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11 september

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Inbound medical tourism: how the market of medical services for foreigners has changed in the context of the pandemic

Experts discussed the export of medical services and domestic tourism for healing and recreational purposes

Inbound medical tourism: how the market of medical services for foreigners has changed in the context of the pandemic

On September 11, the Civic Chamber of Russia hosted a round table on “Tasks of public organizations and medical tourism associations to implement the project ‘Developing the export of medical services’ in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The moderator of the meeting, First Deputy Chairman of the Commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on Healthcare and Public Health Development, Nikolay Daikhes noted that the initiator of the meeting was the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, which has recently been actively involved in developing inbound medical tourism in our country.

“The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, together with the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, initiated the discussion of developing inbound medical tourism several years ago and actively participated in this work. Much has been done in recent years, but the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of the necessary restrictive measures brought about new adjustments. Today it is important for us to draw a line over what has already been accomplished and set new tasks as we look forward to the future,” he said.

According to Nikolay Daikhes, the greatest attention should be paid to compliance with the new requirements for incoming patients, as well as developing not only inbound, but also domestic medical tourism.

“New conditions for arriving patients are of paramount importance. The pandemic will end sooner or later, and we must learn to exist and work in the new reality,” emphasized Nikolay Daikhes.

Andrey Gaiderov, Deputy Director of the Department of International Cooperation and Public Relations of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation was quoted as saying: “As of 2020 mostly citizens from neighboring countries (Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan) arrive for medical treatment. Even during the pandemic, our medical services are in demand internationally. The federal project "Developing the export of medical services" was implemented effectively and in stages, but in the context of the pandemic, the requirements for foreign patients have changed dramatically, and we need to work in the new reality. There is an Order of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 1511-r., which has established the special requirements for arriving patients. We have developed a memo together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service, and we widely inform clinics and host organizations about this on a specially created website. People are actively interested and receive reliable information from our Internet resource.”

The head of the Coordination Center for implementing the federal project "Developing the export of medical services" under the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation Sabina Grin suggested discussing the tasks of participants in the medical tourism market in modern conditions of fighting against COVID-19.

“As part of the new requirements for arriving patients, some new issues emerged. For instance, today a person can come to us not for an initial consultation, but for a serious and confirmed case that requires medical attention. There is also criminal liability for providing false information and using a medical visa for personal purposes. In the course of our work, we found that about 30 percent of people try to get into the country by contacting us and obtaining a medical visa. In connection with the pandemic, a segment of illegal patients was revealed, and now this part of medical tourism is becoming more transparent. Restrictive measures for entry have not been lifted, and therefore many private clinics are afraid to issue invitations to foreign patients. We suggest interacting with us and receiving the most reliable information regarding the requirements for patients,” she said.

The mechanism of interaction between participants in medical and health tourism in the format of a council of associations was proposed by the President of ANO National Interregional Association of Medical Tourism (NMAMT) Vladimir Klimin.

“It is necessary to think over the coordination of medical tourism associations as a union for effective interaction with organizations providing medical services. I propose to combine medical associations and public organizations of medical tourism with organizations that provide medical and post-medical services. In this regard it is important to consolidate efforts and establish coordinated work in all regions,” he stated.

In turn Nikolay Daikhes noted that the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation was ready to host events aimed at consolidating and developing medical tourism.

“All-Russian congresses can be held on the premises of the Civic Chamber. In addition, we could organize an event with all outbound tourism companies. Inbound tourism in our country has existed for about two years, while outbound tourism has been around for more than 10 years, as a result, companies have experience and best practices that can be used for inbound tourism. It is necessary to keep records about patients going abroad for medical treatment in order to follow their subsequent rehabilitation and offer further treatment within the country,” suggested the social activist.

The participants of the meeting also noted that it was necessary to adjust the pricing of medical services so that clinics could be motivated to accept foreign patients.

Olga Turenko, Head of the Department of Rehabilitation and Sanatorium-Resort Treatment of the FMBA, noted that in the first half of 2020, medical tourism in Russia was more in demand when compared to the same period last year.

“We were surprised by the fact that this year there was an increase in numbers related to medical tourism compared to last year. In the first half of 2019, about one and a half thousand patients were treated, during the same period in 2020 - approximately two thousand people. I would like to add that the list of foreign countries has also increased, namely, citizens from Africa, Asia and Latin America,” added Olga Turenko.

Tatyana Menshikova, Deputy Head of the Department of State Tourism Projects and Tourism Safety, Head of the Department of Tourism Information Resources and Tourism Safety at Rostourism, said that the department was interested in developing the direction of medical tourism, and was ready to provide marketing, information and other support to organizations involved in this process.

“Rostourism considers medical tourism as one of the main areas of work. Today we already have such travel services and products. We need to take positive experience and integrate it in the regions. There should be a single, unified strategy aimed at consolidation. It is important to provide quality, high-level services and create conditions for patients so that they can return to our country for medical tourism,” she said.

The tasks of the regions in developing the export of medical services in the context of the coronavirus pandemic were analyzed by the Adviser to the Governor of Sverdlovsk Region Andrey Tsvetkov.

“It is important to provide quality services, train highly qualified personnel, use advanced medical technologies, and establish the production of high-quality medicines. It is necessary to provide for convenient logistics, as well as create a cultural programme for visiting tourists and all accompanying persons. In this regard, it is necessary to consider developing not only medical tourism, but also tourism in general, as well as mechanisms for improving the quality of life in the regions, and creating the appropriate infrastructure. I believe that such work should be carried out within the frames of establishing a medical scientific cluster primarily aimed at solving personnel issues, providing housing for specialists and attracting young specialists to the regions,” he stated.

Summing up the results of the round table, Nikolay Daikhes noted that it was important to develop not only inbound medical tourism, but also domestic tourism for Russian citizens as well. “Today, there is an increase in demand among Russians for medical tourism that is why we must proceed in this direction,” he concluded.

Tags: Nikolai Daikhes

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