In recent years, the trend for medical tourism has evolved. Once dominated by consumers seeking out cosmetic surgery and dental treatment options, there is now increasing evidence that people from the UK are making trips abroad for a variety of other health conditions – including an increasing cohort who are looking beyond domestic treatment routes to avoid long waiting lists, seek world class clinical excellence in particular disciplines, and/or source more cost effective options.
NHS figures show that 7.19 million people were waiting for consultant-led elective care in England alone at the end of last year, with 406,575 waiting over a year – the highest number since records began in 2007. With the NHS under immense pressure, people are being forced to consider their options to get the help they need – including seeking out private treatment.
Google trends data shows UK searches for ‘private healthcare’ were at a record high at the start of the year, and figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network show the number of people paying for care has increased more than a third compared with before the pandemic. However, with the increasing cost of private healthcare, it is perhaps unsurprising that people are seeking out high-quality healthcare services abroad as an alternative option.
Going abroad for medical treatment is a big decision, and people are understandably cautious when it comes to their own health. So, trust is a crucial factor in the decision-making process. This can be earned effectively through a robust and carefully crafted PR strategy, which includes a variety of considered tactics:
UK consumers may feel they have some distance with healthcare providers abroad (by miles and in terms of their knowledge and understanding). There is also the challenge of pre-conceptions, negative PR, and damaging stories – so building credibility is key.
A PR strategy can help bridge this gap by communicating the expertise, qualifications, and success stories of providers abroad, to help build consumer confidence. Therefore, begin your strategy with a messaging framework that talks about USPs, state-of-the art technology, data, and statistics about your service; to reinforce this credibility.
Although medical tourism is gaining popularity, there are still elements of scepticism. Creating informative content to address myths and misconceptions and working with credible, qualified spokespeople on features which help dispel doubts will encourage informed decision-making. Thought leadership pieces will make the most of this expertise, building a presence in the UK media and giving your business a voice in the conversation.
It’s important to consider an integrated approach here too. A survey conducted by the Medical Tourism Association revealed that 28.5% of businesses cite lack of brand awareness as a major limiting factor for medical tourism, so utilising this content across different channels will ensure you’re reaching a wider audience through multiple touchpoints.
Personal testimony and recommendation are a vital part of reputation building for your healthcare clinic to encourage patients to visit. For people who are unsure, UK based case studies can explain rationale for their decision to travel abroad and talk about their positive experience. This first-person testimony provides a great opportunity for you to demonstrate success, build your profile, and drive positive sentiment for the business.
Linking to the landscape
To build a sense of familiarity and trust, seek out links to the UK health landscape. For example, do your spokespeople have UK training or qualifications? Or are there collaborative initiatives with UK based providers like concierge services or referral programmes? Through this, you can demonstrate that medical tourism is not about compromising on quality but about accessing specialised expertise and innovative treatments that may not be readily available in the UK.
In addition, ensure any press materials are appropriate to the UK consumer. This could be as simple as language tweaks, but working with a PR agency which knows the UK market will help ensure you are effectively adapting your communications to the right territory.
All good PR strategies will include a crisis communication plan, equipping businesses to deal with any reputational issues they might face as they grow their profile. Whilst it is impossible to predict every situation, by factoring this into early planning stages it gives you the opportunity to map out potential problems and set guidelines and processes to follow if the need arises. This will ensure your business is able to address concerns, provide reassurance, and demonstrate accountability.
As the landscape of healthcare continues to evolve, medical tourism presents a great opportunity for UK consumers seeking high-quality and timely healthcare solutions. For businesses looking to attract these consumers, a PR strategy will play a pivotal role in building trust and confidence in this growing industry.
If you’d like to discuss how we can help shape consumer perceptions, instil confidence, and empower UK consumers to make informed decisions about their healthcare get in touch with our team of experts today.