International Health Tourism Expert, Maria Todd has been engaged to help Greece develop its National Health Tourism Strategy and Road Map.

On 17 September, 2012, the Health in Action Initiative  (@HIA_gr) was established by the Ministry of Health for the planning and monitoring of the implementation of structural reforms in the health sector in Greece with the aim of improving citizens’ health as well as the efficiency of the National Health System.

After two years of intensive and deliberate planning with the active support of the Task Force for Greece of the European Commission, the German Ministry of Health as the Domain Leader, a number of EU Member States and the World Health Organization providing technical support, the Greek Ministry of Health has developed a coherent and long-term reform programme including reforms in nine strategic pillars, namely: Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG); Hospital Management; National Organisation for Provision of Health Services (EOPYY); Primary Health Care; Pricing and Reimbursement of Pharmaceuticals; eHealth; Health Sector Human Resources; Public Health; and Health Tourism.

A Road Map of Reforms and specific Action Plans have been developed through the process of the Health in Action Initiative and the relevant Committees established covering a significant number of short, medium and long term reform activities. On July 18, 2013, a Contribution Agreement was signed between the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe to assist with an expanded normative role and with the implementation of the ‘Health Reform Support Programme 2013-2015 in the framework of the Health in Action Initiative’.  The project is co-financed by Greece and the European Union.

Earlier this year, a representative from the American Embassy in Greece was asked to help source and vet a consulting expert competent to assist with the Health Tourism pillar. Maria Todd, CEO and founder of Mercury Advisory Group and the author of 4 professional and technical books on various aspects of health tourism business development was selected as the sole recommended candidate for the project.

The Greek Ministry of Health, in cooperation with several other government agencies (tourism, economic development, education among others) and WHO Regional Office under a project management agreement contract with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH finalized the contract with Todd, and the first mission was completed between October 3-9th in Athens. The fact-finding mission included approximately numerous meetings and interviews with various stakeholders including government officials, hospital executives, physicians, medical school professors, university professors, social health insurance experts, attorneys, airport operations representatives, NGOs, politicians, several foreign embassies, and other GIZ consultants working on the related 9 pillars of the Health in Action Project. This enabled Todd to assess the state of play of many of the existing (and missing) pieces of the puzzle. Further desk research will be conducted from her office in the Denver, Colorado over the next couple of weeks.  A subsequent mission in Greece with additional site tours and meetings and a preliminary workshop is planned in the near future. The ultimate deliverable will be the development of a comprehensive, formal national strategy and cluster formation for all stakeholders and operations involved in every aspect of health, medical, dental, and spa tourism. A comprehensive framework law for health tourism in Greece will also be finalized, the first such law in Europe.

“This is one of the most exhilirating and challenging projects of my career…  It is indeed an honor and privilege to be selected to work side-by side with such a dedicated and brilliant team of people that want more than anything to redevelop the Greek economy and establish the nation as a premium brand for high-quality, affordable health tourism services for both its citizens and visitors alike.”

“This is one of the most exhilirating and challenging projects of my career”, says Todd.  I find myself drawing upon the lessons learned and expertise developed over hundreds of projects completed over three decades of work in healthcare administration, managed care, surgical nursing, tourism and travel, as a health law paralegal, and hundreds of projects in health tourism business development across the globe.  The touchpoints of the health tourism pillar of the Health in Action program span from destination brand development to government and stakeholder capacity development, attracting foreign investment, training, insurance and managed care contracting, pricing, credentialing and privileging of providers and health facilities, health tourism cluster organizational development, stakeholder and public employee competency and readiness assessment, accreditation preparation, international patient department training, economic development, specialized graduate level university curriculum development, culture and language development, training competency development for tour operators and medical tourism facilitators and other referral managers, along with product development and market research to identify source markets and market personas likely to purchase the new and existing Greek Health Tourism products.

Todd is faced with developing this massive strategy and how to execute it in a world where many of these component parts exist in small pieces. No program of this magnitude has been develped by any country involved in health tourism upon which to draw as a model. “That’s what is so exciting to me,” she commented. There are bits and pieces here and there, but many countries jumped straight to marketing and promotion without ever having fully developed the framework legislation to manage growth and operations, assure quality or define their product and specific strategy. As a result, many programs around the world have failed to thrive.  Some aren’t even “programs” per se, but are simply individual stakeholder initiatives led by a hospital or group of physicians without the needed support of their government and local value chain partners.”

Todd states that she is amazed by the commitment of everyone associated with the program, from Dr. Chrysostomos Gounaris, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Health to the team at GIZ and all of the stakeholders and contributors to the project. “It is indeed an honor and privilege to be selected to work side-by side with such a dedicated and brilliant team of people that want more than anything to redevelop the Greek economy and establish the nation as a premium brand for high-quality, affordable health tourism services for both its citizens and visitors alike.”

To contact Maria about this project or to enquire about how she can help your project, please call on +30 21 1198 4864 (Please mind her US time zone: UTC-6)

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