Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Strengthening Medical Tourism Ties with Croatia: Dr Jeana Havidich Interview

October 9, 2019 - The recent ACAP Croatian diaspora conference in Cleveland included a medical tourism panel, the latest strengthening of medical tourism ties between international Croatians and the homeland. An interview with panelist Jeana Havidich, MD, PhD.

Dr. Jeana Havidich is a board-certified pediatric anesthesiologist at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  She is a graduate of The Dartmouth Institute and her research focuses on outcomes and health care delivery science.   She is active in medical education and participates on national quality and safety initiatives.

1. You were a recent panelist on the medical tourism panel at the (Association of Croatian American Professionals) ACAP conference in Cleveland. How was the conference in general, and the panel in particular?

The conference was a great success. The enthusiasm generated was contagious and continues to grow.  The speakers were diverse, engaging and inspiring. The address by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was a very special moment for all who attended.

I am very excited about the amount of interest and support the Medical Tourism Task force received during and after the conference. The moderators did a great job asking questions and engaging the audience.  It was great to have representatives from Croatia and the Croatian government inform the audience of current activities in Croatia.


2. As an American of Croatian heritage living in the States, give us a perspective of how Croatian medical tourism is perceived, especially in the diaspora? Is it coming onto people's radar? What are the key factors which will persuade the diaspora (and ultimately Americans) to travel to Croatia for medical treatment?

One of the panel’s biggest accomplishments was to inform the diaspora of the activities that are ongoing in Croatia relating to medical tourism.  I don’t believe medical tourism received much attention in the US until recently.  The concept of medical tourism is more popular in Europe but is gaining traction in other countries.  Although estimates are variable, the industry is expected to grow 10 – 25% over the next ten years.

The question regarding identifying key factors that will persuade the diaspora and Americans to travel to Croatia is very interesting. There are different reasons for different people.  Access and cost are two of the main reasons patients travel for health care.  The opportunity to receive high quality care at a lower cost is attractive to many patients.  For others, there may be services not offered locally or covered by insurance.  In the U.S., preventative care is typically not covered by most insurance and wellness vacations are becoming increasingly popular. Globalization has affected virtually all industries – and health care is no exception. 

3. You are involved in an interesting project, the OnSite Global consulting program, whereby MBA students at an Ivy League School will be coming to Croatia this fall to do a project to develop medical tourism in Croatia. Can you tell us a little about the project and how it came to be?

Almost three years ago, I met with the director of the global onsite consulting program to obtain her insight and advice. Since then, I kept her apprised of the progress the ACAP Taskforce has made.  She was impressed with our accomplishments and thought we were at a stage where her team could help. To determine the interest level in Croatia, Dr. Steven Pavletic and I met with leaders in the Croatian government and in the Medical Tourism industry in Croatia in May 2019.   We were excited they were willing to work with us on this project. I relayed this information to the consulting group, and we started planning our next steps.

We are fortunate to have the consultants involved. The global consulting program is quite competitive. In order to apply to this program, individuals must have a minimum of five years’ experience in consulting or international business.  We (ACAP MTTF) developed an Integrated Medical and Wellness program we believe will attract Americans and the diaspora.  Our key question is how to implement this program that will serve as a foundation to promote and further develop medical tourism in Croatia? Answering that question will require extensive research. In addition to their preparatory work, the team will spend three weeks in Croatia in December 2019– conducting research, interviewing key stakeholders and government officials – to answer that question.  They will present their findings in February 2020. 

(To learn more about this project and to donate - only 5 days left - click here.)

4. What are your hopes and expectations in terms of project outputs? Will this be an ongoing annual occurrence?

This project is time-limited. The consulting team will deliver a market analysis, propose a business plan and recommend next steps.  My hope is this will serve as a foundation for further growth and development of medical tourism in Croatia. We are looking forward to partnering with Croatians to develop medical tourism.  I am very excited to work on this project.  It will be intense but well worth it.

5. Strengthening ties and cooperation between Croatia and the USA can only be beneficial to Croatia's medical tourism industry. How much connection is there at present, and how do you see this developing?

The connection continues to grow stronger. In 2016, Dr. Halar and Dr. Pavletic inspired ACAP members to work with Croatia to develop and promote medical tourism.  In a short period of time, the Task Force has grown to over 140 individuals from all professions – physicians, business leaders, health care professionals, lawyers, and government officials – which makes us unique and talented organization. This diversification gives us strength.  Given the enthusiasm at our recent conference, I only see the connection growing.  

6. 'Potential' is a common word used when describing Croatia and its medical tourism industry. Several experts have said it has the potential to be in the top ten countries in the world in 10 years if its stakeholders come together. Do you share this view, and what are the important next steps to get to the next level?

