Health care is undergoing a process of internationalization, accelerated by information technology (IT) and new communications media. Growing numbers of patients are now seeking planned medical treatment in countries other than their home countries. This represents an export of a service and has led to what is called medical tourism. Medical tourism, defined as travel for the purpose of seeking elective health care (Reed, 2008), has rapidly become a prosperous industry. Our thesis is that increased market orientation can improve the service quality provided to patients. It is primarily, but not exclusively, the private hospitals that can increase their market orientation. International marketing, not least via the Internet, can increase the number of patients seeking international health care.
The aim of the study has been to comparatively interpret hospitals in different countries along two dimensions. We have chosen degree of market orientation and degree of specialization as factors distinguishing hospitals in different regions of the world. Furthermore, the study compares differences between public and private ownership regarding the level of service offered to patients. In this growing global industry, "people travel often long distances to overseas countries to obtain medical, dental and surgical care" (Connell, 2006). IT has an increasingly important role to play in the management and marketing of modern enterprises (Bates & Gawande, 2003; Bhunia, 2005; Borg, 1996, 2006, 2009). Previous research has underlined the role of IT within health care (Goh, Gao, & Agarwal, 2011; Lin, Lin, & Roan, 2012; Pai & Huang, 2011). Medical tourism is often coordinated and promoted through IT-based service solutions. These include logistics, networks, patient information, and Internet-based marketing.