Maybe not much, but it got us thinking. There has been some buzz lately about medical tourism funneling revenues away from US hospitals to overseas providers that offer popular procedures at lower cost.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that up to 750,000 US residents travel abroad to get care each year, while other sources put the number at closer to a million. The most common procedures sought by US residents in other countries include cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and heart surgery. The impetus for this mini-exodus is the hunt for cheaper medical procedures.
Conversely, international patients have beat a steady path to leading US academic medical centers like Mayo, Cleveland, MGH, Hopkins, M.D. Anderson and others for years. These patients are looking for the best care available and are able to pay for it.
We’ve wondered why US healthcare providers don’t focus on providing their pathology specialists to international patients, considering pathologists are in short supply worldwide. Pathologists make the diagnostic call on every cancer case, the numbers of which are growing. US based pathologists represent 50-70% of the world’s total.
Electronic review of digital cases/images are available in near real-time today. Adoption of these technologies is growing. Academic medical centers have begun working to extend their expertise to remote patients and physicians. Surely international growth can’t be far behind.
UCLA, Cleveland Clinic, UPMC, MGH, Utah, and others are actively involved supporting international collaborations. US pathology specialists are reviewing the cases of international patients and their physicians. Using digital platforms, new markets are opening opportunities for US hospitals to build demand for their pathology services. When US specialists provide an expert review for remote patients, some of those patients will seek treatment from the same US facility.
Early adopters of digital pathology are creating opportunities for new revenues, opening international markets, and putting themselves in a better position to bring additional patients to US hospitals for service.