Absolutely. Thoughtfully implemented, I believe Croatia has the potential to be in the top five destinations for medical tourism in the world.  Croatia possesses natural beauty, has a strong history of preventative medicine and wellness programs, and is one of the top tourists’ destinations in the world. The next steps depend on the type of programs offered, but stakeholders including government officials, leaders in the public and private health care sector, and supporting industries are needed to devise a strategy that will ensure Croatia’s success.  There are many parts to this puzzle, but I believe Croatia is well-positioned to be a leader in the industry.

7. There seems to be a great energy between ACAP and the business community in Croatia in recent months. Can you tell us a little about that?

It truly is inspiring and an honor to be part of this process and the ACAP organization.  ACAP is composed of volunteers whose mission is to promote Croatia and Croatian professionals.  The numerous hours of work willingly and enthusiastically ‘donated’ by members in this organization is incredible.  And it’s not just first-generation Americans, it’s second and sometimes third.   For me, this is an opportunity to give back to the Croatian community that supported me going to college. With that support, I was able to get accepted to medical school.  I have spoken to many others in ACAP with similar stories.

For the latest on the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Full Programme for 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum in Zagreb Announced

October 9, 2019 - The 3rd edition of the Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum will be held at the Westin in Zagreb once more from October 20-22. 

The potential of Croatia's medical tourism industry will once more be in the spotlight later this month, as the 3rd Adriatic Health, Sport & Tourism Forum will take place at the 5-star Hotel Westin in Zagreb from October 20-22. 

Many international experts agree that Croatia has the potential to be in the top 10 countries in the world within ten years, and this year's forum has a quality lineup of Croatian and international speakers - and investors - who will be taking part in the 3-day event. Unlike many other health tourism conferences, the forum has a key focus on infrastructure and projects to support the growth of the wellness and health tourism expansion plans. None more so than the 500-million-euro planned resort on Pasman from American investor Jeff Blackard, who will be one of the keynote speakers. Event organiser Miljenko Bura MD had this to say by way of introduction of AHT:

"There are large-scale health tourism projects in the region that envisage great investments in the general and tourist infrastructure, products and services, and medical and tourist professionals in Croatia, Montenegro and other countries in the region, and their implementation requires huge funds which those countries do not have. Therefore we have launched the initiative seeking from the EC non-repayable funds to co-fund the investments, said Miljenko Bura of the Medical Group.

"Bura said that the potential for health tourism in Croatia and the rest of the Adriatic region was extremely large. It is authentic and has an unpolluted environment and sea which only few regions in the world can boast, he added."

The Forum gathers key people and projects in tourism and healthcare industry within Adriatic Region. The Forum is the right place for all visionaries and enthusiasts interested in how the health tourism in the Adriatic Region can reach the next level and become the full-time destination with quality contents from medical, wellness, touristic, rural and gastronomic segments.

The full programme is now available and can be viewed below - it promises to be an intense and productive 2.5 days, and TCN will be covering the event as a media sponsor. 



Preliminary final program covers thematic blocks that will be discussed in detail during the 3rd AHT Investment forum (October [20] 21 and 22, 2019.):

DAY ZERO Sunday, October 20, 2019

14:00-19:00 Workshops


Emin Cakmak, founder and honorary chairman, Global Healthcare Travel Council, Turkey

Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates, founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE


Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates; founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE


Dr Lutz Lungwitz, president, German Association of Medical Wellness, Germany

Dr Tomislav Majić, founder, Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre at Smarjeske Spa, Slovenia

Dr Mladen Golubić, medical director, Center for lifestyle medicine, Cleveland Clinic, USA 

19:00-21:00 Welcoming reception

DAY ONE Monday, October 21, 2019

08:00-09:00 Registration

09:00-09:30 Opening ceremony

09:30-10:00 Sponsor presentation


  • Adriatic region as a year-round riviera – a common project of the European Union?!
  • Health, sports and tourism infrastructure – a prerequisite for locals and visitors

Introductory lecture: A successful development of global healthcare and

tourism destinations – the Turkey experience Emin Cakmak, founder and chairman, Global Healthcare Travel Council, Turkey

Panelists: Gari Cappelli, Minister of Tourism, Croatia

Dr Vlasta Brozičević, Terme Selce, Croatia

Dr Jasmina Knežević, Belmedic, Serbia

Joe Bašić,

Magdalena Rutkowska, president, Medical Travel Partner, Poljska

Dr Miljenko Bura, initiator, AHT Forum; founder, Medical Group; medical tourism consultant, Croatia

Moderator: Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates; founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE

11:40-12:00 Project presentations



Zdenko Lucić – State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts, Croatia - Representatives of the Adriatic region countries

Jeff Blackard, CEO, Blackard Global, USA

John Gašparac, Executive director, PWC Croatia

Hrvoje Stojić, Economic Research Director, Addiko Bank, Croatia

Marko Pažanin, Executive Director & Partner, Croatia Sotheby´s International Realty

