The 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Investment Forum which was attended by Croatian ministers and leaders of medical tourism industry set the perfect platform for intensive and open discussions between the stakeholders. Dr Prem Jagyasi grabbed the opportunity to interview the award-winning journalist Paul Bradbury – CEO of the Total Croatia News (TCN).
We come across experts’ opinions and views about various aspects of medical tourism. Why not we see it from a journalist’s perspective? It might bring out something new. Total Croatia News is a prominent online news portal covering a range of subjects related to Croatia. Since it is published in English, it enjoys a huge readership in Croatia and beyond.
Innovations are driving the growth of this market. New destinations are emerging. A competitive scenario has developed where everybody is striving to get a bigger slice of this multi-billion dollar industry. Amidst this, medical tourism is missing quality journalism. The exact picture is not showing. Paul’s writings caught Dr. Prem’s attention. He found quality journalism in TCN medical tourism reporting.
Medical tourism is still very much disorganized and uncoordinated. Impediments are limiting its further progress. Can constructive and credible journalism help this industry move ahead? Many such issues came up during the conversation.
This health investment forum has been of immense importance for Croatian niche tourism markets. Paul was not hesitant in putting in his critical opinions regarding Croatia’s prospects in medical tourism drawing a fair comparison with other successful examples.
Paul took to writing on medical tourism with a serious purpose. When asked about it, he answered, “It happened by chance. Two years ago, I got an invitation from Ognjen Bagatin, the CEO of Bagatin Clinic to visit his clinic and write on it and the emerging Croatian medical tourism. Before this, I was not even aware of Croatia’s potential in this sector”.
With an eagerness to explore something new, Paul visited Ognjen’s clinic. “I was honestly stunned” as Paul expressed. Ognjen has been the pioneer in putting Croatian medical tourism in the global map. He not only highlighted Bagatin clinic and its success but also upheld Croatia Medical Tourism as a whole.
Paul further visited St. Catherine’s Specialty Hospital, one of the leading hospitals in the world and Svjetlost Eye Clinic, the regional market leaders with a great success record of performing tens of thousands of eye surgeries in the last decade or so. The surgeries are surprisingly painless and take hardly a few minutes. No hospital stay is required but a next day check-up.
“With globally recognized eye surgeons, state-of-the-art facilities and treatment costs available at a fraction of cost, I find there is no reason why foreigners will not select this clinic to fix their eye problems. They can easily come here, get their job done and happily spend some of their savings holidaying in Croatia”.
“I was simply blown away by this great possibility of Health Tourism in Croatia. I can see that Croatia is sitting on an unearthed goldmine” was his candid remarks. Dental, cosmetic surgery, dermatology, plastic surgery, stem cell treatments and the only center in Europe to offer the revolutionary OneOme RightMed pharmacogenomic test center co-founded by Mayo Clinic, Croatia has lots of surprises in store. Countless talented specialists are doing ground-breaking jobs here.
If you talk of top six dermatological clinics in Europe, you find three of them in Zagreb. How many can imagine cutting-edge stem cell therapy in Croatia? Yes. It exists in the St. Catherine’s Specialty Hospital, known as the center of excellence.
He started attending conferences and meeting people to get deep into facts and figures. The more he researched more he got convinced of Croatia’s potential. It is at par with other developed countries.
During the conversation, he was quick to add, “I heard from you first Croatia can easily make into top 10 spots in global medical tourism, provided it developed in an organized manner”. This was during the last year’s edition of this forum.
Given Croatia’s wealth of resources and expertise, Paul felt the need of honest, constructive and proactive journalism – words that can make things move and change the scenario dramatically.
Critical analysis is crucial in journalism, the need to view things from different perspectives. In medical tourism, it should not be different. Paul says, “I want a better country”. Croatia being very close to Europe is affordable both for healthcare support and vacationing. To him, “The word ‘potential’ is very annoying”. Sadly, too much is being said about Croatia’s ‘potential’ but little is done to realize it.
He was highly critical of the Zagreb Tourism Board hiring experts to frame a medical travel development strategy that led to heavy drainage of resources but yielded nothing useful so far. He pointed out its loopholes backed by extensive analysis.
The lackadaisical attitude of officials happily continuing with their ‘status quo’ mode is another big impediment. How about creating a Croatia Medical Tourism Program? Nobody thinks of that. As a part of constructive journalism, these are the issues to be raised and addressed to make health tourism in Croatia a great success.
