For many years Athens the capital of Greece has attracted foreign tourists for its historic centers, romantic sandy beaches, excellent food, music, and hospitality. More recently tourists have found another reason to travel there - Cosmetic Plastic Procedures.
Medical tourism in on the rise in central and eastern Europe, growing by an estimated 20%annually, creating an opportunity for different sectors in this new market. The medical tourism trend is defined by the travel of patients from their home country to different destinations.
It is estimated that the Medical Aesthetics Industry will grow by the year 2022 to 73 Billion dollars, with a focus on Injectables, energy-based devices, cosmeceuticals, Cosmetic surgery, Facial Aesthetics and, cosmetic tourism,.
The top five invasive surgical procedures are breast augmentation, Liposuction of excess fat from the body, Nose reshaping, Eyelid surgery, and facelift. According to recent statistics none-
Non-invasive cosmetic procedures
invasive cosmetic procedures are trending mostly because they offer alternative treatments with minimal risks. Botox, a drug to smooth facial wrinkles, Injectable -fillers, to create a younger face and lips, Chemical peels, laser treatments, and Radiofrequency devices to tighten, smooth, and lift the skin are among these popular treatments.
The high cost of the treatments in developing countries seems to be a prime reason for the migration of patients to other destinations. It is not surprising that Medical tourism is now targeted by many countries, hospitals, and governments worldwide for further growth and foreign-investments. Greece is one of them. According to ISAP-the international Society of Aesthetic Plastic surgery demand for cosmetic surgery procedures around the world continues to
grow. The USA, brazil, japan, and Mexico ranked in the top five countries. In Greece itself- 300,000 procedures were recorded annually. Women continue to drive the demand for cosmetic procedures, while men account for 13% only.
“Hair transplantation is one of the top elected procedures among men traveling abroad for plastic surgery. They too are looking to take advantage of the latest innovations, to look and feel better” Says Dr. Athanasios Hristopoulos, a Plastic Surgeon in Athens, a member of ISAP (International Society of Plastic Surgery). His brother and partner Dr. Epameinondas Christopoulos is a tourism expert and the founder of Med Elite in Greece. He has dedicated his
time to this growing sector;
“We saw the advantage of Medical Tourism in Greece almost a decade ago, since then we had the opportunity to treat women and men from the Middle East, Europe, and the USA.
“But, unfortunately, there is no, “national Medical tourism”, It is still a private endeavor”.
According to international statistics, the market in Europe is expanding rapidly due to the
increase in the number of medical traveler patients. Developing Economies such as Poland and Greece are projected to contribute to growth in the market of APAC Between the years 2017-
2027, due to better health care infrastructure, economic growth, an increase in the private health care sector, and an increase in medical tourism education and awareness. The trend of Medical tourism had created opportunities for Greece to position herself as an attractive destination -combining low cost at good quality in niche areas, such as Plastic procedures. However, despite this positive projection Medical tourism in Greece remains to linger behind other European
Greece needs some beauty tips to render her more appealing. The country with its many islands, beautiful blue water, and attractive sights needs a Facelift -to bring her back the sex appeal that draws the international crowed, this time not to her beaches but to the Aesthetics clinics. Top Plastic Surgeons such as Dr. Antoine Pareskevas and dr. John Anastasatos can certainly promote
Greece’s medical image. Dr. Pareskevas is a world-known Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon who participated in the first full-face transplant in France back in 2008. He operates both in Paris and in Athens, a place he considers as his home. He is known for making the woman look Natural and beautiful.
“The private clinics here are in high standards, safety is the same as Germany and France. Medical services are outstanding, the medical staff here is generous.”
Some local insight
Dr. John Anastasatos is one of the top Plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills with lucrative training in Plastic and reconstructive surgery. His love for Greece brings him back to his family, and the Operating Room. Just like Dr. Pareskevas he too brings his skills, expertise, and glory back to Athens.“Prices here are affected by the economy. Lower cost of medical providers and cheaper services drive prices lower than the one in the USA”.
Six years ago, the global consulting firm Mckinsey & company named medical tourism in Greece- “The rising star” after studying fundamental drivers, challenges and opportunities in the Greek economy: “While Greece has the potential to compete with other European countries it is still in need of the necessary infrastructure. The country lacks a comprehensive national sector growth strategy.