13:30-14:30 Lunch


Panelists: EU representative

Croatian Ministry of Tourism representative

Luke Savage, Managing Director – International Acquisitions and Operations, Medical Properties Trust, USA

Emin Cakmak, founder and honorary chairman of Global Healthcare Travel Council, Turkey

Magdalena Rutkowska, president, Medical Travel Partner, Poland

Ivana Kolar, CEO and Founder, Julius Rose Business Consulting, Croatia, TBA

Dr Vladimir Mozetič, President, Kvarner Health Cluster, Croatia

Moderator: Lutz Lungwitz, President, German Association of Medical Wellness, Germany

16:00-16:45 Projects presentation


Introductory lecture: Smart Medical City

Marko Vukobratović, PhD, Barrage, Osijek, Croatia


Dr John Raffetto, CEO, Ambassador Care and American Adriatic Health LTC, Washington D.C., USA

Marino Šabijan, CEO, LUXHEAL, Zagreb, Croatia MedicalChain, London, UK, TBA Ericsson, Zagreb, Croatia

18:15-19:00 B2B networking

DAY TWO: Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Introductory lecture:

Dr Prem Jagyasi, founder, Dr Prem and Associates; founder, Dr Prem Web Magazine Network, India/UAE


Dr Miljenko Bura, initiator, AHT Forum; founder, Medical Group; medical tourism consultant, Croatia

Dr Lutz Lungwitz, president of the German Association of Medical Wellness, Germany

Rick Shands, TAHPI, London – Dubai – Sydney

Dr Steven Pavletić, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, USA

Dr Dražen Jurković, CEO, UPUZ, Croatia

Dr Milorad Gošev, CEO, Roche Pharmaceuticals Croatia, TBA


Luke Savage, Managing Director – International Acquisitions and Operations, Medical Properties Trust, USA

10:00-10:45 Projects presentation

10:45- 11:00 Break

11:00- 12:30 Panel: EU FUNDING IN NEW FINANCIAL PERSPECTIVE 2021.-2027.

  • Platform for the development of health tourism in the Adriatic region

Panelists: EU representative

Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds representative, Croatia

Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development representative, Croatia

Ministry of Health representative, Croatia

Dr Vjekoslav Mandić, Minister of Health, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Damir Novotny, CEO, T&MC Group, Croatia

Jakša Puljiz, PhD, Head of Department for European Integration, Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia

Moderator: TBA 12:30-12:45 Projects presentation


Ministry of Agriculture representative, Croatia

Dr Mladen Golubić, Medical Director, Centre for lifestyle medicine, Cleveland Clinic, USA

Dr Zvonimir Šostar, director of the Teaching institute “Andrija Štampar”, Croatia

Diana Gluhak-Spajić, HEALTHY MEAL

Zvonimir Novak, President, Croatian Competitiveness Cluster of Food Processing Sector, Croatia

13:45-14:45 Lunch

14:45-15:30 Project presentations



Sanda Čorak, PhD, VP, Institute for Tourism, Zagreb, Croatia

Marin Čilić, Professional tennis player, Croatia, TBA

Marijan Kustić, Executive Director, Croatian Football Federation, Croatia

Damir Knjaz, PhD, University of Zagreb - Faculty of Kinesiology, Croatia

Igor Jukić, PhD, University of Zagreb - Faculty of Kinesiology, Croatia


Ranko Ćetković, General Secretary Assistant, Croatian Olympic Committee, Croatia

17:00-18:30 B2B networking

For more information about the conference and to reserve your spot, visit the official website

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

To learn more about the forum organisers, including their other initiatives to develop medical tourism in the Adriatic, visit the Medical Group Ltd website



Monday, 7 October 2019

Sponsor a MBA Student on Medical Tourism Research Trip to Croatia

October 7, 2019 - A hands-on collaboration between Croatia and its diaspora via ACAP to bring one MBA student to Croatia for medical research. 

Ties between the Croatian medical tourism industry and the diaspora are strengthening, particularly in Cleveland, where the recent ACAP diaspora conference included a medical tourism panel. Also announced at the same time was the first-ever European Patient Experience and Innovation conference in Dubrovnik next year, which will be organised by Bagatin Clinic from Zagreb with a presentation by Cleveland Clinic. 

But there are several other initiatives strengthening ties and bringing mutually beneficial rewards. Among them is an initiative to fund an MBA student to visit Croatia for Medical Tourism research and study, and a fundraising campaign is currently underway and will last another 7 days. More information on the project below:

Healthcare has proven to be the biggest struggle in many countries. Croatia, the vacation destination on the Adriatic, is no exception and shows great promise to providing affordable healthcare to both its citizens and visitors. The country's modern clinics and pristine beaches have the potential to draw tourists for exceptional medical care, at modest prices, with phenomenal results.  The ACAP Medical Tourism Task Force has spent countless hours discussing and organizing a manner in which we, as Croatian diaspora, can support our homeland. We are now moving forward with multiple ongoing initiatives, including a project in the works with a group of Ivy League MBA students to help us develop the plan for launching pilot Health and Wellness programs in the coming three years. Help us take advantage of this cost-effective consulting resource to provide us with a vacation destination that can cure us both mentally and physically at a reasonable price.

