PRICE, but particularly a good ratio between price and quality of medical treatment, is what speaks in favour of so-called medical tourism developing here – at least that is what Slovak doctors and representatives of medical and aesthetic facilities in Slovakia say. But this alone has not turned Slovakia into a popular destination for medical tourism, as most Slovak health-care facilities do not narrow their focus to only this particular market segment. Nevertheless, foreigners living in Slovakia or Slovaks returning from stays abroad tend to use the services of private medical and aesthetic centres.
“The motivation of a person towards medical tourism is often financial,” Renáta Mihályová, managing director of Bratislava-based Medissimo, a private hospital and medical clinic, told The Slovak Spectator. She added that favourable prices in Slovakia make it an affordable destination to seek quality medical care for a wide range of people. “But an important fact is that our doctors have a good reputation in the world. Many of them had settled abroad or worked abroad for a certain period of time and a person who is deciding [whether to undergo medical treatment] must have certainty and trust in his or her doctor.”
Medissimo, which emerged as a greenfield project to provide comprehensive private health care in 2009, does not consider itself a typical medical tourism facility as its philosophy is to be a good hospital and clinic for those seeking modern and quality diagnostic services and medical treatment. Mihályová stated that Medissimo provides medical care at the same high standard as other private European clinics and hospitals and that standard is welcomed by visiting tourists as well as expats from the diplomatic and business communities living here.
“Our patients are especially interested in treatment and therapy at a scheduled time, without waiting, in a nice environment with a pro-patient attitude,” Mihályová said, adding that thanks to the time Medissimo’s doctors have spent at health-care facilities in the US and in other parts of Europe they communicate well in several foreign languages.
Mihályová said that those who come to Medissimo include those who have urgent medical needs but also patients who return from places such as the US, India, Spain, Germany and Sweden and that no particular country prevails. Medissimo also cooperates with foreign health insurance companies.
Medissimo is following current trends in medical care and focuses more on short-term diagnostic or therapeutic stays, one-day outpatient surgeries, and physiotherapeutic stays after more demanding surgery.
“The trend shows that people are beginning to value their health more and are willing to invest in prevention and physiotherapy,” Mihályová stated. “But we are also registering interest in plastic and aesthetic surgery from people from neighbouring countries.”
Alexandra Semanová from Ústav Lekárskej Kozmetiky (ÚLK), the Institute of Medical Cosmetics, told The Slovak Spectator that her institute, one of the first specialised centres for health, beauty and anti-aging procedures in Slovakia, has found considerable interest in the treatments it offers.
“We register interest especially by [persons from] neighbouring Austria, followed by Slovaks who live on a long-term basis abroad, especially in England, France and Italy,” Semanová stated.
Semanová said Hungarians are not frequent patients due to an extensive network of similar centres in the northern part of Hungary as well as in Budapest, adding that Austrians are interested in the whole spectrum of services and treatments offered by ÚLK. While some individuals first try only one service and order others only after they are satisfied with the treatment, others undertake several treatments at one session. Semanová said the highest interest is in ÚLK’s various body programmes (such as slimming programmes and cellulite treatment) and dermatological treatments (botulinum toxin applications to reduce wrinkles, and laser surgery) but added that people from the United Kingdom, France and Italy are also interested in plastic surgery – breast surgery or rhinoplasty (nose surgery) – liposuction and facelifts.
Semanová told The Slovak Spectator that recommendations from acquaintances, information on the internet, as well as a good price, especially for plastic-aesthetic surgery, are among the reasons why individuals seek out ÚLK.
“The price for comparable services of the quality offered by ÚLK is more expensive abroad,” said Semanová, adding that it is possible to find cheaper services in some other countries but the quality is also lower.
Is dental tourism next?
“Prices of dental treatments in Slovakia are somewhere at one-third or one-quarter of the prices in western Europe,” Alexander Schill, founder of the private Schill Dental Clinic, told The Slovak Spectator, explaining that the costs of materials and technologies used in Slovakia are basically the same as those abroad but that there is a significant difference in the salaries of dentists and nurses in Slovakia compared to western Europe.
Though there may be some exceptions, Slovakia is generally not thought of as a destination for dental tourism.
“Dental tourism works especially in Hungary, where it has a tradition,” Schill said. “Dentists in Hungary – even during the previous communist regime – could have private practices. They were prepared for dental tourism much earlier.”
Schill also pointed out that that being successful in medical or dental tourism is not only about receiving proper treatment. It also requires other well-functioning tourism services such as hotels and restaurants, as well as a well-developed business concept in the areas of logistics and marketing.
12. Sep 2011 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková