Out of the Box|22/09/2011

You don’t know Jack (Kasarda)!

There are some people who make such a profound impact on your life that you wonder what your life would be like if you had never met them, and for me, Dr John (Jack) Kasarda is that person.

Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live NextHe is a mentor and a mensch, and he changed my life and my way of thinking about medical travel.

First meet Jack. He is the Director of the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and Kenan Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also the the creator of the “Aerotropolis” concept, which defines the roles of aviation and airports in shaping 21st century business location, urban competitiveness and economic growth.

Earlier this year, Dr Kasarda and co-author Greg Lindsay, released “Aerotropolis — The Way We’ll Live Next”. The book, expertly crafted by Greg Lindsay, takes us around the world to see how companies and countries that embrace speed, win. It also features a section entitled Medical Leave that looks at medical tourism and healthcare globalization.

While reading the book, I was introduced to ‘Kasarda’s Law’, which basically says the more people communicate electronically the more they physically travel. At first you think, that can’t be right. Phones, internet, tele-presence should reduce our need to be physically present, but the numbers apparently don’t bear that out, according to Professor Kasarda.

As I continued reading, I thought about this and its relation to medical travel and doctor engagement and I thought “Bingo”, Jack is spot on. Let me explain.

What is the one thing patients want from their doctor? Access. What is the one thing they don’t get? Access. It’s hard to communicate with doctors, because they are protected. Their time is too valuable to handle calls and write emails, but that’s exactly what patients want. And I have found that doctors who communicate with patients via email, skype and phone, tend to have more patients, and more loyal patients.

Dr John Kasarda

Dr John Kasarda

I remember when I was working at Bumrungrad, there was a lady by the name of June Flowers, who wrote the hospital looking for information on spine surgery. She lived in the US, was uninsured, had just seen the 60 Minutes segment on Bumrungrad, and wanted to see what we could do for her.

We received her query and reviewed it with Dr Nanthadej Hiranyasthiti, a spine surgeon, who did a most unusual thing. He called June, long distance, and told her “I can help you. I’ve performed this surgery hundreds of times. Let’s get you back on your feet pain free.”

That’s all it took. June had never traveled outside the US before, didn’t have a passport, and had to scrape together savings for the trip, but she got on a plane and traveled 10,000 miles to come Bangkok to have surgery with Dr Nanthadej. He made the connection and she made the journey.

That story was written up in US press, and the most remarkable part of the story was not the cost savings ($5000 vs $50,000), it was the fact that Dr Nanthadej picked up the phone and gave June a call…on his dime and his time.

As a consultant, I visit hospitals that are trying to lure foreign patients and are spending tens of thousands of dollars on marketing and call centers and google ads, but they forget that the thing patients want most is access to a doctor that will do exactly what Dr Nanthadej did.  Talk to them.

Accessibility creates connectivity. Jack taught me that.

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