Over the past year, “non-residents” have spent 21.5 billion rubles in the Voronezh region. Including 800 million – for medical services, it follows from the data of SberAnalytika on operations with bank cards. This is 96 percent more than in 2021. The average check in the category was 7550 rubles. Such figures were given by the deputy head of the regional department for entrepreneurship and trade, Alexander Kukin, at the recent business forum named after Wilhelm Stoll.
He noted that the development of medical tourism is included in the development strategy of the Voronezh region. It is supposed to form an interregional brand to promote the possibilities of clinics in the central region of Chernozem and stimulate patient travel within this territory.
Actually, a quarter of out-of-town drug payments in Voronezh still falls on residents of the Belgorod, Kursk, Lipetsk and Tambov regions. Muscovites contribute another 25-27 percent, according to SberAnalytika. The most popular areas in Voronezh are ophthalmology, dentistry, plastic surgery and a complete check-up.
– During the five months of 2023, more than 2,300 patients from other regions visited our clinic. This is about seven percent of the total number of patients. Residents of the Belgorod and Lipetsk regions prevailed among non-residents (30 and 26 percent, respectively). They are in demand with MRI of the brain, spine and mammary glands with contrast, ultrasound, medical appointments (especially neurologists and gynecologists), Lyubov Voronyuk, executive director of the Expert Voronezh Clinic, told RG. – There were quite a few patients from Moscow and the Moscow region (200 people), the Tambov region (174). People came from Rostov, Kursk, Volgograd, LPR and DPR, Krasnodar, St. Petersburg, Saratov and Orel. That is, most of the residents of nearby regions turn to us. They often come from small towns and villages where there are not enough specialized doctors and diagnostic equipment. There are single patients from more exotic places: Khakassia, Yakutia, Khanty-Mansiysk, Buryatia and even Vladivostok. These are those who are in Voronezh on a visit or on a business trip.
A quarter of out-of-town drug payments in Voronezh falls on residents of the Chernozem region, Muscovites bring another 25-27 percent
Residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg most often come here to treat their teeth. By the way, dental tourism is also developing in other provincial cities, in particular in Smolensk. The services are cheaper, and the materials and doctors are at least no worse than in the average capital clinics. For the same reason, Muscovites tend to undergo surgical or plastic surgeries in Voronezh.
– The trend has existed for a long time, only patients who arrive in the city due to gravity, no one identified and counted. I drew attention to this in 2015-2017, when I analyzed the composition of guests in a budget hotel in a quiet center. If we take ordinary clinics, and not federal research centers, then the price difference between medical services in Moscow and Voronezh can reach 30 percent. And the savings are significant when it comes to operations costing 500-600 thousand rubles, for example, for the implantation of a large number of teeth or plastic surgery, – said Gennady Plastunov, head of the regional agency for incoming and outbound tourism. Voronezh-Med-Tour. – For our clients, the average check is from three to five thousand rubles, but this figure is formed due to the large volume of budget services. Even in surgery, the range is very wide: from 600 thousand for the same implantation to 40 thousand for the removal of the gallbladder.
The out-of-town patient cohort includes native Voronezh residents who moved to Moscow or abroad, or relatives of those who moved to the capital of the Chernozem region from neighboring smaller cities. Word of mouth plays an important role here: people tend to choose doctors based on feedback from their acquaintances.
– In each of the regional centers of the Chernozem region there are excellent doctors and clinics. People come to us not only to cure a tooth or do blepharoplasty, but also to a specific doctor in a specific clinic, in the name. In gastroenterology, oncology, urology, neurology, plastic surgery, there are well-known specialists outside the region. The queue for them is scheduled for a long time, Plastunov explained to RG.
Foreigners are also being treated in Voronezh. How much, no one knows. Only the total number of foreign guests is included in the statistics, in 2022 there were 13 thousand of them. Often people go on business or visit relatives and at the same time solve health problems.
