HOCKESSIN – Medical-tourism company My Med Choices says it will hire 230 full-time employees in Delaware by the end of the year thanks to opportunities created by skyrocketing health care costs, a boom in interest in its telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the anticipation of a return to patient travel for specialized medical, dental, and cosmetic surgeries in early 202

The short-term plans include a move to the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus in Newark by the end of 2020 and hiring of people in executive level positions, technical roles, case managers, and call-center positions.  The longer-term plans calls for the hiring of nearly 1,000 people in Delaware by the end of 2021.

The company currently employs 17 people on its core team, including 10 in Delaware, but expects to have more than 1,250 between Delaware and satellite offices by the end of 2021.

My Med Choices works directly with consumers, self-insured employers and government agencies to reduce health care costs by contracting with top-quality hospitals; medical and dental providers; and recovery and wellness centers in the United States and overseas, said founder and CEO Mary Swenson.

My Med Choices works with employers – many of them large with international operations – to assess their biggest health care costs and then connects them with “centers of excellence” in nine surgical areas, including knee and hip replacements, cardiac, cancer, spine, and bariatric.  It negotiates with those institutions within the United States and globally to offer lower prices than they might get through insurance providers, largely because hospitals offer a significantly lower cash price for services, Swenson said. The company helps clients negotiate for those cash prices.

“The United States is the only country without transparent health care pricing,” Swenson said. “Many people here have to make a decision whether to pay their medical bills or their house payment at the end of the month.”

Virginia-based, medical-focused consulting firm Global Healthcare Resources says that an average of 11 million people travel to different parts of the world for medical assistance.

“This industry has been on pause for awhile because of COVID but it’s starting to come back,” said Jonathan Edelheit, chairman and co-founder of the Medical Tourism Foundation in West Palm Beach, Florida. “It’s about a $100B industry and the big players [like My Med Options aspires to be] need to deal with thousands of patients per year to break even.

Edelheit said that COVID’s impact on companies and individuals means that the industry is likely to become even more attractive as companies and patients focus on saving money.

“The opportunity with Korea is huge, and one of the big opportunities ahead is second opinions and building trust because we have a lot of pent-up demand,” he said.

My Med Choices negotiates a set fee for employers and individual patients and also receives referral fees from clients like Australia-based Ramsay Health Care, a provider of private health care in the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Indonesia, and Malaysia with 480 facilities across 11 countries.

“This is the future of health care,” she said. “We can shop for a car anywhere in the world with no surprise bills a month later. Why not shop for our health care? It’s about giving the patient more choices and options, crossing geographic borders to get the highest quality of care and transparent pricing. It is really that simple.”

The company’s rapid expansion will be backed by a $48 million capital infusion from an Australian investor, Swenson said. The early goings of that expansion have required a lot of pivoting though.

Back in March, My Med Choices was scheduled to send 11 patients to Australia and 17 to South Korea before COVID-19 put an immediate stop to all travel.

“That forced us to pivot and reinvent ourselves,” Swenson said. “We’re leading now with the telehealth and second opinions as our main focus until the travel market reopens fully in January 2021.”

Other hospitals have seen huge jumps in use of telehealth services while patients are quarantined. In My Med Choices’ case, it’s also using the telehealth platform that Swenson created in India in a previous role as an add-on for clients.

Swenson also plans to establish a prescreening center in Delaware, which is a service that few other medical tourism companies currently offer.

Right now, the company has more overseas patients traveling to the United States; however, with the recent agreement with Ramsay Health Care and other top 10 hospitals worldwide, Swenson sees My Med Choices as “an organization without health care borders.”

“The United States has the best cancer treatment but only for the very wealthy,” she said. “In the United States, most insurance companies automatically reject a claim for CAR T-Cell Therapy, which can cost up to $1 million for treatment. Sheba Medical City in Israel has a 90% survival rate for CAR T-Cell Therapy for less than $300,000.”

The company signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year with five South Korean medical firms, a more than $1 million contract that was facilitated by Export Delaware, a state agency under the Department of State. She’s also helped the state of Florida reduce costs for elderly dental patients by identifying reputable providers in Mexico and negotiating discounted rates there and has even helped individual clients in the final stages of life travel with their families to Switzerland, where euthanasia is legal.

The company’s new employees will be arranging visas and domestic and international flights; working with employers to identify cost savings; and guiding patients through the process. She will also be hiring a medical director and hopes to acquire a medical-records data management company soon.

Swenson said she will also be hiring a to-be-determined number of part-time nursing assistants and home-health aides to escort patients, transport data and act as translators where needed.

Looking ahead, Swenson said My Med Choices will collect data over the next five years from hospitals that describe themselves as “centers of excellence” and benchmark hospitals against each other. She also hopes to work with a Delaware college or university to create a Medical Tourism/Travel for Treatment certification program and hire top graduates to work for the company.

“None of this would have been possible without the help we’ve gotten from the Secretary of State’s office through the global export program and [Export Delaware Director] Beth Pomper’s targeted global mission and expert advice,” she said.

By Peter Osborne

posborne@delawarebusinesstimes.com

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