To support Nigerians and Africans seeking medical help in the United States, there is a Medical Concierge Services, writes Adeola Akinremi
“We feel pained that people come here and get stranded,” says Adebowale Adeleke, the chief Executive Officer at the Washington DC, United States based Medical Concierge Services. “It is not useful to travel miles and get to United States to become stranded not knowing what hospital to go or medical expert to consult or spend more for less trying to seek medical solution to ailment.”
In Washington DC, Where Medical Concierge Services (MCS) operates as a health care hospitality services, Nigerians and other Africans who seek medical help abroad thronged the city, but in most cases, Adeleke says, “they spend more for less.”
“We started MCS as a response to bottlenecks of finding and establishing contacts with a specialist hospital in United States by foreign patients coming from Nigeria and Africa. It is the traditional model of international medical travel support where patients generally journey from less developed nations to major medical centres in highly developed countries for medical treatment that is unavailable in their own communities without having to go through the trouble involved themselves,” he says.
Firmly ensconced in the capital city of United States with at least over a few years of experience in providing first-class health care services to patients from international countries, patients coming from abroad to the United States for medical care now turn to MCS because of its excellent reputation for personalised services, custom-tailored to each patient according to their individual needs.
Adeleke says, “all treatments are performed by the best-suited specialist physicians at the leading state-of-the-art facilities in the Washington DC Metropolis for the specific procedure indicated. We help to find the most affordable quotes for our clients and also help to arrange their appointments.”
He adds: “Medical Concierge Services is the one-stop resource for accessing premium medical services in the metropolitan Washington DC area. Our concierge approach helps reduce the stress of looking for a physician or awaiting a referral to see a specialist. We organize our clients’ medical appointments to ensure a hassle free visit to the physician/specialist based on our vast network of medical professionals, knowledge of the medical industry standards and experience. Other services we offer include airport pickup, transportation services to and from all medical appointments, as well as other ancillary needs. We offer assistance with logistics such as hotel accommodation and short-term lease apartments for clients who require such service. “
In the US, health care system though advanced, remains very complex especially to those paying for these services out of pocket. MSC according to Adeleke will bridge such gap “from the point of arrival of any client and through the duration of their stay, we will serve as their guide and facilitator on all medical affairs. We are committed to making your medical experience smooth and stress-free. We offer various forms of medical packages that include: prenatal and delivery packages for pregnant women, executive health Physicals for Men and Women; age and gender appropriate health physicals and cancer screening, annual physicals, job physicals, screening Colonoscopy, and medical referral programs for specialist evaluation.”
Clearly, more Nigerians seek medical support from abroad and United is one of the countries frequently visited for medical reasons.
Indeed, for Nigerians, this is not a normal time. Improvement in health care services across the country is of major concern, as Federal Medical Centres and teaching hospitals remain ill-equipped, under-staffed and under-funded. The increased burden of preventable diseases such as polio, malaria, cholera and heart- related diseases that have now over-stretched Nigeria’s health care facilities, and lack of improvement in medical services is forcing more and more Nigerians, who can afford it, to seek better health care services abroad.
According to a 2012 BGL report on Nigeria health care system, infrastructure decay, brain drain, incessant workers’ strikes and low investment in the sector characterize health care services in Nigeria. Collectively, all tiers of the healthcare system have suffered. In 2011, national spending on teaching hospitals and federal medical centres was estimated at N204 billion, approximately 79% of the government’s health expenditure. However, only N20.25 billion (10 per cent of total hospital expenditure) was allotted to capital expenditure in spite of insufficient medical equipment.
In the BGL report, the Federal Ministry of Health alluded to the fact that, the human development indices for Nigeria were among the worst in the world. Nigeria shoulders 10 per cent of the global disease burden and it’s making slow progress towards achieving the 2015 targets for the MDGs on health care.
Instructively, health care delivery indices in Nigeria have largely remained below country targets and internationally-set benchmarks due to weaknesses inherent in the system.
Chief Medical Director at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun says medical tourism is a global phenomenon, stating that there are several reasons why people all over the world leave their countries for medical assistance abroad. According to him, “medical tourism is a global phenomenon. People travel from United States to Cuba for medical assistance too. It is the human spirit, which is adventurous. People go on medical tourism for issues of privacy and preference.”
Usually Concierge physicians care for fewer patients than in a conventional practice, ranging from 100 patients per doctor to 1,000, instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 that the average physician now sees every year, especially in United States. The Concierge physicians generally claim to be accessible via cell phone or email at any time of day or night or offer some other "special" service above and beyond the "normal" care provided and their annual fees vary widely for an individual.
Some concierge practices do not accept insurance of any kind. These are also referred to as cash-only or direct primary care practises. By refusing to deal with insurance companies, these practises they believe can keep overhead and administrative costs low, thereby providing affordable healthcare to patients.
And they are called "concierge" only if the practise assesses an annual or monthly fee instead of or in addition to a fee for each medical service.
While concierge patients get a special contact number, dedicated appointment time, and various other benefits that enable the doctor to offer more advice and advocacy, the quality of the care, Adeleke says remains the same for patients and it is all about cost control.