Croatia, known as a breath-taking paradise, has taken the world by storm as a top vacation destination. The beautiful coast and never-ending local hospitality add to the allure of the small country on the Adriatic Sea. Over the past decade, Croatia has made strides towards a better country, and world-class health care. As the people of Croatia continue to work towards these goals, we ask that you help us, friends of Croatia, make just as great of an impact. The Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) Medical Tourism Task Force (MTTF), in conjunction with students from an Ivy League MBA program, are laying the groundwork for a better Croatian healthcare system.  Please help support this cause.

ACAP is a member-driven, non-profit organization that focuses on sharing knowledge and expertise around matters that are of concern to Croatian and Croatian-American organizations. The ACAP MTTF was established in 2016 by a group of volunteers to advance initiatives aligned with both member expertise and issues of strategic importance to Croatia, and its citizens. 

Two key initiatives involved are: helping establish Croatia as a go-to destination for medical tourism and establishing a comprehensive cancer center. Croatia—attracting more than 18 million tourists yearly—has great potential to grow in medical tourism but has not had the proper foundation. Furthermore, in 2018 there were a total of 25,221 new cases of cancer among men and women in Croatia. The Croatian cancer center would aim to increase Croatia’s five-year cancer survival rates by 20%.

After years of planning, researching, and organizing, the MTTF has found the perfect organization to lay the groundwork for both medical tourism and cancer center initiatives. An Ivy League research university has provided MBA consulting expertise to corporate, government and non-profit clients in 60 countries since 1997 through a highly competitive program. The team, along with their faculty advisor, will spend 1000+ person-hours to provide us with in-depth analysis and recommendations to help make our ideas a reality. 

Focus areas would include: 

Identify, define and understand the target markets for these services; roughly quantify the demand for services based on the needs of the target market. 

Map the medical tourism ecosystem in Croatia to identify critical interdependencies, existing capabilities, risks, and potential partners.

Define the initial set of services to be offered. The focus will be on taking existing work, extending it and "packaging" it for key target audiences (patients, investors, and partners). 

Provide insights through relevant case studies of organizations who have successfully (or unsuccessfully) implemented similar programs. Define partnership needs and criteria for identifying and evaluating potential partners (specifically private clinics); test criteria through initial vetting of potential partners. 

Delineate the phases of development and resources required for scale-up over three years; identify the next steps of work to be done following the completion of this project. 

Project Outline - October 2019 to January 2020

5 students, 1 faculty advisor

Required travel: December 2-20, 2019

Costs will cover lodging, flights, meals and incidentals allowance and ground transportation

For more information, and to donate, click here

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism industry, click here

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Bagatin Clinic Nominated for 2 International Awards at IMTJ 2019

October 1, 2019 - More international recognition for Bagatin Clinic from Zagreb and Split, which continues to raise the bar in Croatian medical tourism. 

It is about two years since I first became aware of the Croatian medical tourism industry, and I must confess I find its dynamics fascinating. That initial discovery of the excellence of St. Catherine Specialty Hospital, one of the Leading Hospitals of the World, Svjetlost Eye Clinic, and Bagatin Clinic was an impressive window into an area of tourism where Croatia has the potential to punch above its weight on the global stage and attract lucrative tourism 12-months a year. You can read my initial discoveries in Health Tourism is Coming Home: Why Zagreb is the Next Big Medical Tourism Destination.

Over that two-year period, it did not take long to figure out which was the most active and successful clinic in Croatia, as well as the most effective at promoting internationally not just itself, but Croatian medical tourism in general - Bagatin Clinic. 

It is a great story of three brothers, two of them surgeons, one not. But what Ognjen Bagatin may have lacked in his brothers' skills with the knife, he has more than made up with in terms of running the family business, which has enjoyed phenomenal growth and success in recent years, including opening up on the Adriatic coast for the first time earlier this year in Split

With a key focus on dentistry, plastic surgery, dermatology and cosmetic treatments, Bagatin Clinic has been slowly expanding its client base internationally, including what is - for me at least - perhaps the most inspiring story and advert for Croatian tourism I have come across - read Carl's story and his life-changing visit to Zagreb from the United States, while saving tens of thousands of dollars in the process.  

And the international awards followed, including being voted the best dermatology clinic in all Europe last year - see above. 

Arguably the most prestigious awards in the medical tourism industry, however, are the annual International Medical Travel Journal Awards, which this year will take place in Berlin in December. 

