US Medical tourism program launches in San Diego

16:50  09 november  2017
16:50  09 november  2017 Source:   Tribune News Service

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SAN DIEGO - In the heart of San Diego's biomedical community, in a tourist-friendly setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean, civic leaders officially kicked off a program to attract wealthy patients and their families.

DestinationCare San Diego unites four local health care systems along with the San Diego Tourism Authority to market the region.

The message is that San Diego has a rare combination of a tourist-friendly climate, advanced research expertise in critical areas such as genomics, and excellent clinical care. So while patients are cared for, their friends and family members can enjoy all San Diego County has to offer.

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The announcement was made Monday at the Worth Health Summit, held at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, the kind of high-end resort affluent travelers frequent.

Speaking were Joe Terzi, the tourism authority's president and CEO, and Malin Burnham, a veteran philanthropist who provided $100,000 to get the program off the ground. The tourism authority is also supplying funding.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer endorsed the initiative in a brief appearance.

The summit included a presentation by genomic pioneer J. Craig Venter, whose enterprises include Human Longevity, a La Jolla company that offers in-depth health examinations with the newest technologies.

UC San Diego Health System, Scripps Health, Sharp Healthcare and Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego constitute the program's four anchors. It's expected that other quality health care providers will be added, Terzi said.

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But first, the program has to get off the ground.

"The goal has been to start with this nucleus, because they are the primary (health care) institutions in the San Diego, " Terzi said. "So once we start to move out, there is a discussion about where do we extend, and how far. Because we want the treatment to be rated very highly."

Rankings by U.S. News & World Report will guide addition of other institutions, Terzi said.

Advanced biomedical centers such as Human Longevity are "absolutely" on the list to be included, Terzi said.

The goal is to start with hospitals that offer the best care for the sick, and then to extend to programs such as Human Longevity, which are more concerned with helping people live a long and healthy life by detecting problems early on, he said.

DestinationCare San Diego is meant to become self-sustaining, Terzi said. Options to be considered include commissions from hotels on visiting patients, payments from hospitals, or other sources.

"But right now we have identified the money necessary to get to the second year. After that we'll decide what the best approach is."

Burnham said he got involved in the project because it would be good for San Diego. Getting the leaders of the four hospital systems together was challenging, he said, because repeated attempts at scheduling failed.

Then Burnham hit on the idea of inviting them to dinner at his house.

"Finally, we agreed on a date, and I will tell you that the meeting was perfect," Burnham said. "Everyone was cooperative."

At that meeting, each leader agreed to assign a senior executive to represent their organization, he said.

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