Renée-Marie Stephano: Ognjen, you are the CEO of Poliklinika Bagatin, one of the leading healthcare providers in Croatia with a solid history of treating traveling patients. Could you tell me what segments of the medical tourism industry represent the greatest adaptations to the industry in the last few years that impact Bagatin the most?
Ognjen Bagatin: This is a great question. Traditionally dental treatments are something Croatia is very well known for. They say that around 100.000 Italians seek their dental care in Croatia every year. It´s same with Bagatin Clinic.
We have a lot of clients from surrounding countries (Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland…) and for the first 9 months this year we had clients from 30 countries. As we are “one-stop shop” offering dental, plastic surgery, dermatology and cosmetology treatments and procedures a lot of our patients visits us more than just once, some of them across all departments.
Seventy percent of our international clients are dental patients, mostly coming from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, UK, and USA.
RMS: What health services had the biggest impact on your business model and which services do you see forging new opportunities in the future for Bagatin?
OB: Today we have a reputation for excellence in the fields of dentistry, plastic surgery, dermatology, and cosmetology. Located in two prime locations in Zagreb with more than 250 treatments in our price list across four departments and a total number of 75+ employees we have 25 experts devoted to providing our clients with extraordinary services.
Although it all started on the foundation of plastic surgery and my father´s private practice in 1995, I have to point out that the department that had the biggest impact on today´s business model is our dental department.
In our highly modern dental center located on a 10th floor at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, together with the dermatology department and our laser and body contouring center, we put emphasis on the aesthetic dentistry, oral surgery, implantology and 2D/3D diagnostics (Hi-Tech dentistry).
Using the most advanced technology and artistic abilities our dental specialists create a treatment plan, custom-made to the special needs and desires of the client.
Our objective was and is to provide all of our patients with the highest medical service standards using state-of-the-art technology accompanied by our highly specialized and educated staff, following only world standards. Our business model is oriented to satisfy all our client’s needs, and that is the reason why we have more than 30% of referrals every month.
RMS: Europeans have a long history of traveling for health services both organically and through the EU Cross Border Directive policies. Americans traveling abroad for care is relatively more recent. What value proposition does Bagatin offer to American patients and what might some of the perceived obstacles be for you in attracting them?
OB: Bagatin Clinic offers a one-stop solution for a variety of conditions and client´s needs. State-of-the-art technology, latest methods of non-invasive treatments and surgical procedures, coupled with highly trained specialists result in the Bagatin Clinic being the 5-star services provider that follows international standards.
The patient always comes first! That is our vision and our approach to everyday challenges. We offer customized package services to our international patients, in terms of accommodation, transfers and other ancillary services. Internal procedures are being honed to make every international patient feel unique, from the concierge and front desk services, all the way to gift bags with authentic Croatian souvenirs and goods.
Thanks to the ISO 9001:2015 certificate that we gained, we have created standards with protocols and procedures for each step in taking care of international clients, from their first contact to our clinic, all the way to the aftercare and follow-up. We are recognized as the leading plastic surgery, dentistry and dermatology clinic in Croatia and this year´s award by the IMTJ (International Medical Travel Journal) for the “Best International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic” speaks for itself.
And according to Deloitte, we are one of the fastest growing SMBs in the medical sector in the region. On average, our online satisfaction questionnaires state that 98% + of our patients would come back or recommend us to a friend or a family member. These are just some of the answers to the question why Bagatin Clinic? Together with our top services, Zagreb and Croatia will make your experience complete.
RMS: What do you believe makes a destination successful and, if we are to consider Poliklinika Bagatin as a healthcare destination, what assets do you believe Bagatin offers as a competitive advantage to contribute to that success?
OB: Croatia is a country with highly developed tourism services, numerous natural wonders, and preserved natural environment, in addition to a variety of offerings among which health tourism is one of unquestionable importance. We have a 100-year-old tradition of tourism in providing great services to our tourists.
Nineteen percent of Croatia´s GDP comes from tourism, which only shows how good we are as a country of hospitality. Zagreb is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central Europe, having been proclaimed The Best European Christmas Market Destination two years in a row by the European Best Destinations website.
When we talk about what makes destination successful concerning healthcare system in Croatia, there are around a dozen of hospitals and clinics in Zagreb that measure up to international standards, and many of these institutions have been receiving medical tourists years, even decades. Specialty hospitals St. Catherine, eye clinic Svjetlost and Polyclinic Rident are just some of them.
Many of the clinics are even joined in Zagreb cluster. Further, renowned medical schools that see myriad of doctors and specialists graduate from there every year. One of the factors that make medical and health tourism in Zagreb so popular is the fact that while costs are kept relatively low, the standard remains above average and competitive with the global markets. A lot of international medical travelers has recognized Zagreb as a hub for their medical care.
Holistic approach in providing services, quality of treatments, and highly specialized and educated staff are biggest competitive advantage you can and have. From the very first point of patient ´s contact with our call center or reception staff to the aftercare and follow up with the patient, we provide them with a 5-star treatment in every point of view. World´s best medical care and quality service is our promise and we work really hard to keep it up!