For the third year running, Bagatin Clinic has been nominated, this time for two awards in the international category - Best Aesthetic Surgery and Best Marketing Initiative, according to a recent Facebook post from CEO Bagatin. 


The nominations are the latest recognition for the dynamic clinic, which is also doing more than any other to develop Croatia's medical tourism industry, with Ognjen Bagatin tirelessly on the road to networking and developing strategies. The fruits of one such endeavour paid dividends in Cleveland last week, as Bagatin's close relationship with the world-famous Cleveland Clinic has resulted in Bagatin Clinic announcing the first-ever European Patient Experience and Innovation Conference, which will include participation from international presenter, Cleveland Clinic, to take place in Dubrovnik in March. 

If there was an IMTJ category for promoting the country's medical tourism potential, there would be few to rival Bagatin Clinic. We will bring you the results from Berlin as they arrive in December. 

To follow the Croatian medical tourism story, follow our dedicated TCN section


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

ACAP Presenting Croatian Medical Tourism Potential to Diaspora, US Market

September 25, 2019 - Last week's ACAP diaspora conference in Cleveland was another step forward for Croatia's medical tourism industry. TCN catches up with Ognjen Bagatin, who moderated the medical tourism panel. 

The big news, of course, we have already published - an agreement of cooperation between Bagatin Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, which will result in Europe's first Patient Experience conference to be held in Dubrovnik in March - organised by Bagatin with presentation by Cleveland Clinic. You can read more about that here


Ognjen Bagatin, the main driving force to establish Croatia's medical tourism industry on the global stage, is just back from the ACAP conference in Cleveland, and we had time to catch up at yesterday's Croatia 365 conference at the Zagreb Sheraton, where he gave me an overview of the medical tourism panel which was a key component of the Cleveland conference. 

Bagatin stated that there were two main goals:

⦁ Show the American Croatian society in US that Croatia has a great potential in this area, but also that we have points of excellence in some area of medicine and attracting large number of international patients/clients (Kvarner, Zagreb, Split) in areas of dental, orthopedic and rehabilitation, aesthetic surgery and non invasive aesthetic treatments, ophthalmology and medical wellness.

⦁ We shared there is opportunities for ACAP members (there are 1400 of them) for investments and getting involved in market development in Croatia, and that now is the right time to invest. This is an emerging market (just like tourism was 20 years ago)  

Our panelist shared success stories from the field and in different sectors:

Mate Car, Phd, assistant minister have shared that the legal framework is done, which means safety for investors, and that Ministry of Health is working on a working group to work on EU funding for next phase of EU funding – 2021-2027.

Marcel Medak, president of HGK health tourism group (and the director of Bizovacke Toplice), shared that now is the right time to invest because there will be an opportunity to invest in public speciality hospitals that are going to be presented soon for investors. This is a big opportunity for investors. Also he mentioned that his rehabilitation clinics had a 30% increase of foreign patients this year and that they are expecting the further growth in the future.

Marinko Rade, MD, Phd, awarded scientist and director of public orthopedic and rehabilitation hospital in Rovinj, shared that every year the Austrians insurance is raisng the quantity of people who they send to their clinics and that they are planning to invest 17 mil $ into further development of their hospital and health tourism in Rovinj. He is a young leader that we need to keep in Croatia.

Vladimir Mozetic, MD, Phd, shared info about Kvarner Cluster and what did they have been doing as a cluster in the last 5 years. Kvarner has 85,000 foreign patients every year, and 80% of them are for dental services. He was sharing how you can succeed with clusterization and branding yourself as a destination of health. He also shared that if you come one week in Losinj you will extend your life for 1 year, so come and try it.

Last but not least, an ACAP member Jeana Havidich, anesthesiologist from Dartmouth Hitchcock medical center, shared that together with TUCK Dartmouth MBA students she will do a project for developing Health and medical tourism in Croatia.  Tuck Dartmouth InSight Global consulting program and Kerry Laufer (project leader) are coming to Croatian in Fall 2019.   They really have done a phenomenal job and made a solid reputation within the international business community.   This is a huge thing for Croatia because their project are featured in Delta magazine throughout of USA.

We also shared why Croatia has a great potential and it is because we already have a market:

⦁ >20 mil. tourist in last two years

⦁ 7% of them are health motivated (according to TOMAS research)

⦁ The private health sector is growing 12-15 % every year

⦁ The industry of health and medical tourism will have an annual growth of 15-20% which is amazing  


(Ognjen Bagatin, left, with Cleveland Clinic CEO and fellow Croat, Tom Mihaljevic).

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

To learm more about Bagatin Clinic, click here.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Bagatin, Cleveland Clinic to Host 1st European Patient Experience & Innovation Conference in Dubrovnik

September 23, 2019 - A huge boost for the profile of Croatia's medical tourism industry, as Bagatin Clinic announces the first European Patient Experience & Innovation conference, to be held in Dubrovnik. 

