By Bob Schaper
ROCKFORD - You may never have heard of medical tourism, but that could change in coming months. It's a multi-billion-dollar business in which patients leave home to seek health care in other parts of the country or the world.
One organization here in Rockford hopes to cash in on the growing trend.
Leaders from all three Rockford hospitals and the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford met last week at the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to launch the program. David Preece, president and CEO of the Bureau, says there's no reason Rockford can't attract its own medical tourists. "In most conversations, medical tourism means people leaving the United States to go outside the country for health care services, often at a cost far lower than they can be provided here."
But Preece thinks he can do the same thing on a smaller, more local scale. The concept being to use the wonderful range of health care services and facilities that we have here in the region to bring people here.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, is also involved in the effort. He says the next step is to coordinate with the hospitals' marketing departments to come up with a unified message. "In health care we've got a story to tell because we know there's a lot of health care that goes to Madison or Mayo or Chicago," he says.
Preece says he came up with the idea while working in Hawaii. He saw lots of visitors come from the Far East to take advantage of the state's medical services.
He hopes that's something he'll see again soon here in Rockford.