Medical tourism

Cd'A Resort, NW Specialty Hospital partner to attract Canadians

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Great things come in bundles.

The Coeur d'Alene Resort and Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls are teaming up to provide bundled pricing to Canadians and others who receive medical care at the hospital and whose family members are staying in Coeur d'Alene at the same time.

The partnership, referred to as "medical tourism," will not only benefit both businesses, but the community at large when patients and their families spend time here relaxing and enjoying North Idaho, Resort and hospital officials say.

"There is an incredible synergy when two organizations with such great reputations come together," said J.J. Jaeger, The Resort's sales and marketing director. "The Coeur d'Alene Resort is world-renowned and Northwest Specialty Hospital is one of the top hospitals in the United States.

"The total experience we are offering to patients both foreign and domestic will be absolutely outstanding."

Vaughn Ward, former NWSH CEO who worked on starting the program and recently accepted the position of regional vice president for United Surgical Partners International in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the partnership is intended to be win-win.

"The vision of Northwest Specialty Hospital is, and has been, to provide high-quality medical care at an affordable cost," Ward said. "Our launch into Canada represents an opportunity for us to extend those services beyond our own borders in a way that provides life-changing services to those desperately in need of them."

The bundled pricing will be offered to anyone, but the focus is to tap into the Canadian market, Ward said.

Our neighbors to the north are heading south for medical care in increasing numbers due to long wait times for procedures.

According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report issued in 2010, the Canadian market is forecasted to increase medical tourism to the United States by about 34 percent in the next several years.

Wait times, according to the Canadian Wait Time Alliance formed by doctors in 2004, can be up to six and a half months in that country. Comparatively, wait times here are in the six-week range, Ward said.

"If you're suffering from obesity and your life is in jeopardy, you may not have time to wait six months," Ward said. "We're giving Canadians the ability to move to the proverbial front of the line to access our outstanding health care."

Even when care is received, the patient isn't provided a choice in the surgeon providing the care or the implants they receive, according to the Canada alliance. Rather, patients are at the mercy of the system and have to settle for luck of the draw.

Medical care is becoming increasingly consumer-based, Ward said.

"We're trying to be out in front of the migration of health care in a consumer-dominated market," he said.

Darron Rock, NWSH marketing director, said the hospital anticipates the highest demand for its services will come from Canadians looking for knee replacements.

Rock said the total bundled price for a knee replacement, for example, including a five-night stay at The Resort would be $22,500, which is nearly $10,000 cheaper than advertised comparable bundled packages at some competitors in other tourist areas.

Ward added: "We don't believe that anyone can compete with what we're offering."

Rick Rasmussen, NWSH chief financial officer and interim CEO, said more patients are asking what a hospital's infection rate is and he believes NWSH's answer will help the local program. The infection rate for some hospitals is 5 to 8 percent; the NWSH rate last quarter was 0.24 percent.

"Patients are getting to be more savvy," Rasmussen said.

Bill Reagan, The Coeur d'Alene Resort general manager, said NWSH got the ball rolling on the medical tourism package and The Resort's administration was excited to jump on board. He said he believes the program will not only help tourism, but economic development in North Idaho in general.

"When people are here for a surgery, they oftentimes have time to mingle with residents and see the wonderful place we live," Reagan said. "We see people move here because of that."

Reagan estimates that about 20 percent of The Resort's business comes from Canada.

"Canadians are a significant part of our market," he said.

Reagan said other local businesses could be a part of the bundled program in the future.

Ward called NWSH's partnership with The Resort a "natural fit."

"It's all about trying to help the community," he said.

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