San Diego hospitals give medical tourism a try

Four major San Diego hospitals have partnered with regional tourism and business leaders to launch an initiative aimed at boosting medical tourism. 

UC San Diego Health System, Sharp Healthcare, Scripps Health and Rady Children's Hospital are all participants in the project, dubbed DestinationCare San Diego, which launched last week. A website offers details on services available at all four hospitals and travel planning assistance for people who may want to visit the city for healthcare. 

The goal, according to an article from The San Diego Union-Tribune, is to use the city's touted research hospitals to draw in patients who may not otherwise travel to the area. 

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A lot of people think medical tourism is only about getting inexpensive care, Tom Gehring, the interim executive director of DestinationCare, told the publication. Rather, he said, it’s about finding "the best possible treatment." 

The region is not the only one putting a focus on medical tourism. Indiana University Health's focus on attracting medical tourists, for example, has been a significant boon for the state's economy. Other hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic, are eyeing overseas partnerships in response to the growing number of people traveling to the U.S. to seek care. 

This international growth can also expand research opportunities for U.S. hospitals. 

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Some states are hoping to embrace medical tourism but may not have the infrastructure in place to offer what patients are looking for. Hawaii, for example, is a major tourist destination, but its medical offerings may not be able to compete with major U.S. hospitals and health systems such as Mayo Clinic or specialty providers like MD Anderson Cancer Center, according to an article from Hawaii Public Radio. 

San Diego officials are enthusiastic about their program, but it remains to be seen whether hospitals themselves will get excited enough to contribute financially in the future, the Union-Tribune reports. Donald Kearns, CEO of Rady Children's Hospital, said that the hospital would be "absolutely interested in contributing" to the program, so long as metrics show it increases patient volume.