Potential of Georgian Medical Tourism

Potential of Georgian Medical Tourism

The FINANCIAL -- Georgian medical facilities can offer a range of services to patients from abroad. This may include high technological diagnostics or treatment, complicated techniques in surgery and nonstandard approaches to widespread diseases.

Meanwhile, current service quality of the Georgian medical sector can respond to the demands of patients from post-Soviet countries, where medical services are at a similar level with us, or even lower, but in the case of Arabian or European patients who require higher standards, the issue remains questionable.

The 21st century is full of new approaches to business and almost everything had transformed to the subject to sale and generates income. Everything can be sold: products, services, human resources, etc. The medical field is no exception. This is true in the Georgian reality too, especially today, when the Georgian healthcare market is almost 100% private and clinic owners want and need to increase their profit.

Medical tourism is one of the most interesting, fast-growing and profitable fields in medicine, involving: surgeries, management of rare conditions, reproductive services (in-vitro fertilization, donation, and surrogacy services), cosmetic services, alternative medicine, dental services, etc. At first, people traveled to developed countries, but the trends are gradually shifting and people from developed countries go to less developed ones, to receive medical services they need for a lower cost. This field generates income of about USD 100 billion globally per year, according to the 2012 data. Also, medical tourism supports other types of tourism, as patients are mainly accompanied by family members and/or friends, who are eager to enjoy their presence in a foreign country.

Medical services are being developed in Georgia day by day. More and more new and worthy services are being implemented. In spite of the many challenges, all medical facilities try to introduce high technology diagnostics and treatment at their base.

To date, Georgian medical tourism is basically oriented on moving local patients abroad. The target countries include Turkey, Germany, etc. Also there is patients’ inflow mainly from neighbour countries, especially from Azerbaijan or Armenia. Additionally, patients come from many developed countries, especially for dental and reproductive health services, as donation and surrogacy is forbidden or financially unaffordable in those countries. But this inflow does not have an organized character and the numbers of such patients isn’t high. This field needs more structuring and promotion, to achieve more patients entering Georgia for treatment purposes.

Georgian medical facilities can offer a range of services to patients from abroad. This may include high technological diagnostics or treatment, complicated techniques in surgery and nonstandard approaches to widespread diseases.

While competing with each other and trying to prevent patients’ flow to abroad, Georgian clinics equip their facilities with the most recent and exciting devices. They try to keep up with progress in the medical field. This is because in spite of the limited financial resources, modern patients want the newest approaches to their treatment; everything high-tech strengthens their faith in a prompt recovery. That’s why medical facilities are racing to attract more and more patients by implementing and running new services for them. This may include scattered radiation during metastatic tumors or stem cell transfusion for the treatment of paraplegia.

All of the abovementioned needs promotion, not only to the Georgian also to foreign markets. That’s why the ground for the first medical B2B days was laid. This was for presenting news of the Georgian medical capacity to the representatives of post-Soviet countries. It is planned to introduce our possibilities to other markets, including those in Arabia, Asia and Europe.

The initiative is worth doing. But are our medical facilities ready to manage the inflow of foreign patients? Do they have enough capacity to provide the service quality patients from other countries are accustomed to? Yes, maybe this is easier in the case of post-Soviet countries, where medical services are at a similar level with us, or even lower, but what about Arabian or European patients who require higher standards?

Anyway, this is a new challenge for us; new demands of the medical service; higher expectations; and it will positively affect Georgian customers too – by increasing medical service quality; implementing new approaches in medicine; encouraging medical staff to develop, etc. Let’s see what this initiative will bring to us. The first tangible results will be seen in approximately six months.

Medical services can also become the subject for B2B. Every medical facility faces the reality when patients want to go to clinics abroad. As mentioned above, this is true both for developed and developing countries. This is a consumers’ drain process when the medical facility from the patient’s home country loses its profit by losing the patient. B2B can be a useful process, when the clinic from one country chooses the clinic from another country from its list of partners, according to the patient’s needs and financial capacity, and suggests high quality medical services abroad for a reasonable price. This is profitable for both counterparts, as the foreign clinic gets a patient from abroad, which means pure cash income. And the local clinic gets cash back from the partner clinic, which is an accepted practice in such kinds of business affairs.

Ana Zhulina is a Public Health Specialist with 7 years of working experience in different fields of the Georgian healthcare system. A global outlook and critical mind help her to find the main challenges in Georgian and global health issues and try to solve them in a theoretical manner.