Last year I was invited to a press conference at St Catherine Specialty Hospital in Zagreb, one of the Leading Hospitals in the World. I was more than impressed when I learned that the reason for the conference was the announcement of a partnership between the Croatian hospital and OneOne, co-founded by Mayo Clinic, to become the first European partner to make available in Europe the revolutionary RightMed pharmacogenetic test. You can read more about that here

A Croatian hospital, the only place in Europe where this groundbreaking test was available. Impressive. And a partner of a project co-founded by Mayo Clinic. Prestigious. 

And just as Mayo Clinic is one of the top names in global healthcare excellence, so too is Cleveland Clinic. 

And Cleveland Clinic is also coming to Croatia with a European first... 

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On March 19-20, 2020, to be exact. Croatian medical tourism pioneer Ognjen Bagatin, CEO of leading regional clinic, Bagatin Clinic, announced from Cleveland the first European Patient Experience and Innovation Conference, to be held at Valamar Lacroma Hotel in Dubrovnik, organised by Bagatin Clinic with collaborative international presenter, Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic hosts its own patient experience programme each year, and this will be the first of its kind in Europe. 

The relationship between Croatia and Cleveland Clinic is not new and is one which has been personally fostered by Bagatin, whose efforts to learn from the best are bringing international ideas and expertise to the Croatian medical tourism industry. Bagatin was responsible for bringing Joe Sweet, Cleveland Clinic's International Patient Experience Director to Zagreb earlier this year to speak at the 5th Annual Medical Tourism Conference. TCN interviewed Sweet (you can read the interview here) where he explained how why he had come to Croatia:

Firstly, our CEO Tom Mihaljevic is Croatian. But actually the reason I am here is driven by Ognjen Bagatin of Bagatin Clinic who came to see us in Cleveland to learn about the patient experience and our Patients First initiative. I met with him almost a year ago now, and we really hit it off from that first lunch we had together. I learned more about his personality, his drive and what he is trying to achieve. That was very impressive. And then this opportunity came up with Euro Events to come over and share our story, and Ognjen really connected that, making it happen.

We are interested in spreading the news of who we are and what we do and forming those connections around the world. So we see this as an opportunity to do that, to get out there and build more of those relationships.

patient-experience-dubrovnik (3).jpg

We will bring you more details of the conference as it develops, but in the meantime, you can catch the latest from the Croatian medical tourism story in our dedicated section

Monday, 5 August 2019

Travel & Tourism News Features Potential of Croatian Medical Tourism

August 5, 2019 - More international recognition of the potential of Croatia's medical tourism industry in a featured article in Travel & Tourism News. 

It is one of the great potential growth areas of the Croatian economy, a product which has already demonstrated global excellence, and one which industry experts agree could put Croatia in the top 10 in the world within a decade - the lucrative and rapidly expanding global medical tourism industry. 

As I wrote recently in Branding Croatia: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On, medical tourism should be one of the pillars of Croatia's tourism strategy moving forward. A 12-month industry which combines excellent treatment with the safe and relaxed Croatian lifestyle for recuperation has tremendous potential. Potential which has been recognised and featured in Travel & Tourism News last week.  

“Croatia has the tradition, skills and knowledge, many natural healing remedies and tourism capacities needed for development of health tourism. We have all the prerequisites to become a serious health destination on the European and world map of health tourism. Croatia needs to strengthen the infrastructure and encourage the linking of public and private entities, create content and products, since we have all the geographical, natural and professional conditions needed,” said Ivana Kolar, co-organiser of the recent ESPA Congress in Terme Tuhelj, and tourism advisor.

Several of Croatia's top clinics are featured - Bagatin Clinic, Svjetlost Eye Clinic, Akoromion, and the Special Hospital for Rehabilitation in Krapinske Toplice. You can read the article here

And if you are looking for one example of how Croatian medical tourism works par excellence, I highly recommend you read Carl's story about his life-changing visit to Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb all the way from the United States. It is, for me, probably the best Croatian tourism promotion story I have ever read

To follow the latest from the Croatian medical tourism industry, follow the dedicated TCN section.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Bagatin Becomes the First Run Friendly Clinic in the World

June 23, 2019 - The Run Croatia initiative enters a new phase as Bagatin Clinic becomes the first Run Friendly Clinic in the world. 

One of the most exciting things I am observing in Croatia today is how so many bubbles of positive energy and ideas are beginning to join forces. Forget the corruption of the State and the mighty State of Uhljebistan - there is a new breed of entrepreneur who just wants to get on with life. And these entrepreneurs are increasingly connecting with each other, creating a parallel Croatia of positivity and change. 

As I have written previously, one of the most interesting tourism projects currently ongoing is Run Croatia's initiative to promote Croatia as a run-friendly destination. What started out as a couple of races only 2 years ago is quickly mushrooming into a serious business, which is attracting running tourists from all over the world. You can check out the in-depth TCN interview with Run Croatia on what they are trying to achieve - and have achieved already. 

