Russians drive increase in Finnish medical tourism

 

The demand for Finnish health services from Russian visitors has grown rapidly in recent years and the market is expected to triple in numbers by the end of this decade.

Marco Roth of FinnMedi Oy explains, “The demand for health services is growing together with an increasing number of tourists. In 2011, 12,000 visitors spent money on medical services or medicines. Russian health tourists choose Finnish health services because of their high quality, safety and competitive price. In addition to the geographic proximity, fast access to care is also valued. Most places also have health services available in Russian.”

FinnMedi is developing a health and wellness cluster as it already has links to university hospitals, life science companies, as well as public and venture capital funding; it also offers advice to start-up health companies.

Finnish hospitals and health care service providers offering medical care have set up Health Care Finland to attract more customers from Russia. Hospitals offer specialist cancer care, orthopaedic treatment, cardiology, joint replacement and fertility treatment.

Norlandia Care has a patient hotel for self-sufficient patients, relatives and ordinary hotel guests to stay. Norlandia Care is the largest operator of patient hotels in the Nordic Region. It offers healthy and interesting food based on a philosophy that promotes proper nutrition. The one in the city of Tampere has 130 rooms and is near several hospitals.

In 2011, Russian visitors to Finland spent EUR 670 million on products and EUR 220 million on services, of which EUR 15 million went on health care. Hospital specialists and directors in the South Karelia region of eastern Finland have been receiving an increasing number of email enquiries. The services with the biggest demand are cancer treatment, surgery and dental care.

Memira, the market leader in the field of refractive eye surgery in northern Europe, is opening its first clinic in Finland. The clinic in the city of Vaasa on Finland’s western coast was selected due to its Finnish and Swedish speaking population and good economic situation. Memira has 50 eye clinics in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Memira is investing about EUR 1.2 million in the new clinic in Vaasa which is expected to open in October or November this year. The company is also looking for suitable premises in some other cities in Finland. Memira, carries out 40,000 surgical eye treatments annually in the Nordic countries, covering everything from eye laser to intraocular surgery.

Finland’s long experience of trade in Northern Europe, combined with its historical and cultural ties to neighbouring countries, makes it a business gateway to Russia. Over 90% of Finns under thirty speak English, while Swedish is Finland’s second official language in addition to Finnish. Many Finns also speak Russian.

Finnish travel companies are establishing a presence in the Russian social media as a way of attracting more Russian visitors. Finnish spas, ski resorts and cities have joined Vkontakt (VK), which is similar to Facebook and the largest European social network with more than a 100 million active users. Russians are among the most active user of social media in Europe. Social media is especially important for Russians, according to Miikka Raulo of Jyväskylä Innovation. He believes that social media is better suited to serving Russian customers than traditional advertising.

According to Invest in Finland, Finland’s public healthcare system is a unique and comprehensive ecosystem. Primary healthcare and secondary care are networked into a comprehensive system that includes central and university hospitals as well as healthcare centres.

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