL—the competitors are also collaborating to attract attention from patients around the country.

The seaside community has branded itself as "America's Health Center" in a marketing initiative launched by Visit Jacksonville, the city's convention and visitors bureau. The goal: to position Jacksonville as a destination for healthcare services and medical-related meetings and businesses.

The geographic focus is one of many domestic medical tourism plays designed to counter the powerful pull of low costs and favorable health outcomes touted in Bangkok, New Delhi, and other foreign healthcare hubs. Philadelphia International Medicine—owned jointly by six Philadelphia-area hospitals—targets international patients who want to come to the United States for their care. Meanwhile, companies like Healthplace America are funneling surgery patients to a nationwide network of surgeons chosen on cost and quality.

Although Jacksonville may not traditionally have been top of mind as a medical mecca, it does have some solid credentials, including Mayo Clinic's Florida facility and the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, one of only five such institutes in the country. Those are two of 11 partners—others include Baptist Health and Wolfson Children's Hospital—that have signed on for the America's Health Center initiative.

"We see this as a nice example of the professional cooperation among the medical facilities in this city," says Nancy Skaran, international administrator for Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, which provided $5,000 to participate in the program. "This is a general awareness-raising campaign that will make more people aware of what Jacksonville has to offer, and hopefully what Mayo Clinic has to offer as part of that."

That effort includes a Web site, www.visitjacksonville.com/medical, through which visitors can read about participating organizations or book medical meetings, and an advertising and public relations campaign with the goal of attracting three types of visitors:

  • Patients and possibly family members interested in health services
  • Business executives who go to Jacksonville because many medical businesses are based there
  • Conventioneers attending meetings in Jacksonville because of its certain medical connections

Jacksonville has hosted many medical meetings in the past without particularly focusing on the sector, says Lyndsay Rossman, Visit Jacksonville's director of corporate communications.

"Since we've announced this initiative, we've had a lot more interest," she says, adding that Jacksonville hosted a proton therapy meeting in 2008 that had occurred in China the year before. "That's an international group that chose Jacksonville based on the fact that we, one, have a proton therapy institute here, and two, that we are a region known for our healthcare facilities."

Lola Butcher

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