Ileana Thomas (center), CEO of Medical Services Corp., with husband Jeff Thomas, Director of Operations and daughter Ivette Kronour: Sales Representative.
James Diana, Contributing Writer. March 13th 2015, 7:30AM EST
Visit any Orlando theme park, and without fail, you'll see groups of South American teens with seemingly endless energy.
And keeping the pep in their step is the work of entrepreneur, Ileana Thomas, 59. "People pay a lot of money to come here on vacation, and the last thing you want is to get sick while you're out, " said Thomas, CEO and President of Medical Services Corp, which directs local health care personnel to the hotel rooms and vacation homes of sick tourists visiting Orlando, Miami and New York.
Although it caters primarily to the South American tour group market, the goal is to work directly with Orlando hotels and to find investors to help open a 24-hour clinic in the Disney/Universal theme park area. The clinic "is intended to cater to the South American, Brazilian, Argentinean market place, just because of the amount of tourism and business coming in from South America," said Jeff Thomas, Director of Operations and Ileana's husband. Before Medical Services Corp.'s inception, Ileana Thomas ran a travel company, International Tour Group, Inc. until 2010. The idea for Medical Services Corp. came from the South American travel agents she worked with and the on-going need for medical services for their clients. Being fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish, she seized the opportunity and Medical Services Corp. was born. The firm works as part of the insurance plan that travel agencies offer to their traveling customers. Prices vary based on group size, but an individual tourist typically pays $395 per hotel visit. When Medical Services Corp. started, the travel agents insisted that their insurers used it as part of their package. This remains the marketing strategy of Medical Services Corp., Thomas said. "I had been their travel agency here in Orlando for so many years, so they trust me."
Thomas started her firm for less than $10,000 and in 2014, her company pulled in $500,000 in revenue, up from $433,000 in 2013 and $368,000 in 2012. In 2014, she was named a Success Story Honoree by the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund and was invited to the Governors mansion as well. One of the challenges Medical Services Corp. now faces is having enough on-call medical personnel in its database. The firm has 18 independent contractor doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and wants to add more. "A number of the medical practitioners are bilingual, but as most of Medical Services Corp.'s clients speak basic English anyway, the dispatchers translate on an as needed basis", Thomas said. Having developed a presence with tour group travel, Thomas now aims to work directly with hotels. However, she'll face competition, as several companies already offer this service locally, but working in her favor is the fact that the need for such services continues to grow in the dynamic healthcare marketplace.
"As 2015 Orlando tourism numbers are expected to continue the record year-on-year growth of the last five years, associated services will benefit accordingly," said Stewart Hill, Evok advertising's vice president of strategic planning and travel industry specialist. "With visitors often spending years to save for their dream vacation, the possibility of getting sick is a very serious threat to the enjoyment of their trip. Finding an emergency room or available doctor in a strange town is difficult, time consuming and stressful, so options that provide an on-call in-room service can be a viable alternative for non-emergency situations." However, he added that travelers should be aware that these services typically expect a credit card payment upfront, and costs are per person examined, not per room visit, so it's a good idea to confirm pricing ahead of time and check whether you're covered by your health or travel insurance.
Meanwhile, Thomas said her most memorable "aha" business moment was when she got her first patient call for help. That's when she believed her business had a chance of success. All of her business now is generated from referrals, which she considers her most impressive business statistic. Her advice for other entrepreneurs: "Don't let fear of failure hold you back - go for your vision, regardless of any apprehension. Further, she likes helping foreign travelers enjoy their trip with as little downtime as possible: "To be able to get them back on their feet, it just feels good."
Visit to the Governor's Mansion
HBIF - Success Story Award 2014
“Ileana and MSC provides attention to detail and a very high level of client satisfaction. Their professionalism, courtesy and follow up is exemplary. Because I've known her for 25 years, a solid level of trust and friendship has occurred and it's not uncommon that I recommend her to the insurance companies that sell to us. I'm totally confident that she will handle any new clients the very same way she handles our business”.
Mrs. Penha, Agency Owner / President, Tia Penha Travel; Brazil
“MSC always delivers quick, knowledge medical care to my groups”
Agency Owner; Brazil
“The right services, right now. Makes my job a lot easier”
Tour Guide; Argentina
“Quite simply......peace of mind. When any member of my tour group gets sick and needs medical attention - MSC has always been very prompt to assist. I can rest assured, when explaining the medical portion of the travel insurance to my clients, I can say with complete confidence, that MSC will deliver the right service promptly. As I've personally known Ileana long before MSC, (when she was in the travel business herself), she has always demonstrated GREAT customer satisfaction as a tour operator to my travelers. Now she delivers that same attention with MSC.”
Mrs. Zerinha, Agency Owner / President, Tia Zerinha Travel; Brazil
“I specifically requested that MSC deliver our services versus the company we were sent last year”
Agency Owner; Mexico
“Professional, responsive and trustworthy”
Hotel Concierge, Orlando