During Brian Treece’s successful campaign for Columbia mayor, he hinted about a plan to promote the city as a destination for medical tourism.
Within weeks of the August election when voters approved an increase in the local lodging tax to help fund a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport, Treece appointed his Task Force on Medical Tourism.
Part of the early stages was establishing a marketing subcommittee and a provider subcommittee to help refine what areas the task force will focus on and what steps might lead to boosting the city’s status as the go-to place for medical services.
The task force and subcommittees already have demonstrated collaboration among providers who also compete for medical dollars in the areas of radiology, cardiology, orthopedics and cancer treatment. When Treece announced the task force, he was flanked by executives and representatives of Boone Hospital Center, University of Missouri Health Care, local surgical centers and hoteliers.
“I think the fact that you have both MU Health Care and Boone Hospital, Columbia Orthopaedic Group and Mizzou BioJoint Center all in the same room for the first time ever” will result in “what’s right for our patients and our community,” Treece said at the August announcement. He said the task force work was important because “health care is a major component of Columbia’s growing economy.”
Treece asked the task force to make recommendations on five areas:
marketing Columbia’s key subspecialty medicine areas;
airport improvements, such as additional routes and terminal improvements, to improve access for out-of-town patients;
public transportation enhancements, such as special-needs shuttles and accessible vans;
hotel and short-term housing options with coordination between hospital schedulers and hotels;
and determining the best areas to target for new health care jobs.
Subcommittees have made presentations on possible approaches to promoting the city for medical tourism. The marketing group has discussed ways to increase the community’s medical-services image in the state and region. The provider group had a somewhat more scaled-back focus on first determining why many local and area residents apparently prefer to use medical facilities in St. Louis or Kansas City for specialty services.
Treece’s charge to the task force was to evaluate what the community does well and where there are gaps in medical services.
The provider group quickly listed that some of the specialty services not offered in Columbia include heart, liver and bone marrow transplants — and there’s no facility that offers pediatric open heart surgery.
James Cook, representing the Mizzou BioJoint Center and Missouri Orthpaedic Institute, said the research program already experiences about 30 patients per month who fly to Columbia for joint replacement and biojoint procedures.
“I think we’ve already proven that it works,” Cook said. “The attraction of resources and the flavor and spirit of Columbia can really seal the deal” as a destination for medical services.
Treece also asked the task force to keep an eye on the availability of local medical services for the pet patients that receive treatment and services at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.