Improving the local Croatian tourist offer, as well as expanding the Croatian tourist offer in general;

Organizing various events/introducing novelties into the existing Croatian tourist offer aimed at extending the peak tourist season;

Increasing revenues, especially off-season;

Promoting Croatia as a top-tourist destination for athletes internationally;

Creating a distinguished and recognizable image of Croatian tourism.

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But the ambitions of Run Croatia are much wider than promoting tourism and organising races. They are working with various organisations and businesses in Croatia to partner with them in order to create a healthier environment in general. Their Run Friendly World initiative includes hotels, employers and clinics. 

These week, Run Friendly World welcomed the first clinic in the world - another bubble of Croatian positivity, Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb, one of the leading clinics in the region and named last year as the best dermatology clinic in Europe. 

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Already a Run Friendly Employer and a strong supporter of the initiative, Bagatin is now the first official run friendly clinic. 

Run Friendly Clinics are medical institutions that welcome Run Friendly Employers by making sure their employees are healthy and have available monthly  / yearly check ups depending on their needs.

Moreover, not only do Run Friendly Clinics recognize the importance of being active and living a healthy life style, however also motivating their staff to engage in various sporting events and realizing the benefits of being active.

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As a Run Friendly Clinic, your goal is to tend to your patients needs to become a better athlete and a healthier person. In addition, to ensure detailed check ups that will manage to treat (mostly) sporting injuries, to advise patients on other healthy approaches and most of all to become part of a community that values active lifestyle.

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To learn more about Run Croatia, visit the official website.

And to learn more about the world's first run friendly clinic, visit the Bagatin Clinic website


Saturday, 8 June 2019

Soft Skills for Croatian Healthcare: The Bagatin Academy Revolution

June 8, 2019 - Customer service and the concept of soft skills are sadly not things for which Croatia is well-known for, but there are attempts to change this as Sara Bukic from the innovative Bagatin Academy explains. 

Arguably the most dynamic clinic in the Croatian medical tourism sector is Bagatin Clinic, which has two facilities in Zagreb and recently also opened in Split. Named as the best clinic in Europe for dermatology as just one example of its international credentials, the Bagatin philosophy is a lot more all-inclusive than one would perhaps expect in business in Croatia. Education, education, education. A look at what is happening behing the scenes at a rather successful project of education for the Croatian healthcare system, best explained in an interview with Sara Bukic from Bagatin Academy.

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1. Bagatin Clinic is known as one of the most progressive and successful clinics in the Adria region, but it may come as a surprise to many to learn about the sister project, the Bagatin Academy. Tell us about the Academy project and how it came about?

Bagatin Academy is an educational project very dear to my heart. In 2015, the board of Bagatin Clinic recognized the need for soft skills/people skills development in the medical sector so we launched an educational cycle for our employees, starting in September and ending next year in April, covering topics of communication, empathy, presentation skills and hospitality.

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We often emphasize that we have the best medical staff who are frequently attending professional seminars and congresses in the field of their own expertise, but no medical educational institution has, for example, communication and leadership classes. In our opinion this set of skills is of great importance. Imagine this: you have two doctors who are both equally highly professional but one of them is kind to his patients, understanding, walking them through entire process etc. and the other one is snappish and makes patients feel like a number, not like a person. Which one would you go to?    

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2. The educational concepts covered in the Academy may be standard practice. Place the Academy in the Croatian context - why was there such a need for it?

There are examples of poor communication practices in both public and private health care sphere, but the private health sector will persist only if there is a communication level appropriate for the client. It is important that we provide the client with the quality service they want and need.

As I mentioned earlier, schools and universities do not have classes in which our students would develop soft skills from the early days. That goes for medical faculties/universities as well. So, one of our long-term goals is that the system recognizes these skills as inevitable for the future of medicine and brings in similar courses as compulsory classes. I don`t think this is a challenge only in Croatia, but here is where we work and live and that is why we start with the change here. The programs and concepts covered in Bagatin Academy should really be a standard practice everywhere and we hope this will come true. We want to equalize the level of service quality in both the private and the public health sector. 

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3. The Academy project was obviously not something together overnight, but involves many partners and planning. Tell us a little about that.  

I have the great pleasure of working with one of the greatest visionaries in the region. The idea was sparkling in the minds of our board members for a long time and they knew if they wanted to make a difference, they needed to abide by a very famous quote “if you want to change the world, start by changing yourself”. We are very happy that Bagatin Academy`s initiatives were recognized by the Croatian Medical Chamber and the Croatian Chamber of Nurses who have been supporting us since day one. They gave added value to Academy’s attendees by giving awarding points that doctors and nurses collect for their licenses. The support from the Chambers for us is a sign the system also recognizes the importance and the value of this kind of workshops.