He feels a great opportunity lies ahead for Croatia which if missed may be missed forever. If you have wrong people in crucial decision-making positions, things can never work as expected. When other European countries with lesser potential are putting up a great show in medical tourism, why can’t Croatia? Qualified and seasoned professionals should be hired in the right place to make the ‘Pearl of Adriatic’ shine above others.
“I see the industry is very polarized, very much disjointed full of self- interest full of great potential”, he says. Everybody is engaged in projecting themselves but not in coordination with each other. He puts his efforts in giving constructive ideas referring successful medical tourism models in different parts of the world.
On his journey in medical tourism writing, he came across Sherene Azil, the CEO of MHTC, Malaysia. In Paul’s words, “An amazing woman”. Even before he met Sherene, he had no idea of medical tourism in Malaysia.
He was amazed to see her presentation and know of her endeavors that put Malaysia at the top in the global medical tourism map. Interviewing her, he got further insights into how a successful medical tourism model can be created like the brand Malaysia.
To him, Malaysia stands as the best example in forming a well-knit and well-coordinated industry where Brand Malaysia has always been in the focus not individual clinics/hospitals. Paul, on his trip to Malaysia, visited the National Heart Clinic and other private clinics. All are functioning in coordination.
He was impressed with the MHTC hash tag #Together We Win. This says all, their unity and well-coordinated effort between the public and private sectors. He feels that this ‘coming together’ scenario is missing in Croatia. It would perhaps take too much to put aside private interests.
He talked of seven dental clinics in Budapest jointly working towards uplifting the brand of Budapest. It doesn’t matter which clinic is getting more business, ultimately it is coming to Budapest. That matters. “It is so simple but so impossible”, laughs Paul. “If seven clinics in Budapest can do it, why can’t a city, why can’t a country do it?”
He was also not aware of Poland’s medical tourism venture. He is all praise for Poland’s presentation in this year’s forum presented by Magdalena Rutkowaska. The objective of the Adriatic forum is to bring to light the best examples and practices of medical tourism. Poland’s presentation truly served that purpose. The way this east European country succeeded in creating a sustainable medical tourism business model pooling EU funds is worth emulating.
Even though the Malaysian model has proved to be a great success, he feels there would be few countries to repeat the same. It is not easy to rise above self-interest. In the discussion, he repeatedly stressed on cooperation and coordination. That is the key to realize full potential.
The crux of the conversation, keeping aside internal conflicts and competition, emphasis should be to develop the destination brand that would benefit all stakeholders. This is where the medical tourism industry is lagging most.
His writings on medical tourism are focused on Croatia’s opportunities and strengths with a deep analysis of how things are at present and how it can be made better. As a journalist, Paul feels it is his responsibility to put clear-cut opinions in his writings.
He goes on stating, “With resources in plenty, little attention has been given to this sector baring few private clinics. They are shouldering the load of building the Croatian brand in the international market by their efforts”.
“The pace at which private clinics are upgrading themselves doesn’t match with that of the officials. There is a clear lack of vision.”The sluggish approach of local officials is blocking the development of Croatian medical tourism.
He shares a similar opinion as Dr. Prem regarding the lack of quality and credible journalism in this sector. “Every piece of news, articles and information shared has a specific agenda behind it. You can never be sure which one is true and which one is not”.
This is not good for this sunshine industry. Erroneous and exaggerated information/data misleads leading to undesirable outcomes. It does not serve anybody’s purpose. Paul feels, “Honest, critical and constructive journalism is important for this growing industry”. People should know what is going on and where things are not working.
The Medical Travel Media award bestowed by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council to Paul came as a great recognition. Malaysia is the first country to host a special event to recognize media contribution to the medical travel industry. Paul feels it is a huge honor to win it, the first international award for TCN.
He says, “I see it as a huge industry. I see there is a definite need of honest journalism.”
To keep up with his commitment to quality and credible journalism, Paul opened a dedicated section on medical tourism in TCN. All his writings rank high in Google search rankings. In such a short time span, this is incredible! This shows people are eager to know of medical tourism in Croatia. And Croatia, as mentioned by a renowned personality in the meet can be the Heart of Europe in medical tourism surpassing Germany, Hungary, Turkey and others.