Taking a Complex Approach to Private Healthcare
Petra Lancsalics, managing director of Dr. Rose Private Hospital, talks to the Budapest Business Journal about the role private healthcare service providers can play.
BBJ: In Hungary, access to healthcare is provided on a universal basis and many still believe that should be the case. What impact do you think this has on private healthcare?
Petra Lancsalics: People used to turn to private healthcare for a specific intervention or for care in certain medical branches like gynecology or dentistry. With waiting lists in public healthcare getting longer and access to quality care becoming more difficult, this tendency is no longer that marked today. More people use private healthcare services; as a result, the sector is growing more dynamically.
BBJ: Has the number of your patients grown as well?
PL: In the past few years, patient numbers have grown by 15-20% per year. Besides the aforementioned factors, we owe this to our striving to provide complex care. Since Dr. Rose was founded in 2007 and in-patient care was launched in 2010, we have constantly developed the range of our services based on patients’ needs. We are a premium-category institute – openly the most expensive one in Hungary – so our client base consists of people who are more health conscious and are willing to spend on their health preventively. This circle has widened since, also in line with the number of services/fields added, with patients who may not become “regular”; rather, they come to us a for specific treatment such as a hip replacement, but go elsewhere to have an annual screening test done. The fact that there is no waiting list and care is provided on the same day the request comes or the friendly, patient-focused service also helps this process.
BBJ: Have you modified your strategy?
PL: In the past few years, market conditions have changed substantially: competition for patients and physicians has become more fierce. In this setting, a more innovative, forward-looking approach is the one that can ensure our competitive edge in the long run and our new owners support this view.
When talking about being innovative, I don’t mean going against business policies or following a strategy different from the one set by the previous owners. [Editor’s note: Dr. Rose has new owners since late 2018]. I am thinking of developing equipment, services; we wish to put more emphasis on our surgical procedures, for example, obstetrics so that mothers can give birth in near home-like conditions. In-patient care has been developing at a fast pace and plastic surgery, orthopedics and gynecology are the fields that have seen huge development in past six months. We also try and accentuate medical aesthetics more. We opened an out-patient surgery in Buda a year ago where mainly laser treatments are available to offer a more complex service and options for a problem. These are also the fields that are the most profitable.
BBJ: What do you do to attract new patients and keep existing ones?
PL: Providing complex services is key, even in fields that are unavailable at our facilities. One is emergency care, which remains in public healthcare’s authority. We cooperate with other institutes, for example, Uzsoki Hospital, where patients requiring intensive care are treated at the hospital’s VIP department, or Pozitron Diagnostics where MR or CT-screening – equipment we at Dr. Rose don’t have – can be done. Cooperation between physicians is also an important factor. We provide care in more than 40 fields where our specialists work in teams and can discuss a patient’s care during a rapid session and can prescribe the best possible treatment. Providing tailored care for each patient is one of our biggest strengths. Despite having more patients every day, we strive to provide this. Should anyone have a complaint regarding care or the services, we deal with them individually and the patient doesn’t get lost in the system.
BBJ: Part of your client list is drawn from companies. How have legislative changes around corporate medical insurance impacted your business?
PL: It took years of education for companies to recognize the importance of paying attention to their employees’ state of health; the labor shortage, too, has contributed to this perception becoming more widespread. We entered this market in 2014 by coming to an agreement with Union Biztosító. Many of our patients, CEOs, wanted to have this service available for their employees: this pushed us to open to this segment as well, again, to enhance the complexity of our services.
This January, tax-exemption for corporate health insurance was cancelled. We do have a few partners that did not renew their agreement with us, citing the change in legislation, but their number is low. Most would rather incorporate this cost in their budgets as employee satisfaction is important for them. Also, down time is reduced considerably. We try and offer more possibilities to our partners such as “target-specific services” that basically serve as an alternative to health care packages.
BBJ: How do you see the future? What do expect to achieve in the coming years?
PL: The decisions taken on healthcare at a governmental level obviously impact the operation of this segment. With waiting times increasing, dynamic growth in private healthcare will likely continue, but we would rather not estimate growth figures as a result. We do have some targets set: we aim to provide premium-level professional service in the first place, as we believe that providing complex care at a high-level and additional services are the key to remaining competitive in the long run.
As for short-term goals, we are planning to expand our in-patient care, our most rapidly growing segment. Developing equipment, applying new surgery techniques and hiring renowned professionals are also planned.
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