– Sometimes Russians who have gone to live abroad bring their foreign relatives here for treatment. Last year, our clients included residents of Lithuania, Kazakhstan, France and Israel. An American living in Norway was going to have heart surgery at a regional hospital; unfortunately, he failed to fly. Why choose Voronezh? For example, expatriates from France brought their daughter here for a gastroenterology diagnosis. Seeing that everything is done quickly and with little budget, they were diagnosed by the whole family. They said that abroad it would take six months and a lot of money, – emphasized Gennady Plastunov. – Before the closure of the Voronezh airport, we were negotiating with Turkish Airlines and the Turkish network of “Memorial” clinics, as well as with the Honorary Consul of Italy in the Voronezh region about direct flights from Verona, especially for cancer patients. But in the regional dispensary they asked to wait until the new surgical building is inaugurated. Under current conditions, international cooperation is not interrupted, but is changing. We continue to interact with Turkey, discussing projects with colleagues from India, Iran, Jordan, other Middle Eastern countries and CIS countries.
In order for Russian medicine to attract more patients from abroad, it must have its own identity, a well-formed brand, Evgeny Lazarev, head of the project for the development of the network of agencies and medical tourism at the Medsi Group of Companies (Moscow ), believe:
– At the Ministry of Economic Development, the issue of such a brand was discussed in 2019, they talked about how we can rebuild from South Korean medicine. But the positioning did not take place. It exists at the level of individual regions, for example, the Tyumen or Volgograd regions, where the resources of public and private clinics have been combined, and their projects are actively promoted. Voronezh also has a chance. It is important to determine the target macro-region: it is better to focus on patients within a radius of 1000 kilometers (so they can reach you by train in a maximum of 12-16 hours) and with a time difference of no more. two hours. We try to work from Moscow with Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. Unfortunately, the difference in time zones makes communication too difficult.
For Voronezh clinics, the already mentioned Chernozem region may be the target area. But it makes sense to think about strategies to attract transit travelers, Gennady Plastunov believes:
– People began to travel more actively within the country. The Voronezh region is visited by two million people a year, and we could receive up to three million. The M-4 Don highway offers great potential. Conventionally, residents of the north-west on their way to the south can easily spend a few days in Voronezh – see the sights, visit the cosmetology center. And if they know in advance that we are the capital of medical tourism in the Chernozem region, they will be able to plan an examination or a spa treatment. We have modern centers of health-improving and anti-aging medicine: the same “Olymp Five” in the city center or the advertised “Yaman SPA Resort” in the Ramonsky district. The sanatorium named after Dzerzhinsky in Chertovitsy, “Don” and the sanatorium named after M. Gorky in Voronezh will be definitely developed.
Medical tourism is considered a very promising area: stability, proven profitability, growth faster than world GDP. But all this is still more theory than practice applicable to Russian realities, warned Yevgeny Lazarev.
“In our group of companies, which has five hundred million revenues and thousands of customers, tourists represent less than two percent,” he admitted.
Victoria Sandaluk, medical tourism expert, director of TopMedClinic (Moscow):
– Our most famous destinations for medical tourism are Germany and Israel. The secret of its success is that in the 1980s and 1990s many citizens of the Russian Federation moved there, who found out where they were being treated, gave recommendations to compatriots and helped with translation. In other words, medical tourism was not promoted by doctors and clinics, but by medical representatives of the emigrants.
Of the post-Soviet countries that have been able to gain a foothold in this market, I would cite Georgia as an example. People go there for dental treatment, plastic surgery and IVF, there is a good legal framework for surrogacy (especially for foreigners). In addition to medical services, the clinics provide foreign patients with three days of free accommodation, organize leisure activities: excursions, gastronomic tours, shopping. This is supported by budget subsidies. There are similar state programs in other countries. Thus, in Kazakhstan, clinics are united and receive reimbursement of up to 70 percent of the costs of working with tourists.
In order to attract patients from other regions, it is necessary to focus not on the fact that “we all have good doctors”, but on specific areas and services that make you stand out against the general background.
Gennady Plastunov, member of the medical tourism committee of the Russian Union of the Tourism Industry:
– The billing of medical tourism formally includes the expenses of those foreigners who, by law, are obliged to undergo certain tests when they come to us for personal and work reasons. This is a huge flow of patients, a decent inflow of funds in the industry. But I would still narrow down the concept and talk specifically about people going to the region for operations and serious medical procedures. Such medical tourism cannot be massive, because each patient needs an individual approach. And the profiling agency must select a medical organization and a doctor for a specific problem, a specific budget. And to make sure that a person is satisfied not only with treatment, but also with rehabilitation, sightseeing, and visiting a restaurant.