By Elizabeth Ziemba, President, Medical Tourism Training, Inc.

It should be fun working with people from around the globe but coordinating time zones can be confusing and lead to embarrassing missteps. Here are some suggestions for using your time wisely.

“What time is it where you are?”

Scheduling a call between two people in distant countries can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. When one is a busy surgeon, it can be near impossible. Before choosing a time that works for you, check out the time zone where the other person is located and suggest times that make sense for both of you.


There are a number of web sites and applications that can help you figure out the time differences. For example, The World Clock,  has features to convert time zones, calculate which day it is or will be, and can be added to your tool bar for added convenience to ensure you are calling on the right date and time. Remember to be sensitive to religious and other holidays. Web sites such as A Global World and Earth Calendar will prevent you from making scheduling mistakes like setting up a conference call to Mexico City on May 5th.


For regularly scheduled calls to individuals in different time zones, plan to rotate the schedule so that you are not always calling during the other person’s dinner time, very early in the morning, or late at night. Take turns being inconvenienced so that your calls will be welcomed discussions instead of irritating interruptions.

“I can’t believe you are awake”

Doing business globally does not require that you respond to emails 24/7. Use an email responder that clearly states your business hours and your time zone. Set a policy about the proper response time to emails generally within 1 to 2 business days, state it in your auto responder, and then do what your policy says you will do.


Put time differences to work for you by leveraging when emails are delivered. Responding to an email so that it is waiting for the person first thing in the morning is smart customer service. Want guidance about setting email policies for your business? Our “Email Etiquette – Netiquette” course will help you utilize email to save time and increase your efficiency.

“What did you say?”

Whether talking on the phone or writing emails and letters, communicating with individuals whose first language is different from yours presents challenges that go beyond vocabulary and grammar. The medical profession has its own distinct vocabulary and there is a certain level of knowledge that medical tourism professionals should possess for their own credibility especially when speaking with clinicians. If you don’t have a medical or clinical background, perhaps Basic Medical Terminology can deliver the knowledge you need to speak the lingo.


English is the generally accepted language of business but even for those individuals for whom English is a first language, accents can be barriers to understanding. Begin the conversation with non-business pleasantries such as questions about family or sports. A slow start not only allows rapport to be built but also gives each person the opportunity to adjust to the tone and pace of the language.


When talking with individuals who are not speaking in their native language, keep in mind that proficiency impacts participation. Individuals who are unsure or self-conscious about their language skills may be quieter on the telephone or in person, conveying the wrong message about their interest in the client.


Want help breaking down communication barriers in your business transactions? Sign up for our Telephone Skills course.

Rude or Direct?

Even without language barriers, cultural barriers impact our communications. For example, thanking people before they have done anything substantive can be interpreted as polite or wishy- washy. Telling someone, “Please send me your medical records by 5 PM on Friday” may be direct or rude. If someone sent that message to you in an email, how would you interpret it?


Medical Tourism Training offers a course on Cross-Cultural differences to help you navigate issues like this one to ensure that your medical tourism business is meeting the needs of its customers.


Do you have a funny or frustrating time zone story? Look for us on Facebook and share your stories! Want to expand your knowledge and skills to grow your business? Register for our courses today at

Copyright © 2015 by Medical Tourism Training, Inc. Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Proprietary Information: All rights reserved. No part of thisdocument may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from Medical Tourism Training.

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Elizabeth Ziemba

Elizabeth Ziemba

President at Medical Tourism Training
With a diverse background in public health, law and business, Elizabeth brings a unique set of skills and experience to Medical Tourism Training with services including assessment tools, online and onsite training, workshops, and consulting services for governments, providers, facilitators, associations and others involved in medical travel.