For the loser now, will be later to win, sings Bob Dylan in his song The Times They Are a-Changin‘ and that part of the lyrics and the name of the song itself portray the current situation so very well. The world after the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a stage when large and small polyclinics, as well as other types of health care institutions from the private sector, all have the same starting point. In the first half of March 2020, when we started staying at home, many large health clinics had to lay off their staff or solve the problem of patient shortages otherwise. Smaller clinics faced the same problem. Fast forward two months and we come to May, when Europe was slowly going back to the (new) way things were, workers were returning to their jobs, shops were opening their doors to more and more customers, and cafes and restaurants were adapting to the new way of doing business. What about dentists, orthopedists, dermatologists, medical and cosmetic treatments…? Most of them started working at the beginning of May, but when will they be able to return to the volume of work which earns the healthcare industry in Croatia around 300 million euros and according to some there is potential for more than a billion euros in annual turnover? If they are reading this, then they are already late.
Think locally, act globally
In this period, where we all now start from the same point a small dental practice (e.g.) that during the crisis properly communicated with its patients via phone, e-mail and particularly through social networks, by smartly investing in digital marketing tools, may increase their patient base and from a local office become a regional one, with a healthy increase in revenue and an increase in the number of employees. If this seems unrealistic to you, remember the financial crisis of 2008 when many companies from the SME spectrum had closed, but it was the dental industry that made the biggest leap in the year after the crisis. There was a high increase in large dental clinics focused on dental tourism. What can large polyclinics do now? They certainly need to let their existing patients and their target audience know that they are open again and that the hygiene and safety criteria are at the highest level.
European Health Destination #1
According to the website statista.com, in 2018 as many as 53% of EU citizens stated to be willing to travel to another country for medical procedures which are more expensive in their country or which they consider to be performed at an unsatisfyingly level of quality. Unfortunately for all those who live off health tourism, the year 2020 probably brings us different statistics, i.e. lower number of people will dare to travel looking for cheaper health care.
But not everything is lost.
One of the main criteria for health travellers has become safety, i.e. the question: “Is the place where I am travelling to safe?” People who decide to travel will look for “COVID-19 safe” destinations, hotels and clinics and the new standard will be greater distance, more personalized treatments in a smaller environment and the possibility of staying in large spaces.
This creates an opportunity for health (poly)clinics, not only in Croatia but also in the region, to present and organize themselves as precisely such destinations, for guests from Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Germany and other countries that have already opened, or will open their borders soon. In addition to natural attractions, quality health services and competitive prices accompanied by introduction of high standards of hygiene and safety, I believe this crisis can serve as a catalyst for long-term desirable and sustainable business strategies in health tourism.