Agile: The New Way to Transform a Medical Tourism Business

As a veteran healthcare management consultant with more than 30 years of practical experience, I am frequently engaged to help physicians and hospitals to transform their medical tourism marketing and promotional strategy. The calls and emails often come from worried or frustrated specialists (often called consultants in other countries) who are unsure about the future of their medical tourism business or how to build their referral base.

Part 1

In consulting to medical tourism start ups, we typically encounter three types of callers.

Serious callers: They’ve decided to take action. We sign an engagement agreement and wire their advance retainer deposit for the initial consultation. As part of the initial consultation, we supply a valuable list of things that need to be accomplished to move the business forward. Their next step is to engage us to continue beyond the first consultation, do the work themselves, hire someone else, do something totally different, or do nothing further.

There are other callers that think that the answer is in signing more facilitator contracts – as if doing more of the thing that hasn’t worked in the past will magically produce a different outcome.

Then there are those who write a few lines of flattery in an email, and then ask us to write a “proposal” about what they should do to improve their unique situation, sight unseen, without knowing anything about their business… and to do this all without compensation for our “mutual benefit” in the spirit of “cooperation.”  Very strange.

We are amused by this approach. It is as poorly thought out as if the situation were reversed and we called the doctor that knows nothing about us, and without a complete history and physical examination, a history of what has been tried and the outcomes, a review of systems, we expect the doctor to prepare an assessment and treatment plan and a prescribed set of instructions for what to do to fix the problem, all without payment.

There’s not much we can do for the second group, but for the serious callers, the possibilities are amazing if they have a compelling product, high quality, excellent service and something to market that consumers want to buy. We love introducing them to the Agile approach to business transformation, because it enables fast starts, forward movement, and doesn’t waste time and money on old fashioned business plans and long-winded reports that only generate revenue for the consultant but don’t really produce revenues for the client.

The Agile Approach: No lengthy old-fashioned business plans and reports

As the deliverable of the initial consultation, we produce a summary report of our observations after on-site interviews, site inspection, safety inspection, and quality inspection. The end of the brief summary includes high-level work plans for a number of “sprints” and a reference budget, all based on the interview answers and exactly what they services they want from us.  The initial interview includes a discussion where we ask the client to tick items from a list we supply in two columns: A) Things they want to handle themselves, and B) things they would like for us to handle for them or find a supplier to produce. This is list is completed right there in the first meeting. Start to finish.  From this list, we assemble our thoughts and we produce a list of sprints into small, compartmentalized “chunks” of work deliverable (each with a budget estimate of the team member involvement and expenses involved).

Each sprint is divided into achievable goals and tasks which make up discrete projects. Three to four months from the first meeting much of the work can be done – assuming the client is ready to take action. . The beauty of this approach is that there is flexibility. The doctor can adjust the list to add or subtract at each sprint if they want to be more or less involved.  They can pace the project to meet their budget, and address any new developments that arise to adjust strategies that need a little adjustment instead of a complete overhaul.

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We find that  the single biggest cause of failure in medical tourism business development is forecasting fallacy: it comes from taking action based on the belief that you have a good product fit when you don’t, or overestimating its appeal to consumers or lacking clarity on why they might want to buy it – from you.

Next: Minimum Viable Product


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