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15/11/2018 By : Julia Feuell, Managing Director, OTT

OTT signs agreement with Medical Tourism Association for UK’s first certified online medical facilitator course

Online Travel Training (OTT) and the Medical Tourism Association have signed an agreement to promote the first online medical facilitator course for travel agents in the UK.

The agreement, to create the Certified Medical Tourism Professional (CMTP) certification programme for the UK travel trade, was signed at the MTA’s Annual Conference in Orlando and ratified at World Trade Market in London this month. The training programme is set for launch in January 2019.

The Certified Medical Tourism Professional (CMTP) and Certified Medical Tourism Specialist (CMTS) are professional certifications within the Medical Tourism field, provided by the Medical Tourism Association. Each certification is valid for three years. The certificates help travel agents build a successful business in the medical tourism industry, mitigate risks which are unique to the industry and select qualified healthcare facilities and providers. By taking these courses, travel professionals can educate themselves on the quality, transparency, legal and privacy issues surrounding health and wellness travel. There will be a nominal cost to take the course, with discounts for agency groups and consortia.

Medical Tourism is already a multi-billion-dollar industry which is predicted to rise by up to 25 per cent per year within the next 10 years, according to a study by Visa-Oxford Economics.  The UK has both a significant inbound and outbound medical tourism market. Inbound patients usually come to the UK to access high cost, tertiary healthcare services, whereas outbound patients are usually seeking lower cost treatments (cosmetic, dental, eyes, hip, knees, IVF etc.) which are either not available to them on the National Health Service (NHS) or are unavailable quickly.

In 2016, 144,000 people travelled abroad from the UK - a rapid increase from 48,000, two years earlier. Increasing waiting times, especially on hip, knee, and cataract operations are common causes of UK patients’ medical migration. Central Europe is popular for dentistry and cosmetic surgery while France and Switzerland are being more frequently visited for hip and knee operations. Spain is a popular destination for couples seeking fertility treatment.

The top destinations for medical tourism include Thailand, India, Mexico, South Korea and Malaysia. They combine strategies for affordability and quality of healthcare with the availability of attractions and cultural sights to offer patients a relaxing ambiance during recovery. Within Europe, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Poland are gradually becoming choice destinations for medical tourism, according to the Medical Tourism Index Report.

As competition within the health travel market becomes fiercer, industry players have adopted a number of strategies to add value and distinguish themselves from competitors through higher accreditation levels. Countries and hospitals offering high-quality healthcare services at affordable prices are taking a higher share of the health tourism market.

MTA spokeperson Alison Cryer says: “For a travel agent to become a medical travel facilitator it is important to understand the patient’s journey; from identifying the need for medical care to recovery and returning home. It is important that the travel agent is aware of the regulations and responsibilities they are taking on and how best to handle them.” 

“Medical tourism has vast potential but must be handled in the best possible way for the patient. By providing certification to the travel trade, MTA aims to ensure that the travel trade can benefit from this growth sector professionally and by observing best practice and the patient can go to one facilitator for all aspects of their journey.”

Managing director of OTT, Julia Feuell added: “OTT is proud to be chosen to partner with the Medical Tourism Association to create a new, well trained distribution channel for medical tourism. This is an exciting new business stream for travel agencies to embrace in 2019 and we’re looking forward to supporting this specialist sector with training, seminars and announcements to our 101,000 UK members.’"

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