RMS: How important is good cooperation between the private and public sector in positioning a country as a desirable medical tourism destination?
OB: We can never emphasize enough the role of the private-public sector and the key public and government institutions on board of all the major initiatives and projects that would ultimately lead to a faster development of medical tourism in Croatia. The policies that involve strategic and business-friendly visa regimes, taxation, investment levels, supporting infrastructure are all conducive to a healthier health tourism and network management growth.
Croatian governmental entities, under the mentioned 2020 Vision, are all on a well-established path but no country, including Croatia, can afford to not go by the “Sink or Swim” method. Croatia Tourist Board recently introduced a new website for health tourism that connects private and public sector initiatives with our potential medical travelers.
Croatia is on arise as a country and public sector has a great role in positioning Croatia as one of leading Mediterranean destinations for medical travelers. Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Health, Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Croatian Tourist Board, Zagreb Tourist Board and medical clusters (Zagreb and Kvarner) are all working on this important vision – branding and positioning Croatia as a leading Mediterranean destination for medical travelers.
RMS: Poliklinika Bagatin developed a Health and Wellness Destination Guide. What value do you believe guides such as this provide to patients or referrers of health services and why do feel such tools are necessary?
OB: One of the preconditions for entering international markets was actually positioning the Bagatin Clinic as a No. 1 private clinic in Croatia. The first step in achieving global recognition was to establish Croatia and Zagreb as a destination for high-quality health care that would be unified under the slogan “Croatia Full of well-being”.
Project Destination Guide was an accelerator for our cooperation with the local and state institutions such as the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, various Ministries, Office of the President and Zagreb Tourist Board. These synergies proved to be crucial and of extreme importance for all our future projects.
Destination Guide was also an entry ticket for the World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, where we are coming this year in a role of a great Gold Sponsor. Many of our partners and suppliers nowadays use our Guide to attract additional tourists to Zagreb and the country itself. And that's great! It helps them to keep us busy.
RMS: Bagatin has invested significantly in marketing health and wellness to patients. What are your largest international patient markets now and where do you see an opportunity for target markets in the future?
OB: We derive most of our patients from Swiss, German, Austrian, Italian, UK, Slovenian and the American markets. To improve these numbers we use direct marketing, targeting “diaspora” and actively visiting specialized global conferences, workshops, and fairs. HTI, (Health Tourism Industry) Conference which took place in Rovinj, Croatia this year next year will be in Zagreb and there we will be in a role of a silver sponsor.
IMTJ Summit was also hosted in Opatija, Croatia this year (next year in Athens) where we won the award as a recognition for all our efforts in marketing and branding on international markets. We were awarded for the “Best International cosmetic surgery Clinic” in 2017 and won the third place in the category of “Best marketing initiative” in clinic branding, both equally valuable prizes.
The World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress (WMTC) is about to come and we will close the year at Medical Travel Summit within International travel week in Abu Dhabi, this November with a role of a Platinum Sponsor of the event.
When we talk about the markets we’re targeting, GCC countries, as well as USA market, are those we are currently focused on. With these two targeted markets, we are certainly trying to raise the number of foreign clients in general from the already existing markets opened to Croatia.
RMS: You will be participating in the World Medical Tourism & Global healthcare Congress in Los Angeles October 2-4, 2017. What are your aspirations for this event and why do you believe continuous investing in this event is important to your marketing strategy?
OB: Our main goal is to continue positioning Croatia as great medical provider that offers great clinics, service excellence, great experience, and safety, because before all Croatia is a safe and secure country. This is the time when we want to “roll the wheel”, establish Croatia or better yet, fortify the status of Croatia as a medical travel-friendly and attractive destination, with an ample offer of medical services and options for all types of medical and tourist visitors – year round.
Looking forward to 45 meetings with new potential partners from all over the world that we already scheduled on our booth, where we are together with Zagreb Tourist Board who is in a role of a Silver sponsor this year. Make sure to visit us there!
RMS: Is there anything you wish your prospective clients or buyers of services knew about you that you believe perhaps they currently don´t know? If so, what is that?
OB: We are service fanatics and always seeking ways to deliver great medical care and hospitality to both our international and domestic patients. To deliver that we measure satisfaction of our clients in 3 ways:
1. Online satisfaction questionnaire after the first visit
- 9.80/10.00 average rating
- 99% of clients would recommend us
2. Operator rating questionnaire after each treatment/service
- Average rating in 2017 – 9.82/10.00
- N=7.000 clients
3. Mystery shopping – quality analysis of all departments and services (call center, reception, operators, nurses)
Also, all of our staff attend our own academy program – Bagatin Academy. Once per month, we have classes and seminars with more than 50 coaches who are the best in Croatia in the area of leadership, soft skills and communication for employees and internal communication.
Continuous education is fundamental and represents the base of our corporate culture and 5-star service excellence.