Profile of today’s patients
When it comes to our health no obstacle is too great. We would cross rivers or climb mountains in our quest for a better and healthier life. And we look for cures, solutions and destinations with a mere click.
Health has been moving to the top of people’s lists of priorities. Nowadays, we appear finally to have realised that health is our most valuable “asset” and we must therefore continue seeking ways to improve and increase the quality of our lives.
We increasingly make a point of consulting the doctor when we feel something is wrong with our own health or that of a family member; we explore new means of prevention, look for tips on how to have a healthier lifestyle, do more physical exercise, go for routine lab tests and monitor our weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels more frequently. And sometimes we even seek out a second medical opinion in our own country or travel abroad to consult a specialist or receive treatment.
Search for healthcare options
Our health is in vogue!
Why? Because we really need to feel and be well, although this is not the only reason. Another is that we currently have access to endless data from all over the world about any subject and in various languages. Chest pain? We immediately start searching online by symptom. But what if it’s more serious? We begin looking for a list of the best local, national or international doctors. And what about starting an exercise programme? A few clicks and the most popular articles and blogs are at our disposal, written by famous dieticians and personal trainers who offer tips and advice about how to live in a healthy and balanced way.
The clinical world is closer to us and the amount of information that we can access online is impressive. But caution is needed; we must know how to search, sort through the information and seek out the knowledge and experience of specialists.
Languages that save lives
Communicating with patients in their own languages can even save lives. At this moment, around 72% of people between the ages of 30 and 49 are researching specific aspects such as symptoms, diseases, specialists, hospitals, treatments, health insurance and surgical procedures, as well as ways of managing their healthcare budgets. And the most important thing is for patients to be able to find well-organised information in various languages, because knowledge is also prevention.
One of the main reasons why patients hesitate to choose to go abroad for treatment and consultations is the language barrier. This restricts the extent to which they can communicate with their doctors and with the clinic or hospital, not to mention the possible repercussions of any misunderstandings regarding the diagnosis, recommended treatment and prescribed drugs. And this is where languages enter the patient-doctor relationship: as allies for the “cure”. After all, for their consultations abroad to be really beneficial, patients must understand the meaning of everything their doctors tell them, leaving no room for doubt. This is why it is so important to use specialised professionals so that the efficiency and success of all verbal and written communication can be guaranteed.
Health and tourism
Going abroad for health reasons is not always a sign of bad news. Combining healthcare with tourism is a way of taking advantage of the beneficial effects of a short holiday during the recovery process. You may think it is a new invention but, in fact, health tourism has been around since the days of the Roman spas and Turkish baths, when people travelled to try out the curing effect of the waters.
The preference for “tourist” destinations is determined by the desire for a holiday, as though a holiday were a kind of reward. And when it comes to making this choice, the criteria vary immensely: from the price, quality and available specialists to the climate and the range of activities on offer for tourism and convalescence.
Based on the criteria expressed by health tourists, we are beginning to see league tables listing the most popular health tourism destinations. The following are the top five countries worldwide:
There are many league tables that rank the best health tourism destinations, and to be included in these lists a considerable amount of credible information must be available. Such information must focus not only on healthcare but also on the characteristics of the destination as regards convalescing; and it must also be available in the main languages used for online research so that patients can make an informed choice that will be the right one for their individual needs.
But there is much more to being a popular health tourism destination than simply offering the ideal conditions to be recognised as such. It is necessary to know the mix of ingredients needed to position a country as a preferred health tourism destination. And knowing how to promote it is even more important.
Healthcare niche markets
The healthcare tourism market consists of an array of very specific niches; every condition, symptom or disease has its own particular characteristics and requires specific treatments. A hot, humid climate would never be the ideal destination for treating asthma and allergies, whereas a cold climate would be far from ideal for leg surgery.
It is important, therefore, to recognise the characteristics of each region or country as a natural destination for health tourism in particular fields. And it is to the relevant market niche that advertising should be directed, ensuring that it contains all the medical and tourist information that patients need to be able to make the right choice for their needs.
Terminology matters in and for healthcare; translation plays a vital role here, and it is one that must not be taken lightly. Every word is decisive when it comes to choosing the place that will help us recover from our illness. It is important to combine treatments with the climate, the geography and the local cuisine. Everything contributes to the success of a good recovery.
Portugal is preparing to join the health tourism market
Portugal is a country full of secrets and treasures waiting to be discovered, hidden in the greenest landscapes, along the coast with its crashing ocean waves, in the mountains that mark the highest points in the country, in the typically Portuguese crazy paving and in the nostalgia of the songs sung by an ancient people. All of which combine to form the perfect setting not only for leisure tourism but also for health tourism.
The new tourism goal for Portugal is to promote these secrets and climatic and geological qualities as features that are beneficial to our visitors’ health. Thermal springs, spas and thalassotherapy are elements of a tourism offering with medical components, resulting in the perfect combination to respond to the needs of people with respiratory and skin problems.
In Europe, health tourism has been growing in countries such as Germany, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, the Scandinavian lands and Spain. And while the competition can be fierce, Portugal has various factors in its favour that encourage the Germans, Belgians, Italians, British and Portuguese-speakers from all over the world to come here for their healthcare and simultaneously take the opportunity to explore our country.
Bearing in mind what people are looking for when they start thinking about a health tourism destination, Portugal has potential because...
– The National Health System is recognised internationally, occupying the 12th position on the index drawn up by the World Health Organisation;
– The healthcare professionals have international experience; in other words, they are capable of communicating with people coming from abroad;
– There are Portuguese hospitals accredited by international systems, specifically the Joint Commission International;
– There are many spa facilities and the waters are rich in medicinal benefits, especially in the north and centre of the country;
– The spa brands, located in highly-regarded hotels, are recognised for providing quality wellness experiences;
– The extensive sea coast is excellent for thalassotherapy, a revitalising treatment that uses sea water, seaweed and sea mud to help people with respiratory and skin problems;
– And the weather is pleasant all year round, which in itself is therapeutic for some patients.
Portugal is a strong contender to become a destination of choice for anyone doing online research on a global scale and using “health” and “leisure” as keywords. The cultural diversity of the people and the physical, geological and climatic characteristics of the country, associated with the technical capacity of its health system offer a unique and highly attractive package for anyone with an interest in this new tourism concept. And if the opportunity arises, we must be capable of seizing it!