Clinics in Poland are successfully targeting international patients

 

The Polish inbound medical tourism market is very promising.

The country is the fastest developing country in Central and Eastern Europe and claims a leading position in the region. According to a report published by the Poland-focused Institute of Medical Tourism and Tourism Development, 155,000 patients from abroad visited Poland in 2016, mostly for dental treatment, cosmetic and plastic surgery and health spa treatment.

The geographically central location of Poland in Europe, the multi-lingual culture and the lower healthcare treatment costs in the country attract international patients from Western Europe (including Germany, Scandinavia and the UK) and the former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Poland is also now being promoted as a destination where there is easy access to specialists, supported by a high quality of healthcare service. 

Given these dynamics, the medical tourism sector in Poland is developing, and I‘m seeing an increasing number of Polish medical centres and clinics eager to reach out to patients in foreign markets.

The problem, more often than not, is that the Managing Directors and marketing departments of such businesses think that it‘s enough to translate the website into a few foreign languages and that international patients will come. 

Wrong!

Without the right strategy and business plan to attract medical tourists, this approach is destined to fail.  Polish medical facilities wanting to successfully target foreign patients must rethink their actions and act comprehensively in four dimensions:

  1. Understand and define the foreign markets which they plan to develop.
  2. Plan a suitably distinguished medical offer.
  3. Invest in appropriate marketing and promotional tools.
  4. Implement an effective foreign patient service process in the facility.

Case studies of success

In Poland there are examples of medical clinics where this four-pronged strategy has been successfully implemented.  The following case studies show how to gain measurable benefits from international patients, year after year.

1.    DENTestetica Dental Clinic: knowing and defining foreign markets

Before translating your website in the hope of attracting foreign patients, it‘s important to know and define the particular key markets from which you will acquire patients.

For example, DENTestetica Dental Clinic in Krakow has planned an entire strategy just for the Norwegian market. They created a website dedicated to Norwegians (using a Norwegian domain name), which is not a faithful copy of their home site directed at the Polish patient. This approach allowed the clinic to better use SEO and SEM on the target Norwegian market. The clinic has also invested in Norwegian speaking staff and has opened a representative office in Norway. Such a specific market focus has allowed for a very targeted investment, with a refined patient service process adapted to this particular market.  The clinic now achieves 60% of its income from Norwegian patients.

2.    Carolina Medical Center: a distinguished medical offer

A frequent mistake made by medical facilities in Poland is attempting to sell all treatments offered in a given facility, bundled into a general description.  This is ultimately meaningless. Take for example "orthopedic treatments". What does orthopedic surgery mean for a patient? Why does he or she have to come to the clinic? What are these types of treatments? How are they delivered? What are their risks and success rates?

A great example of how to avoid generalising about treatments is the approach taken by the Carolina Medical Center in Warsaw. The clinic, which for years has been successfully targeting foreign markets, consistently creates full packages of solutions for specific health issues, along with rehabilitation.  It also heavily promotes its specific flagship and unique treatments, of which it is the most proud, for example, minimally invasive endoscopic spinal surgery. Promoting these specific treatments clearly distinguishes Carolina Medical Center from the competition. Offering patients an individual, free consultation to those qualifying for these complicated treatments has allowed the clinic to successfully acquire patients from the UK market.

3.    KCM Clinic: investing in appropriate marketing tools

KCM Clinic, in Jelenia Góra, is located outside the main educational centres, in the mountains. It has developed a competitive advantage via well managed communications with the patient, an individualised approach to treatment, and a full concierge service.  The clinic is an excellent example of a "boutique" strategy, in which the patient is treated individually and treatments are delivered according to their wishes, even if it‘s a non-standard solution. The clinic is also in co-operation with the surrounding and numerous historic restored castles, offering a unique accommodation experience for patients and their guests.

For several years KCM Clinic has also invested in digital marketing, basing its strategy around use of social media, including a Youtube channel and a Facebook group for patients. For example, they manage an international closed Facebook group (Weight Loss Surgery Poland), where patients share their experiences with new foreign patients. The group today has more than 900 members.

4.    Implementing effective foreign patient service processes

Large clinics such as Dentestetica and Carolina Medical Center have dedicated International Patient Coordinators on their staff. Even the small and boutique-positioned KCM Clinic has a permanent staff of 5-6 people dedicated only to supporting foreign patients.

Why such an investment?  Because, while the service provided to a foreign patient during the treatment isn‘t fundamentally different from that of a Polish client, it is the "before" and "after" service processes that are key to attracting international medical travellers.

Not only should there be staff at the clinic proficient in an appropriate foreign language to be able to communicate on a medical level with the patient; they should also be sympathetic to any cultural differences.  Examples of before and after services necessary to attract foreign patients are:

"Before" treatment services "After" treatment services
Communication with the patient Introduction and analysis of patient satisfaction questionnaires
Free consultation Patient reference (texts and recordings)
Setting an individual plan and date of treatment Medical documentation in English
Creating promotional packages Full testing on CD or pen drive
Offering additional packages for accompanying persons (aesthetic medicine, tourism, etc) Correspondence with the patient
Booking of airline tickets Promotional offers in the future
Hotel reservation
Pickup from the airport

There are still only a handful of medical facilities in Poland who know the  "what" to sell, the "who" to sell it to, and at what price.  There are also very few dedicated foreign patient coordinators.  Everything is ahead of us!

About the Author

Dr Magdalena Rutkowska, M.D is a Doctor of Medicine by profession, with over 18 years of managerial and executive experience in healthcare and pharma business.  Over the last 6 years she has led the creation and development of the medical tourism market in Poland and the promotion of it internationally, including the UK, USA, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.  She is President of Medical Travel Partner, a medical travel consultancy that assisted over 1,000 patients from abroad to come to Poland.
[email protected]

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