Health tourism as Serbia’s great potential

The current value of the global health market is estimated to range between 45 and 70 billion US dollars. Although Serbia could generate at least dozens of millions of Euros in this segment, we are making the first tentative steps and nobody can estimate for sure how much revenue foreign patients actually generate for Serbia. We have good medical facilities and medical staff, but we lack in proper organization.

In the last few years, health tourism in the world has been recording strong growth while the study called Patients Beyond Borders shows that the current value of this market ranges between $45 and $70bln, Biznis magazine reports.

Close to 14 million people all over the globe decide to get medical treatment abroad while the annual consumption per visit ranges between $3,800 and $6,000 including the accommodation costs.

Patients usually search for medical treatments abroad for two reasons – to save money and to cut waiting time. The estimates in the aforementioned study show that the health tourism market would grow between 15% and 25% in the following period. Currently, the Latin American countries top the list as the most popular with health tourists, followed by Southeast and South Asia, with Turkey also ranking quite high.

State plays crucial role

In the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about the potential of health tourism in Serbia but this segment is still not properly regulated so it comes as no surprise that nobody can estimate how much money we actually generate from foreign patients. What we do know is that foreign patients that come here are usually of Serbian origin, but there are more and more of ‘real’ foreigners too. They mostly come from Europe, followed by the U.S. and Australia.

In order for this sector to develop properly in Serbia, we need a good regulation and several other prerequisites like infrastructure, liberalization of the visa regime, international accreditation for our medical facilities etc. The proprietor of the Bel Medic Clinic, Jasmina Knezevic, who has been treating patients from abroad for years now, says that the current legislation hinders the development of the private medical sector and that this regulation is a remnant from the past:

“The first thing that Croatia did was to harmonize the tourism and health laws and then invited both national and international investors to invest in this sector. Development of our transport infrastructure is another very important factor. For instance, Turkish Airlines gives free tickets to those passengers who are travelling abroad for medical diagnostic or treatment purposes”, says Dr Knezevic and adds that relaxing visa regime or even having so-called health visas, that would be much quicker and easier to obtain, are also quite important.

Dr Danica Mihailovic, Director of the Afeja Company that organizes the arrival of foreign patients to Serbia and networks between patients and doctors, says that it is very important for the Serbian healthcare facilities to get international accreditation and that as many healthcare workers as possible (doctors and technicians) speak more than one foreign language.

In addition to the above mentioned, it would be very beneficial if insurance companies were to come up with insurance policies solely for foreign patients seeking treatment in Serbia.

(Blic, Biznis, 05.11.2016)

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This post is also available in: Italiano

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