Dr. Premhar Shah the founder of The Medical Tourist Company has an MBBS degree from the University of Bombay, India. He started the company in June, 2005. Prior to this he was a successful family physician practising in Eldoret, Kenya for more than 32 years.
His medical knowledge, understanding of the requirements of patients from both developed and developing countries and cordial relations with the top hospitals and doctors in many countries make treatment overseas a pleasant experience for the customers. He has been sending patients abroad for treatment for more than fifteen years.
Due to his expertise in medical tourism he has been invited as a speaker at:
- International Medical Travel Exhibition, Conference, Dubai in March 2014 HTI Expo in Split, Croatia in October 2014 British Polish Chamber of Commerce, London in February 2014 International Medical Travel Exhibition and Conference, Dubai in March 2014 HTI Expo in Split, Croatia in October 2014 Medical Tourism Conference in Belgrade, Serbia in November, 2008 Medical Tourism Asia in February, 2007 in Singapore and International Medical Travel Conference in November, 2007 in Manila, Philippines. India Medical Tourism Congress in February, 2006, in Mumbai, India,
He has also attended:
- SPA – CE, spa and wellness tourism in Central Europe in Heviz, Hungary in October, 2015 Trip to Kvaerner Region Medical Facilities, Croatia in September 2014 B2B Encounters, Barcelona, Spain in December 2014 International Medical Travel Exhibition and Conference, Monaco in March, 2013 Study Tour of Poland Medical Tourism in October 2013 “Familiarisation Programme for Malaysia Healthcare” in July, 2010. World Health Tourism Congress in Marbella, Spain in April, 2008. International Medical Travel Congress in Seoul, Korea in November, 2008 of which he was also an advisor World Health Tourism Congress in Cyprus in April 2007
Read an interview between Initiate Healthcare and Dr. Premhar Shah
Please introduce yourself, your company and your background.
I am a medical practitioner by profession and have practiced in Kenya as a family physician for more than 32 years. I used to refer patients for specialised treatment abroad due to lack of facilities for certain treatments in Kenya. This is how I was involved in medical tourism long before it became a global phenomenon. When I migrated to the UK in 2005, there was a lot of publicity about NHS waiting lists and patients wanting to go abroad for affordable treatment. I wanted to do something different so I thought let me start a company to help these patients to go to reliable facilities abroad for treatment. I already had established contacts with top hospitals and doctors in India and this is how The Medical Tourist Company was formed.
Where is medical tourism today? How is the industry performing when you consider the estimates made by some individuals, in 2009, of large volumes of patients migrating for healthcare abroad?
Medical tourism has always been there but it was rare for the patients from developed nations to go to countries like India, Thailand, etc. for treatment. It was mostly patients from developing countries who would travel to Europe or America for treatment due to lack of facilities in their own countries. Now that there is reversal in this trend a lot of awareness has been created about medical tourism today. Many new companies are coming in as medical tourism facilitators. More patients may be travelling for cosmetic and dental treatments which many times they can combine with a holiday but as far as elective surgeries are concerned I feel the volume may not be that high from the UK and USA. Majority of the patients for elective surgery are from neighbouring and developing countries.
Which geographic locations are proving most popular today, for the medical tourist and why?
We have been mostly sending our patients to India which is a popular destination. The main reasons are:
- English is spoken and understood by most people Most of the doctors would have experience of working in Europe or the USA Doctors are experienced in treating international patients Many patients are used to Indian doctors as almost 25 – 30% of doctors in the USA and the UK are from Indian subcontinent The hospitals are of high international standard; many with international accreditations. The nursing care is marvellous The hospitality is second to none
Besides India, countries like Thailand, Singapore, Turkey, Philippines, South Korea, Costa Rica, etc. are also becoming popular due to high standard of hospitals and medical care available at affordable price.
Some argued that recession and the global economic downturn would lead more patients to consider and travel for healthcare abroad. What do you think of this statement?
Recession and global economic downturn has not led to increase in the number of patients.
Describe where the Medical Tourist Company fits in to the industry? What are your core products and services?
Medical Tourist Company complies with the Treatment Abroad code of practice for medical tourism and fits in as a trustworthy and reliable medical facilitator. The Company will do all it can to make the process of going abroad for treatment a pleasant experience with the motto “helping you get better…….”
Our core products are all types of elective surgeries like hip/knee replacement, spine, heart, weight loss, etc. Our service includes providing all the details to the patients so that they can make an inform decision. We will provide them all the information about things like visas, flights, hotels/apartments for recovery period, methods of payment, climatic conditions, etc. We also have dedicated international patients coordinators in the hospitals who will be just a phone call away should the patients need anything. We obtain regular updates of the patients and pass them on to the relatives or friends by e mail or telephone if the patients request us to do so.
What does the typical medical tourist expect from a medical tourism agent?
A typical medical tourist expects honesty from the medical tourism agent. This service is on mutual trust and it is important that the facilitator understands the requirements of the patients properly and give very clear guidance. The patients also expect that all the arrangements for the treatment are done as promised so that they have a hassle free process.
If you may wave a magic wand and fix five issues in the medical tourism industry what may they be?
- Patients desiring to go abroad for treatment should be able to get their medical records easily so that they receive proper information about their treatment. Medical facilitators should be careful not to offer cheap substandard treatment and patients end up with problems after returning home Honesty and personal touch with the patients should be the key factors for all the medical tourist facilitators and hospitals Absolute transparency about costs involved so that patients are not exposed to a rude shock of hidden charges After return home from surgery abroad, some patients may have been advised follow up treatment like physiotherapy, blood tests, x – rays etc. The local doctors should help them out
In your experience where are the best standards in healthcare to be found abroad and why?
The best healthcare standards abroad are found in many hospitals in many countries. It is difficult to say any one particular country has the best healthcare standard. From our experience many corporate hospitals in India have best healthcare standards due to highly experienced professionals, excellent nursing care, and availability of latest technology, low infection and mortality rate in comparison to similar hospitals in Western countries. The hospital rooms are clean and comfortable.
We have also seen hospitals in Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Philippines which offer excellent treatment and similarly many other countries must also be having good facilities.
The Medical Tourism Company caters for many needs of the health tourist – what has been the most popular treatment that patients migrate for?
We offer all types of treatment but the most popular have been hip and knee replacement, cardiac surgeries, dental treatment and executive health check ups.
What has been your experience dealing with insurance companies?
We have no experience with insurance companies.
How will the industry develop in the next 24 months and will supply outweigh demand?
The industry may not develop as predicted in the next 24 months due to recession, threats of terrorism, natural disasters and political disturbances in some of the countries which are favourites for medical tourism. Many new hospitals are coming up in several countries trying to cater for medical tourism so it is very likely that the supply will outweigh the demand.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Premhar.