Is UK the World Leader in Health Tourism?

By Annabelle Neame, CEO of Lexihealth Ltd, London, UK

International health concierge services are delivering rapid access to the best healthcare in the UK for private patients from around the world and the Middle East.

A “private health tourist” is someone who is prepared to travel beyond the borders of their native country, often with their families and loved ones, in search of the finest medical and healthcare expertise.

The UK continues to attract a large number of overseas patients especially from the Middle East and this is set to rise as we invest more in technology, communication and transport, not to mention healthcare concierge. Increasingly more people are willing to travel from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to be treated by the best doctors and consultants in their fields.

Quality, access and convenience has meant that opportunities, including appointments and same-day diagnosis, rapid response multi-disciplinary review teams (MDT), second opinions and emerging treatments are becoming more and more sought after.

Why is this and what singles out the UK as a centre of excellence in the healthcare market?   

One reason is the UK boasts a unique blend of internationally acclaimed institutions such as The London Bridge Hospital, BUPA Cromwell, Great Ormond Street, Moorfields, and The Portland all within easy reach of each other. The country also features the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Centre for Defence Healthcare Engagement, through to the Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. 

Combine this with enough world-class consultants to populate a town and you have some of the single biggest concentrations of medical practitioners and facilities in the world. This means everything is on your doorstep and there has never been more choice between consultants, hospitals and clinics covering the full range of healthcare services and medical treatments. 

In my role as CEO of the Health Concierge Company Lexihealth, I would like to think we have helped to play a part in this. 

Health concierge is a relatively new concept in the UK and for “health tourists” concierge support is a critical addition for navigating the myriad of medical choice on offer and to access the best possible healthcare. With choice comes complexity. So how do you know which specialist is best for you? How can you be certain the hospital or clinic being offered has the highest reputation, or respects your personal or cultural needs? Where do you start? How do you know you are finding your way to the best possible care for you with absolute transparency on pricing? 

Less seasoned travellers may target the nearest, often cheapest services: however, those in the know tend to follow a strict list of key requirements. 

Dedicated health concierge manages the often-complex healthcare journey, from appointment negotiation to all the administration associated with one’s treatment.

It is about empowering patients by providing unparalleled access to the world of healthcare, ensuring complete transparency, convenience and choice at all times during their journey and removing all of the stress associated with the complexity of navigating the healthcare system. It offers a personalised and co-ordinated quality care with a discreet, bespoke, handheld concierge service throughout. A single point of contact with dedicated patient liaison managers is assigned to each case to organise appointments, screenings and treatments at times and in locations to suit the patient. Health Concierge is about enabling a patient’s best outcome approach by providing transparency, complete independence, trust and quality care. We want to ensure the patient gets from A to B as efficiently as possible having seen the right specialists first time around and with the highest patient satisfaction as the outcome.

I believe the UK leads the way with exceptional clinical governance and the highest medical standards for the benefit of private patients. I am also a firm believer in absolute transparency on treatment costs for healthcare with UK pricing structure meeting the needs for everybody irrespective of domicile or status. For example, at Lexihealth, we are guided by an independent Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) drawn from the world’s leading physicians and these clinicians personally assess and approve each consultant and specialist service before a single patient is referred. 

Another important aspect is offering family-centred holistic care for families and loved ones accompanying the patient. It can be a stressful time and to make the patient journey as easy as possible, the health concierge service can provide day-to-day assistance with any number of lifestyle requests such as renting accommodation, schooling, travel arrangements, booking hotels and restaurants, to organising translators, chauffeurs, city guides and itineraries. No request is ever too small. 

Our world is changing at an astonishing rate and healthcare is no different. 

Good healthcare and well-being are the most important matters for each of us and the world is learning more about the extraordinary variety of specialities, treatments and facilities that are available to us in healthcare. Advances in medical research and embracing the power of data science and personalised medicine, has meant that healthcare is getting closer to obtaining a much clearer picture of a person’s future risk disease profile and to tailor preventative treatments to their individual needs. 

The UK is a leader in quality evidence-based clinical practice which encompasses the breadth of tertiary level global experience and I have noticed an increase in screening packages among busy individuals who want to maintain their health to the highest standards. The approach is very much now about preventative medicine and one can look at the age profile, demographics, genetics and any family history and then design a screening package that can be undertaken in just 48 hours. 

Ultimately, it is about the quality of care and health concierge is about bringing all of these world-class doctors and facilities together to represent the patient in the centre of it all. 

New Offering at Arab Health 2019

One of the new projects Lexihealth is involved in is a new international patient offering, which will be launched at Arab Health 2019 by Birmingham’s Edgbaston Medical Quarter. The new medical concierge package supports patients who choose to be treated in Edgbaston — guiding them through every aspect of their treatment such as choosing the right consultant to finding the best place to stay. 

Edgbaston Medical Quarter offers some of the best places to be treated, particularly in oncology, trauma, diabetes and fertility and has become an ideal place for international patients to seek treatment. 

Located in the heart of the UK, Birmingham is ethnically diverse with 5.6m population within wider Birmingham. Birmingham International Airport has direct routes to Dubai and other Middle East cities and is only a 10-minute train ride to the centre of the city. Birmingham is also a centre of excellence for healthcare and life sciences, and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham is a state-of-the-art facility that recently featured in a BBC series focused on its surgical excellence. Its new private wing is due to open this year. 

Within walking distance of many of the medical and healthcare providers, accommodation options range from four-star luxury hotels and high-end boutique hotels to more informal arrangements. For longer stays, there are family group sumptuous hotel suites and apartments to choose from. 

Edgbaston Medical Quarter offers a wide range of accommodation options, that can be selected to suit the individual patient needs, along with leisure activities. Close to the hotels are world-class art galleries, Edgbaston Cricket Stadium and Birmingham Botanical Gardens. There are 571 parks in the city and it also boasts some of the other finest shopping and entertainment in the UK including the Bull Ring shopping centre featuring a Selfridges department store, theatres, sports arenas, cinemas and more. It is also home to six Michelin starred restaurants and is a one-hour commute to Bicester Village, which specialises in luxury shopping. 

Patients choose Edgbaston because of its healthcare excellence, ease of access, value and the fact Edgbaston Medical Quarter’s medical facilities sit alongside thriving leisure and lifestyle communities. Friends and family can enjoy award-winning places to eat and a host of arts, leisure and sports facilities. It also is a culturally diverse and welcoming city, with beautiful green open spaces, which are the perfect place to relax and recover.