Global Aesthetic Market
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 estimated 20% annually, creating a window of opportunities for different sectors in this new market. 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 year 2022 to 73 Billion dollars, with focus on Injectables, energy-based devices, cosmeceuticals, Cosmetic surgery, Facial Aesthetics and, cosmetic tourism, (Research and Market). The high cost of the treatments in the developing countries seems as 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 skyrocket- USA, brazil, japan and Mexico ranked in the top five countries. In Greece itself- 300,000 procedures were recorded annually. Woman continue to drive the demand for cosmetic procedures, while men account for 13% only.
“Hair transplant is one of the top elected procedures among men in the Middle East. They too are looking to take advantage of the latest innovations, to look and feel better”. Says Dr. Athanasios Christopoulos, a Plastic Surgeon in Athens, 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; “when we started the economy in Greece was strong, people thought we were crazy, but now it’s really making sense.
Unfortunately, there is no, national Medical tourism. It is still a private endeavor”.
Back to statistics, the prediction indicated a rapid growth in Europe 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 the better health care infrastructure, increase in the private health care sector, and 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 local health providers are frustrated without the collaboration of national agencies.
“Our vision includes expansion to international markets, we want to bring the patients here to Athens “says dr. Prinou, a Dermatologist specializing in Anti- aging treatments, and the owner of 16 Clinics across Greece, including Mykonos and Crete. Dr. Prinou’s marketing team deliver great results. Banners, TV shows, and Magazines print are visible all over Greece, but that strategy is not targeting 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. While provider like Dr. Prinou are focusing on growing their revenues from medical tourists, the key challenge remains- Patients’s Safety. Post Treatment is important. How available is the Health care provider once the patients left back to his country ? who will be answering the phone call? Is the stuff Bi lingual ? and what is the time response of the doctor. For a provider to be successful he needs to think first about his patients safety and satisfactions- they will be back if you have got a good system working for you.
Mckinsey & company Report
Back to the big picture - In 2012 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. For Example back in 2012 there were only few facilities accredited by international monitoring body, compared with Turkey with 43, Italy 21, I am visiting one pf them in the Northen part of Athens.
Stella Gkioni, the commercial director for HYGEIA Medical Group is my tour guide. We meet at Mitera Hospital, following a quick tour at all of its beautiful floors, including operations rooms, it sinks deeply that the Public hospitals in Greece have done demage to the Private sector health care's image.
Stella talks passionately about their efforts to improve Greece’s Medical image.When b people come hwere they are surprised, no one expact to see an intenationally accredited hospital modern and clean with operations rooms, this is not the public image we have0- and we need to fight it”. “I have overseen Medical tourism for almost three years, at some point I thought this is an urban myth, but despite the slow progression we can see the trend growing and its future potential.
While we are sitting in her office, Dr. Antoine Parskevas is in the operating room next door, preforming one of his many face- lift surgeries. He is a world known Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon who participated in the first successful face transplant in France, back in 2008, with two Medical clinics, one in Paris and the second here in Athens.
“The private clinics here are in high standards, safety is the same as Germany and France. Medical services are outstanding, the stuff here is generous “, he shares with me his views, in an earlier interview.
Medical providers such as Mitera Hospital are forced to explore Marketing platforms, without the Government’s support.
Dr. Prinou will use this year social media platforms to reach new markets such as Russia, Germany, Middle East, and the UK, were the same Anti-aging treatments are doubled or even tripled in price. We meet in her clinic in Kolonaki district famous for its chic restaurants, many cafes and exclusive boutiques. The clinic is a seven Floors Building dedicated to Antiaging procedures. The design is impressive even for NYC and Paris standards. However Medical Tourism demands a global thinking -Service is key for success, and when it comes to Health , it is crucial. Providers need to pay attention to how they market their brand in Social Platforms.
HI tech plays a major role
A key driver for the medical tourism phenomena is the technological platform provided by the internet for the consumer to access health care information, and advertising from anywhere in the world. Gary Cohen, a Harvard Law School, professor; states:
“Globalization and advancement in technology have transformed health care in the past decade. As part of the trend, cheaper travel has led to increasing numbers of people crossing the globe for medical care” patients have begun travelling 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”.
So what happens in case of medical complications ? how is responsible ? Medical Providers should address this isuues to create more reliability and trust.
It is widely agreed that people who look better have an advantage in the Job market.We are living in a visual world, every gender, age group is affected by the use of digital images and constant looking and evaluating the face and body, at the same time this cosmetic proceedures are flooding the media, they are everywhere, name it. Youthfullnes sis important at any age;
Robert Ganza a retired banker from Zurich pull his double chin with one hand, reflects for few seconds before sharing with me an intimate thought: I feel younger than my age 70, I am thinking to have this remove”. Men cosmetic procedure are on the rise too.
Your future patients are here
How do people hear about the Health care provider? Doctors used to do marketing in a more traditional way, now they 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 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 “, says Ahava on a recent Podcast interview. 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. Antoine Pareskevas will not be marketing his services in any social Media he is more traditional in his views: “I need more free time, if anything “, he looks at his watch, its 11 pm and he must close the day.
Stella Gkioni has a different goal; “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 competition 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”.
Many factors in Medical Tourism still need exploration, maturation and innovation. An interesting research of Northwestern University Medical School, raises the issue of safety, its recent finding shows that only 18% of plastic surgery Instagram posts are by qualified doctors. Dr. John Anastastatos a board-certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon from Beverly Hills, with a second practice in Athens, believes that patients will feel more secure if they chose an American board- certified surgeon or Board Certified European provider. After all, safety is more important than a Low-price tag.