Medical Tourism in Jordan and International Competition

International Competition

Evaluation of the challenge

Despite the rapid and successful development of medical tourism in Jordan, international competition remains a serious challenge to deal with. The main competitors that the country faces within this industry are India, Thailand and Costa Rica, each of which is a well-known destination for medical tourism. India, for instance, has long become a global center for medical tourism owing to the constant upgrade of technology and expansion of private hospitals (Woodside & Martin 2007).

Thailand is no less developed and successful in this area; already in 2003, it had the largest number of medical tourists (around one million), primarily from Japan, America, the UK, and Australia. Finally, Costa Rica has been known as a medical tourist center since the 1990s, when already back then around 14% of all the visitors received medical care (mostly dental work or cosmetic surgery). Apart from these three countries, Jordan also faces competition on the part of Malaysia and Singapore, but the most significant rivalry is still presented by India, Thailand and Costa Rica.

External environmental factors

Nevertheless, certain external environmental factors, mostly social and economic ones, affect much the perception of international competition as a challenge to the industry. In terms of social factors, such demographic characteristics as the rapid growth of population in Jordan due to the inflow of refugees (A Postcard from the Middle East 2009) does not allow perceiving this challenge as the most serious one. The same goes for such economic factors as lack of financing of health services (that is also linked to the growth of population because it has led to larger health expenditures).

Marketers’ response to the challenge

Medical tourism in Jordan is one of the most promising industries in terms of developing the overall economy of the country. This is why responding to international competition properly is the number one objective of marketers. There is no separate strategy for developing medical tourism as an industry, but much has been and is still being done to improve the industry’s relations with customers in order to attract those who got used to medical tourism services in America, India, Thailand, Costa Rica, and other countries. These are some of the responses on the part of the marketers:

  • Accreditation of the international hospitals. Hospitals with international accreditations, without any doubt, are able to attract more customers. Above all, accreditation has much to deal with the quality of healthcare provided to the visitors, this is why accredited hospitals are indeed able to attract a larger number of customers. In India, for instance, a number of such hospitals are available. Following this country’s example, Jordan has accredited six hospitals in its attempt to deal with international competition (A Postcard from the Middle East 2009).
  • Advertising campaigns targeting American citizens. American people have shown to be fond of medical tourism; however, the costs for healthcare in the country are immense. Jordan used this fact to its advantage in order to fight international competition. Offering cheaper treatment to the patients (25% of the value offered to the procedures in the USA), Jordan has launched advertising campaigns aimed at attracting American customers to its medical tourism industry (A Postcard from the Middle East 2009). The campaigns informed American citizens about medical procedures offered by Jordan and placed particular emphasis on the price of these procedures.
  • Improving the quality of the services provided. Along with accreditation, Jordan needed something special to offer to its customers. One of the decisions was the design of individual packages for the customers; these packages included “air travel and a list of tourist destinations in the country, a plan that promises not just physical repairs but also overall relaxation” (A Postcard from the Middle East 2009, para. 4). This also contributed much to the attraction of new customers.
  • Increasing the number of English-Speaking doctors. Since the official language in the country is Arabic, the majority of health care professionals speak only this language. In competitive India, however, English-speaking doctors are easily available in the medical tourism industry. To ensure the same high level of services provided, the increase in the number of English-speaking doctors was crucial for Jordan. Training the doctors to speak English is also a part of the country’s campaign to target the American market in which the majority of customers speak namely this language.

Legalization

Evaluation of the challenge

Legalization is also an important challenge that the medical tourism industry in Jordan has to deal with. This challenge is directly related to the issue of medical malpractice that is not paid due attention to by the industry. Medical malpractice occurs every time when doctors or medical professionals injure a patient because of error or omission (Medical Malpractice Law, 2007). Two approaches have been developed to address the issue of medical malpractice, a “fault’ and a “no-fault” approach. Within the former approach, the victim is compensated for the losses and the party at fault is punished, while within the latter, only compensation takes place. Jordan keeps to the former system, but it has a number of deficiencies:

  • There are no malpractice laws in the country (the cases are considered depending on the general laws).
  • Court procedures are extremely lengthy.
  • The judges do not have experience in dealing with medical issues.
  • The opinions of experts are biased because the experts support medical service providers (Medical Malpractice Law, 2007).

External environmental factors

The perception of this challenge, however, is strongly influenced by economic factors. The matter is that the medical tourism industry is almost the only savior of Jordan’s sagging economy. Legalization is not perceived by the government as a real challenge because compensations that rarely have to be paid to the victims constitute an insignificant part of the income that the industry brings into the economy. In addition, regulatory forces also affect the way the challenge is defined and perceived. Not only Jordan, but a range of other countries do not have separate legislation as for medical malpractice this is why the state is reluctant to be the first who places restrictions on its medical tourism institutions.

Marketers’ response to the challenge

Since the challenge is of a larger scale than the one concerning international competition (the reputation of the entire industry is at stake, so as the economy of the country for its prosperity directly depends on the prosperity of medical tourism), the response to it was not only marketers’. The marketers’ actions had to be integrated with those of the government to deal with this challenge. The aims of these two parties slightly differed; the former aimed at earning the trust of the customers, while the latter was concerned with strengthening the quality of health care in the country. Thus, the following actions were taken to deal with medical malpractice in Jordan medical tourism industry:

  • Ensuring maximum safety within the health care centers across the country. Infection control programs were initiated in the hospital of the country; their aim was to reduce the risks of transmitting and acquiring infections among patients, medical personnel, and anyone else having contact with the customers. A Prevention and Control Committee was established to ensure that the program was carried out properly (Vicuña 2009).
  • Promoting technological development. This action concerned, first of all, the equipment used by medical centers. In order to provide customers with specialized services, the equipment in most of the hospitals had to be upgraded. For instance, they had to be equipped with telemedicine facilities and the like latest technologies (Vicuña 2009). This significantly raised the quality of the delivered health care and, consequently, contributed to customer trust and satisfaction.
  • Introduction of Medical Doctors and Dentists Malpractices Law. The most important issues that this law dealt with were the adoption of clear standards of care and making consideration of the claims by medical experts only obligatory (Medical Malpractice Law, 2007). Additionally, under this law, two Standardization Committees, as well as a number of specialized committees were established. This all helped to ensure high quality of health care services delivered to the customers.
  • Creation of Medical Responsibility Fund. Since no medical malpractice insurance existed in the country, the claims had to be paid by the individual doctors. Membership in this Fund became obligatory for doctors and dentists but the claims, if any, started to be paid by it as well.

References

Woodside, A.G. & Martin, D. 2007, Tourism management: analysis, behavior and strategy, CABI, Oxfordshire.

Vicuña, G. 2009, Jordan – Rising Medical Hub of the Middle East. Web.

Medical Malpractice Law: “Best practices” for Jordan 2007, United States Agency for International Development, Washington, DC.

A Postcard from the Middle East 2009. Web.