The seventh edition of Health Tourism Industry conference ended yesterday; has been the biggest European event about medical tourism.
HTI conference, which started onthe 28th of February, hosted, like every year, many international opinion leaders ofthis emerging sector. An intense program of meetings and conferences along three days.
In thiscontext, the panel “Croatian Clinics: an emerging EU brand” aimed at differentiating Croatia from a purely dental care medical tourism destination. Indeed it offers several excellence centres in advanced specialization as orthopaedics or spinal surgery. The panel included specialist doctors, general managers of some hospitals and clinics like Ognjen Bagatin, Nikola Cicak, Marinko Rade as well as experts in business development from Israel and Italy.
Italy was represented by Valeria Albertin, Destination Management Advisor in medical tourism and Partner and Sales Director of Intercare, theexhibition which, from May 25 to 27, will bring together, for the first time in Milan, patients, doctors, facilitators and tour operators, to promote the exchange among countries and institutions and facilitate trade agreements among different international subjects .
During the panel, Valeria Albertin was interviewed by the moderator:
–What do you think Croatia needs to do (exactly) to position itself as a great medical tourism destination?
“I believe that Croatia is already a very good example of public and private cooperation in the health sector, with Medical Tourism included in the strategic priorities to develop a steady flow of tourism outside peak periods. However, at least in Italy, Croatia is mostly perceived as a low cost medical tourism destination. With many efforts dedicated to improving the image and the tourism offer of Croatia, image of medical offer should also improve, by shedding the “low cost” etiquette in favour of “great value2, by highlighting the various medical excellences and by building a combined luxury offer of clinics, hotels and services. In this path it is important to keep on growing as an integrated system and a clear and centralized strategy from the Government is a good start. Croatia needs to invest in communication in order to give a new medical tourism image, not only as a dentistry low cost destination but above all specialized and high quality clinics. It would probably necessary, on one side the support from the Government creating an action plan for the development of health tourism together with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism promoting the medical specialties of Croatia, on the other to invite foreign doctors to do an educational for visit the Croatian clinics. It’s could an improvement the creation of destination cooperation that focus on health (ex. Accommodation with hotels specialized in health services, catering, etc) It’s also important to improving the gaps in tourism as for ex. Recreation, shopping, sport, flights, etc.”
-What trends do you expect in next few years for Clinics in Croatia?
“I can see that many Croatia is starting to move away from the mostly dental model. I expect competitive prices to be still a mainstay and a key attraction factor in the next few years but with a growing differentiation in terms of specialties and targets.”
-How can you measure and compare a quality of medical services in Croatia and other top destination clinics (like Switzerland, Germany, Austria)?
“This is a key point not only for Croatia, but for the medical tourism market as a whole. With the globalization of health it is important to assure uniform medical standards at least among EU countries. Identifying and promoting a recognized and widespread certification method should be forefront for all EU States. JCI is already widespread and is, for example, the basis on which Lombardy Region has built the criteria for private hospitals to be part of the National Health System. I think that ISO is also working on a certification standard. Only a certification method recognized by clinics, government and patients could be the solution to transparently compare quality across states and specialties.”
-Would that be equipment, education, hospitality or maybe a medical expertise?
“When it comes to quality of medical treatment I think that it is a combination of everything. Of course expertise of doctors is the main point, with all that comes in terms of training and updating. But also advanced equipment and treatments are important and, after all, if you are travelling privately and spending from your pocket quite a large amount of money, you also expect that the hospitality part is on a par with a very good hotel. Also we should not forget accessibility, which means airports, trains or highways, and availability of lodging and assistance for post hospital stays. More and more we are talking of an integrated system.”
-What is your vision of Medical Tourism in Croatia considering Program 2020, and Medical Tourism as one of the key Tourism products by 2020?
“I think that it is important that Medical Tourism, though still a fraction of the Tourism business, is included in the Program. It is a very good sign that it is in the strategy of Croatian Government and that Health and Tourism Ministry are set to work together, even if the impact is mostly on Private Clinics. Medical Tourism is a good opportunity to grow a National Health System as a whole, providing more resources, but also more challenges for doctors and facilities to stay up to date and compete in an increasingly intensive scenario. In the end this will bring benefits to Croatian people by having better hospitals.”
-What do you think needs to be done for this to happen?
“It requires a strong engagement from the authorities and a commitment from health providers in starting development and investment projects on a large scale. New concepts should also be developed in terms of more integrated facilities, with concierge desks and VIP rooms and areas, networking efforts to feed patients from abroad and communication to drive a change in perception.”
Commitment which, hopefully, will also start in Italy thanks to Intercare.