Medical tourism in practice

Las Vegas could learn a thing or two from a small town in Arizona

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

Unless you’ve been comatose, you’ve probably heard by now plenty about the concept of medical tourism in Las Vegas. It’s the talk of the town, given our clinics, attractions, tourist access and climate.

Other places like it, too, and it’s a concept you can see at work just down the highway from here — in Goodyear, a suburb southwest of Phoenix.

Goodyear is a small community that hasn’t yet been consumed by Phoenix. There’s a spring training baseball stadium and a graveyard for old commercial jets, but the area remains buffered by agriculture and open space.

Sitting quietly just off its Interstate 10 exit is the bright and modern Western Regional Medical Center operated by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. It opened in late 2008, is the organization’s fourth hospital and provides integrated care — which means treatment of the “whole person.”

As evidenced by the number of Southern Nevadans who have been treated in Goodyear, Cancer Treatment Centers has nailed the medical tourism formula.

“People are willing to travel if it’s going to save their life,” said Tiffany Jenkins, a Cancer Treatment Centers spokeswoman.

And travel they do. A few Las Vegans are receiving treatment there now.

Cancer Treatment Centers arranges patients’ schedules and picks them up at the airport. The center even provides plane tickets for many patients (depending on insurance, of course).

The credentials and experience of the physicians, specialists and other staff members are outstanding. And there are other benefits:

Cancer Treatment Centers offers on-site lodging. Patients and families can stay in comfortable guest rooms for less than $50 a night. The company also has negotiated discounts with nearby hotels.

While all hospitals say they focus on food, Cancer Treatment Centers actually has an executive chef trained by the Culinary Institute of America. Ninety percent of the center’s produce and dairy is organic, as is all of its meat. The fish is fresh caught. The medical center is currently pursuing a plan to plant a 20-acre farm in an adjacent field to grow organic produce.

“We’re going to be the only hospital in the country to set it up this way,” Jenkins said.

Nutrition is critical because malnourishment accounts for more than 40 percent of cancer-related deaths, she said.

And Cancer Treatment Centers pays heed to things that may seem little but aren’t. Yes, the center has a lab and pharmacy on site. But because appearance is key to self-confidence and therefore survival, there also is a hair salon and spa for manicures and pedicures.

Cancer Treatment Centers makes it much easier to go through something that is very hard. And the center makes it as convenient for patients from Las Vegas, or anywhere else, to be treated as it does for Phoenix residents.

That’s what medical tourism is all about.

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  1. Since globally we only excel at cancer therapy, that is the obvious area to focus on for medical tourism. It should be successful and have the least competition.