Document Type : Research Article
Since a safe trip for the treatment or prevention of disease requires the presence of a well-informed source in the field of suitable and well-equipped destinations and countries (medical tourism facilitators), in this research, an attempt is made to present the framework of the roles of medical tourism facilitators, which is a sub-branch of health tourism, in The steps before, during and after the trip are ill. In terms of the practical purpose and data collection method of the survey research, the present research included the medical tourism activists of Isfahan city and the sample number was 78 university professors, doctors, employees of tourism organizations, tourism agencies, and hotels in Isfahan city. 66 researcher-made questionnaires have been collected. Validity using the experience of experts and reliability of the questionnaire has been confirmed using Cronbach's alpha. Data analysis was done using descriptive and inferential statistics and with the help of spss software and binomial tests, Shannon's sign and entropy, and the research findings have shown that the roles of medical tourism facilitators before the trip include planning, negotiating with service providers, legal guidance and Consulting with a doctor, coordinating treatment, promotion activities to attract patients, connecting patients to medical staff, helping to find a treatment center, traveling and choosing a destination, respecting privacy, checking the legitimacy of doctors and treatment centers, planning for transportation, removing the list Long wait, visa and during the trip, including guidance to benefit from the destination facilities, pre-treatment matters, sightseeing at the destination, meeting with the doctor, establishing cultural and social relations, creating a recovery environment, high-quality, cost-effective and timely care, translation, in The next stage of the trip was to make suggestions for health at the origin, take responsibility for possible injuries after returning, continue the treatment at home, solve the patient's problems at the origin, evaluate the patient's satisfaction and the quality of the treatment.
The purpose of this study is to help the development of the medical tourism industry. The city of Isfahan, which is located in the center of Iran, has many cultural and historical attractions for foreign travelers. It also has skilled and qualified physicians. If we can help the development of this industry in the country, it will provide a source of income for the country and for the people, and it will be more attractive among foreign travelers. There is increasing evidence that medical tourists seek medical travel facilitators' help and manage medical tourism. In medical tourism, these facilitators play a significant role as moderators in engaging the prospective patients in one country and medical facilities elsewhere. To date, the literature in medical tourism has focused almost exclusively on patients and health care providers. However, little is known empirically concerning the importance of medical travel facilitators and their contributions to the medical tourism industry. Hence, medical travel facilitators' moderating and programing role needs to be explored due to the rising number of medical tourists. This paper discusses the roles of health tourism facilitators. It is categorized into three steps: pre-travel, on-travel, and post-travel. Medical tourism facilitator plays a significant role in shaping the future of medical care globally. Patients are increasingly choosing to travel abroad for essential but non-urgent medical treatments, such as hip and heart valve replacements. Websites are frequently the first contact point with potential international service providers, such as medical travel agencies (MTAs). Services provided by the medical travel facilitators can be a standalone or a form of partnership integration. Due to safe travel needs reliable informational sources like tourism facilitators, the present study aims to present a three-step framework of facilitators' role in developing health tourism in Isfahan. Moreover, concerning treatment costs in Iran are lower than in many countries around the Persian Gulf, Iran is chosen as one of the destinations for medical tourists.
The present study is a practical research in terms of purpose. It also is considered as a survey from a research methodology view. The statistical population of this study includes managers of health tourism in the city of Isfahan. A sample of 87 managers has been selected using snowball sampling method. A researcher-developed questionnaire has been used for collecting the research data. Finally, 66 questionnaires have been collected and used in the final statistical analyses. The questionnaire validity and reliability have already been investigated and confirmed. Binomial tests and sign tests are the main statistical tests applied to analyze the research data in the SPSS software program.
Results and Discussion
Based on the findings of this study, the health tourism facilitators roles include 30 items that 16 ones are done in the pre-travel step, 8 ones are done in the on-travel step, and 6 ones are done in the post-travel step. Based on another part of our results, pre-travel roles are the most important ones and post-travel roles are the least important ones. Moreover, our results revealed that travel planning is the most important role of facilitators, and there are a few studies in the post-travel step and more needs to be done. The important role in pre-travel is travel planning and the low importance is belonging to preparing travel packages. In the on-travel steps, the essential role is to help use the possibilities at the destination. In the post-travel steps, offering suggestions for improving health and treatment is the most important and solves the patient's problems after coming back.
Our findings revealed that the roles of health tourism facilitators could be categorized into three levels, including pre-travel, on-travel, and post-travel. Identifying roles can help the development of this industry, because if individuals or companies want to work in this industry, they will enter with full knowledge and more awareness. The pre-travel roles include travel planning, negotiation with service providers, political guidance and physician consulting, therapy coordination, patient promotional efforts, linking patients to therapy teams, helping tourists in findings hospitals, traveling help, privacy affairs, evaluation of physicians and hospitals, helping in destination choice, transportation planning, elimination of waiting lines, and visa affairs. The on-travel roles include helping in destination services uses, pre-therapy affairs, helping in tourism affairs, physician-patient relationships management, social and cultural relationships management, safe environment, qualified maintenance, timeliness and value of services, and translation services. The post-travel roles include post-travel suggestions, potential responsibilities of therapy, after-therapy efforts, solving patient problems in his/her country, evaluation of patient approbation, and therapy quality.