Medical tourism

Medical tourism can be defined as the process of traveling outside the country of residence for the purpose of receiving medical care. Growth in the popularity of medical tourism has captured the attention of policy-makers, researchers and the media. Originally, the term referred to the travel of patients from less developed countries to developed nations in pursuit of the treatments not available in their homeland.

Today we are experiencing shifts in patient mobility, as people travel from richer to less-developed countries in order to access health services. Such shifts is mostly driven by the relative low-cost of treatments in less developed nations, the availability of inexpensive flights and increased marketing and online consumer information about the availability of medical services. What really justifiesthe the word "tourism" in medical tourism concept is that people often stay in the foreign country after the medical procedure. Travelers can thus take advantage of their visit by sightseeing, taking day trips or participating in any other traditional tourism activities.

Medical tourism experts have been saying for some time that Croatia has the potential to be one of the top ten countries in the world in the industry of medical tourism within ten years. It also seems that the message is spreading as the New York Times, in its international publication recently, talks of a new focus in tourism excellence in the Adriatic country famous for its pristine coast and more than 1,000 islands.

Croatia, and especially its capital Zagreb, has recently stood out on the European health tourism map. Qualified medical staff, hospitals and polyclinics, with state-of-the-art equipment, guarantees excellent health service. Most local medical specialists gained their knowledge in the largest European medical centres, continually acquiring the latest equipment and treatment trends. That’s why in Zagreb you’ll find world-renowned medical clinics and medical practices, while many hotels in Zagreb include a high level of wellness and spa contents. Croatia, and particularly its capital Zagreb, is quietly establishing itself as a high quality medical tourism destination, with several factors in the works to quickly accelerate the capital’s health tourism potential. Croatia has however never been on the traditional map as a medical tourism destination though the expertise and respect afforded Croatian health professionals is there for all to see. As for an example, a Croatian doctor has recently been appointed to head the medical team at one of the world’s biggest football clubs, Real Madrid, while Dr Alan Ivkovic became the first surgeon in the world to use nose cells to repair damaged knee cartilage, and cardiac surgeon Tomislav Mihaeljevic MD became President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic.

The Croatian metropolis has various other attractions to complement its health tourism offerings, creating additional value to the overall experience. There are unlimited possibilities for visits to music and theatre performances, art events and museums, sporting events, as well as enjoying pleasant walks, interesting architecture and many parks in the city center.

There is also the surrounding area—extremely beautiful and attractive, full of vineyards and wine roads, interesting museums, medieval and baroque castles and long-standing health resorts. In the immediate vicinity of Zagreb there are several top clinics specializing in health tourism, hot springs and spa oasis, created for enjoying the wellness offers and healing natural factors.

It is a little-known fact that organised tourism in Europe began in Croatia. On the island of Hvar in fact. Today, Europe’s sunniest island is known as one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world, with more UNESCO heritage than any other in the world, but back in 1868, Hvar was known in elite circles in Vienna and Budapest as the Austrian Madeira. With its temperate climate, organised health tourism began way back in 1868 with the founding of the Hvar Health Society. While today the island is enjoyed by sun seekers, partygoers and culture addicts, back then it was the soothing climate of the island which was its main attraction.

The quality of medical care is of no compromise what Croatia can offer to international patients. Price is an obvious major incentive, as is the opportunity to combine a visit with a holiday. There are also few better places to relax in Europe these days than the hip Adriatic coast and islands that are the jewels of Croatian tourism.

Quality and affordable healthcare tick two important boxes, but a crucial part of the jigsaw is accessibility. Croatian dental tourism is quietly booming in Italy, with busloads of Italians making the short trip to Dentex in Zadar to have their teeth fixed but air access to Zadar is key, and this is one area where the medical tourism story gets very interesting. The city of Zadar is a city of exceptional history and rich cultural heritage, a city of tourism and voted by European tourists as their top destination in 2016.

Croatia’s Adriatic airports of Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Rijeka and Pula are collectively enjoying record traffic, as the Croatian tourism story expands, but Zagreb is experiencing a different type of boom, and one which is ideal for a cohesive strategy to promote Zagreb’s and the Croatian Adriatic coast the medical tourism potential.

Another great potential growth area is teaming up with the state health insurance companies of Western Europe and Scandinavia. With a standard of treatment on a par with more developed countries, but with costs considerably cheaper, the savings state health insurance companies can make working with Croatian medical excellence are considerable, and in some instances, that care can be considerably better. One example to demonstrate this is cataract surgery. Mono-focal cataract surgery in Croatia leading eye clinic, Svjetlost costs only about half the price in most North European countries. In addition to mono-focal cataract treatment, Svjetlost also offers multi-focal lens treatment for a much better proposition for the patient for a favorable price. Therefore, multi-focal lens treatments are more in Croatia than in most other European countries as they provide additional benefits in the form of extended vision and no need to use glasses after the surgery for the rest of the patient´s life.

Svjetlost (the Croatian word for ‘light’) now runs its rapidly increasing operations from an 8-storey building comprising 2000 square meters close to the center of Zagreb, and with plans to build something twice as big in the coming years on the plot next door, such is the demand. The first surgeon was Svjetlost founder, Prof. Nikica Gabric Ph.D., who has carried out more than 40,000 cataract surgeries, glaucoma, refractive surgeries, corneal transplantation, and strabismus in some 17 countries, including the prestigious Fyodorov Institute in Russia. Gabric’s team has expanded and now includes more than 25 doctors, including Dr Maja Bohac, whose mentoring by Gabric was complimented by additional training in London, Barcelona, Zurich, Cologne and Strasbourg. Recognised in the US as Surgeon of the Month by the International Society of Refractive Surgery, Bohac has performed over 15,000 laser surgeries, and is a regional pioneer in using new laser technologies, including femtosecond lasers and the laser removal of presbyopia.

Eye surgery needs to be very precise and has less room for second chances, and so trust is an important element which Svjetlost has built up over the years to become the most respected name in the region – and increasingly internationally. Since commencing operations, Svjetlost has serviced clients in over 100 countries, including Swaziland and the Dominican Republic, while the main international markets are Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Austria, UK, Scandinavia and Switzerland.

Svjetlost was the first private-owned University clinic in Croatia and the clinic is 100% self-financed, receives all its income from private clients, and is expanding rapidly. While the quality of care, experience of surgeons and modern technology available matches that of anything in Western Europe, eye treatments at Svjetlost can be typically 2-3 times cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. Many operations can be done in minutes, with a follow-up check-up required, allowing patients to then relax in Zagreb and explore Croatia’s wonderful coast and capital city, if they have decided to combine treatment with a tourism break.

A very noticeable aspect of the Svjetlost team is its regional makeup. Doctors and interns from other parts of former-Yugoslavia are flocking to join the Svjetlost team, allowing the clinic to attract the brightest regional talent at a time when many of Croatia’s finest young brains are emigrating. This regional approach is reflected in the expanding Svjetlost coverage in the region, and in addition to additional clinics in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, Svjetlost has both partnerships in Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as having a special relationship with the University of Rijeka. Svjetlost Eye Hospital is affiliates to the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka, serving as the Ophthalmic Clinic of the University of Rijeka. According to Croatian Healthcare Law, the clinic has to provide the most complex healthcare services, conducting scientific research and providing university study program. Svjetlost employees are researchers and professors and provide specialization for ophthalmology services for its residents and the international market. More over Svjetlost offer its services without waiting lists.

Location address for the apartment: Ždralovac 14, Sukošan, Croatia

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