Travel agent and registered nurse Kathy Kocharhook is combining her two professions to offer medical travel services to clients of her full-service agency, Sail-N-Travel.
Kocharhook’s four-year-old agency, located in Cupertino, Calif., added medical travel to Thailand to its portfolio of leisure and business travel services not long ago. In August, Kocharhook accompanied her first medical travel client to Thailand.
Alternative to costly care
Kocharhook’s nursing background makes selling medical travel a “natural fit” for Sail-N-Travel, she told Travel Market Report.
Her medical training is particularly useful when it comes to “researching the type of medical services offered internationally and evaluating the standard of care with which those services are delivered.
“It is very exciting to be able to offer an alternative to the escalating cost of care in the U.S. and make high-quality services accessible to more people,” she said.
Another advantage, she noted, is that wait times for procedures overseas are often minimal. Surgeries can sometimes be performed within a week, once a medical provider and treatment plan has been determined, according to Kocharhook.
Specializing in Thailand
Prior to accompanying her first medical client to Thailand, Kocharhook participated in a medical fam trip to Thailand conducted by Thailand Medical Travel and Tourism.
“We had the opportunity to meet and interact with at least a dozen physicians and other specialists at the forefront of Thailand's medical tourism activities,” said Kocharhook, who added that she was impressed with the efficiency and compassion of Thailand’s medical system.
“International medical travelers are welcomed and easily accommodated with interpreters available around the clock and facilities that strive to make people feel truly at ease.”
Advice from a colleague
For agents thinking about establishing medical travel services, Kocharhook had the following recommendations.
Educate yourself. “Learn as much as you can about the country's culture and the types of medical treatments performed there. Visit the area and tour the facilities.”
Establish credibility. Become a medical traveler yourself by scheduling a physical exam or dental visit outside the U.S. “Why should anyone take you seriously unless you are willing to walk the walk?” asked Kocharhook, who experienced healthcare firsthand during her fam trip to Thailand.
Partner with a solid company. Find a medical travel service that “knows the ropes and has the resources to take good care of clients. It doesn't matter how good the medical services are if the traveler can't easily access them.”
Kocharhook’s agency is affiliated with Thailand Medical Travel and Tourism, which she noted provides full-service assistance to clients through an in-country network of medical professionals, transportation services, hotel and post surgery recovery centers and personal assistants.
Be client-centric. Anticipate ways to make the client's stay more comfortable by personalizing the experience and handling all the details. “This takes a client-centered attitude and a large network of service providers,” she said, adding that medical travel “requires the human touch.”