Health IT deals underscore investor interest in medical tourism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jagtC_I-T1A The past few weeks have seen a couple of interesting developments on the medical tourism front with entrepreneurs seeking to claim a specific niche within this area. Asia has been an area of interest but not just as a destination for connecting people with cheaper plastic surgery in Thailand. Startups are positioning themselves to […]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jagtC_I-T1A
The past few weeks have seen a couple of interesting developments on the medical tourism front with entrepreneurs seeking to claim a specific niche within this area. Asia has been an area of interest but not just as a destination for connecting people with cheaper plastic surgery in Thailand.

Startups are positioning themselves to not only capitalize on the interest in consumers looking for places to have lower cost procedures, but the interest in the growing middle classes in various countries to come to the U.S. for treatment. There is also an interest in providing support services for travelers and expatriates.

I’ve highlighted a few of the entrepreneurs who generating investor interest in medical tourism.

As MORE Health demonstrated this week, venture investors are interested in entrepreneurs who can develop tools to bridge the communication gap so that an increasingly wealthy middle class interested in getting procedures done in the U.S. can return with medical records patients and their doctors can understand. New Enterprise Associates invested $3 million in the business, a move that reflects the expectation that this niche market will grow significantly.

DocDoc raised $8.6 million this week for a physician search tool aimed at expatriates in Asia. It is designed to help users find physicians for consults and procedures based on medical background and how many times they have done the procedure completed. Users get a “medical concierge” to connect them with the physician. TechCrunch noted that it was the largest early stage round for a healthcare services company in Singapore.

Medigo is aimed at patients in the U.S. and Europe seeking cheaper procedures elsewhere and who don’t want to endure long wait times. Accel Partners led a $6.2 million funding round for the business at the end of last year. Clinics in 18 countries are listed on the Berlin-based company’s website. Medigo claims to have 400 internationally accredited hospitals in its network which have served 1500 patients. The clinics in its network cover areas such as dentistry, oncology, plastic surgery and orthopedics. Patients search by procedure and location. They need to upload a copy of their electronic health record to register with the clinic they choose. Patients work with a “personal travel coach” to iron out travel plans to the clinics. Users are guided by reviews of the service provided by patients. The company works on a commission and receives a percentage of the procedure fee from its partner clinics and hospitals.

Emissary The San Francisco-based business is in the early stages of its development and currently focuses on Costa Rica, mainly for dental surgery, according to a profile of the business by Fast Company. In an interview with co-founder Jonathan Howard, he noted that it makes sure the practices use the same FDA-approved medical devices that people would receive in the U.S. It also has an advisory board of U.S. surgeons who help it interview their counterparts outside the U.S. It also examines surgeons public and private outcome reports, complication and infection rates, and the number of procedures a surgeon performs annually. The company was founded by a group of engineers from Google and Zynga.

Update: This story has been updated from an earlier version

[Photo credit: Photo by Andrew Hitchcock Wikimedia Commons]