Back in 2012, there were only a few facilities accredited by JCI- an international monitoring body, compared with Turkey with 43, Italy 21 - More international collaboration could help raise the country’s profile globally. Turkey and Poland for example, are European countries with international affiliations that raise their appeal beyond their limiting borders. Brazil is another example for government’s support - plastic surgery there is tax-deductible, as such making these
new Aesthetic markets more attractive.
Stella Gioni, the commercial director for HYGEIA Medical Group with four private hospitals and approximately 4000 affiliated physicians talks passionately about their efforts to improve Greece’s Medical image,
“I have overseen Medical tourism for almost three years, at some point I thought this was an urban myth, but despite the slow progression, we can see the trend growing and its futur.potential. We want to grow the Medical Tourism, and since we don’t have an official group that promotes our image, we will continue to use social media platforms, and, participate in international organizations. The fact that we pay 24% additional tax for health care services, kills the competitive edge, therefore we try to minimize the medical costs as much as we can. We are an attractive destination. We are cheaper than leading health care providers in the industry, and we love people”.
As part of the trend, cheaper travel has led to increasing numbers of people crossing the globe for medical care, patients have begun traveling for a range of medical procedures for a fraction of what such procedures cost at home.
Medical tourism can come with benefits but also raises a serious a host of ethical and legal questions those issues are in his book “Patients with Passports”.Many countries eager to capitalize on the influx of travelers such as Greece, will include a visit to
popular local attractions in their treatment packages. Some medical facilities have incorporated wellness spas. It is widely agreed that people who look better have an advantage in the job market. Pierre Ganza a retired banker from Zurich pulls his double chin with one hand reflects for few seconds before sharing an intimate thought: I feel younger than my age 70, I am thinking to have this remove”.
Beauty reigns in Athens
A few blocks away in Kolonaki district, an upscale neighborhood with beautiful cafes, fashionable stores, and clean paved streets - A trendy clinic offers Antiaging treatments. The seven floors building is filled with several doctors, nurses, and tens of patients who come for a complete makeover. Dr. Prinou a successful Dermatologist is the owner of this clinic and 16 more across
Greece, including Mykonos and Crete. She represents a new approach to Medicine, less traditional, and certainly more dynamic when it comes to business.
“Our vision includes expansion to international markets, we want to bring the patients here to Athens, “says Dr. Prinou while seated in her large elegant conference room, large enough to train her medical staff with the latest aesthetic technology. Her marketing division delivers great results. Banners, TV shows, and Magazines print are visible all over Greece, but that strategy is not enough to target Medical tourism.” I have a large budget for marketing, but my conclusion is that we can’t do it alone-we need a team”. By that Dr. Prinou refers to collaboration and consolidations of all the key players in this
new market. She will use this year social media platforms to reach new markets such as Russia, Germany, Middle East, and the UK,
“we offer the same Anti-aging treatments for less than 50% and sometimes even more”
Doctors are moving to the digital world
Doctors used to do marketing in a more traditional way, now are forced to move to the digital world to modernize their content sharing, there is a shift to social media. Facebook, Instagram, Snapshot, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, - “Your future patients are here- start developing a relationship with them now Says Ahava Leibtag a content strategist in the health care industry:” When it comes to choosing a doctor or a health care facility people are scared and anxious- here is an opportunity to develop content that focuses on the consumer’s emotions and not the brand itself; “Give them some information so that they feel safe and sure enough to make a decision “. Industries such as Fitness, Nutrition, and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery are doing well in the platform-
they are visual, they can educate the consumers with images and few words, short videos, and stories in real-time. There is an opportunity now to get early into the conversation before the platforms get crowded in East Europe.
Dr. Pareskevas will not be marketing his services in any social media, much like Dr. Christopholous who believes in building the practice slowly, and by word of mouth- the old way “I believe in being the best I can without posting pictures in social media. Everyone can post a photo without the certainty that it is a legitimate one” says Dr. Pareskevas.
Many factors in Medical Tourism still need exploration, maturation, and innovation. For now, Medical providers in Greece will have to continue and act in a Startup mode- exploring new marketing, expanding new affiliations, and growing their network to promote this new sector, while potential patients would have to exercise more caution when selecting a medical provider: Dr. John Anastastatos believes that patients will feel more secure if they choose a
Board Certified Plastic surgeon, after all, safety is more important than a Low-price tag.
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