These days, altering the way you look through surgery is commonplace -It's quite safe to say that all you need is money, a good doctor and a bit of determination.
Financing the operation and the skill of the surgeon are also factors when choosing the place you undergo the surgery. Many people are not afraid to travel abroad. Medical tourism has become a phenomenon of our time, and thanks to the superb reputation enjoyed by local cosmetic surgeons the Czech Republic is a force to be reckoned with, as far as foreign tourists are concerned, that is – Czechs, it would seem, are far more cautious, and at least for now prefer home-grown specialists.
‘According to a Forbes league table the Czech Republic is one of the top 10 international destinations for medical tourism for 2008. This country, and Prague in particular, is now a popular destination for reasonably priced plastic and cosmetic surgery,' concludes Rostislav Vondruška, head of CzechTourism. Although cosmetic surgery plays the leading role as far as medical tourism is concerned, overseas patients are also interested in dental and orthopaedic procedures as well as fertility treatment.
For a long time only estimates were available for the actual number of foreign clients arriving in the Czech Republic for medical treatment and surgery. More light was shed on the matter by a study carried out by Hilcom and published on the internet at www.plasticka-chirurgie.info.
From March through to May of 2008, the study attempted to map out the current situation on the Czech cosmetic surgery scene. The study took into consideration the specific nature of medical tourism in the Czech Republic, that being the relationship between patients and doctors rather than clinics. ‘Some 45 plastic surgeons who took part in the study said that foreign clients made up 19 % of all the operations they performed. We are talking about 5–6 thousand patients,' cited Hilcom's executive director, Pavel Hilbert. The largest number of cosmetic surgery patients came from Germany, followed by Austria, Great Britain, and Slovakia. The overwhelming majority were female (87 %) and travelled to the Czech Republic in most cases for breast enlargements, eyelid operations and liposuction.
Doctors also maintain that the number of foreign clients increases considerably when they offer to help organise the trip to the Czech Republic. Most of them are able to assist with arrangements themselves, while 19 % work with specialist travel agencies.
Satisfied customers then return home and recommend good doctors to their friends. Word of mouth is more effective in this area than anywhere else, which is borne out by the findings of the study posted on www.plasticka-chirurgie.info.
Doctors stated that personal recommendations are the most frequent way foreign clients find their way to the surgery door.
But is the risk to which patients expose themselves during treatment in a foreign country outweighed by the lower price tag? The research shows that patients from other countries are better informed than the Czechs, even though they have to discuss their issue with the doctor over a long distance by telephone and e-mail. According to Hilbert, foreign patients stay in the Czech Republic an average of 3–10 days (depending on the operation they are undergoing).
It's not that common for them to combine their time in the country with day-trips or recuperate at a spa. If we look at the situation in successful medical tourism destinations, there is still room to promote this kind of service. This could be especially attractive for clients from more distant countries and when the attractiveness of a destination could tip the balance when deciding where to go for an operation. In these cases the internationally celebrated Czech capital has a distinct advantage. Well known Czech spas could also benefit from this in the future.
The USA has seen a huge boom in medical tourism, but Europe is also on the up. Germans in search of dental treatment or other healthcare are travelling in ever greater numbers to Eastern Europe. Undergoing treatment abroad has become attractive for them as German health insurance companies foot the bill for healthcare across the EU. Across the globe, medical tourists made 19 million journeys in 2005 and, according to a report by Tourism Research and Marketing, this number could double by 2010. ‘The number one destination is Thailand which received 1.4 million tourists looking for medical treatment. India, where the number of foreign patients rises by 30 % every year, is catching up fast,' stated Lenka Šindelářová of CzechTourism trend analysis department.
As yet, Czechs, it would seem, are none too enthusiastic about medical tourism. In an internet survey carried out by CzechTourism, some 59 % of people who took part expressed such faith in Czech doctors that they wouldn't even consider going abroad even if the cost were lower. The main factors influencing those who said they would leave the Czech Republic to seek treatment were better care (30 %) and recommendations from friends (7 %).www.czechtourism.com