Medical University of Zagreb, Medical University of Split and University of Dental Medicine also supported us by trusting us with their students who are the future of Croatian health care. Of course, nothing would be possible without our great educators and trainers who are sharing their knowledge in the field of people skills. We are collaborating with highly experienced professionals from all over Croatia who are using practical methods to teach people skills and we’re very grateful they joined us in this initiative within our health system. 

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4. Who are the main clients, and what are they looking to get out of their relationship with the Academy?

Our main clients are doctors, medical nurses and technicians, auxiliary medical staff, people working in the medical sector, reception and call center staff; all the people you can find working in any kind of health institution, and of course, the future of Croatian health system, medical students.All attendees of our workshops are looking to raise the Croatian health care system to a higher level that provides more than just another series of treatments to users. There is a word “care” in health care but we often can`t find it. This is why we want the health care system to be: high expertise, kindness, giving and truly caring.   

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5. How would you assess the success of the project so far? What are the main achievements?

Allegedly, Vincent van Gogh once said: “Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.” That is exactly how I would assess the success so far. You have to understand that the idea of ​improving Croatian health care into a fantastic and successful story, which would result in placing Croatia at the center of medical tourism map, is a big venture. Let's put it this way, if a man who is accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle suddenly decides that he wants to run the standard marathon of about 42 kilometers, he will certainly not get up from his armchair and immediately run those 42 kilometers. Every day in which he prepares for the great race, every day in which he does not give up and he still trains with all the effort, that is exactly his great achievement and a step closer to the goal.

We had our fair share of achievements through a number of held workshops through which we educated over 600 doctors and nurses, together with our partners I mentioned earlier.We are especially proud of the event for the students of medicine and dentistry we held in the cult Cinema Europe in the heart of Zagreb. “How to be the best doctor?” gathered over 300 students with whom we went through the topics of personal leadership and public speaking. Our CEO, Ognjen Bagatin, also shared his path of making the Bagatin Clinic, his attempts and mistakes on his way up. We know the students are our future, the best chance for change and improvement. 

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6. How has the Academy been received in the business community here?

At first it was like we are doing something very strange. A lot of people hadn't even heard of  the Croatian expression for soft skills which is “meke vještine”. At one point, an article came out saying Bagatin Academy was doing “neke vještine”, which means “some skills”. They switched the letter “m” with the letter “n” because it had more sense to them. People were confused about what kind of education we are doing; the community always associated us with medicine, so they could not understand and associate us with soft skill training. Over the years it became more clear what we are doing and why are we doing it, so many of our partners and friends but also competitors attended our workshops and some of them also started their own Academies, which makes us proud knowing that we are getting closer to our goal – to educate (directly or indirectly) all medical staff in people skills.

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7. Tell us a little about the quality and experience of the mentoring/teaching staff. 

 In the past four years we have been cooperating with over 50 excellent educators and coaches. Their fields of expertise are really different - from psychologists, economists, experienced businessmen and leaders, experts from the field of organizational culture and organizational design who, in addition to their primary knowledge, are certified by various coaching and educational boards in Croatia and/or the world.

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8. Who is the Academy aimed at, and what are the main areas you can help Croatian businesses? How receptive have Croatian businesses been to your programs? 

Bagatin Academy is focused on the health sector and on the education of the whole medical staff. It is not easy to change our own habits and our way of work, let alone someone else’s. With time they started to open up to the idea. We are aware that this is an alteration of their mindset. Some think we will never succeed in this idea, while others approach us, with their desire to make an improvement with us. Together we can do a lot and this beautiful country will flourish. We are always open to cooperation and projects that have the potential of making the difference. 

Our goal is to make a Patient Experience conference and bring in the big players to Croatia such as Cleveland Clinic, Disney, Ritz Carlton and other major world brands. For quite some time now we've been in negotiations and agreements with wonderful people from the Cleveland Clinic, and some of them we've already hosted here in Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb, in March 2019. Now we would like to share their incredible knowledge and experience internationally. Hosting this conference would mean that experts in telemedicine, AI and innovation would come to Croatia, and everyone else would follow. We want to place Croatia on the world map as a top medical tourism destination.

9. Where is the Bagatin Academy going to be in 5 years?

What are the goals? Can we meet again in 5 years so I can tell You what happened?  The goals are very clear: 20.000 doctors, 3.500 dentists, 30.000 nurses have heard at least one soft skills lecture from the Bagatin Academy or another provider. Dental Medicine University and Medical University has introduced a course for communicating with patients or something similar from soft skills domain. We would like to have 3 more competitors who would do the same thing as we do, because together we can do much more.

To learn more about the Bagatin Academy, visit the official website.

To learn more about health tourism in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

Saturday, 30 March 2019

ACAP Croatian Medical Tourism Task Force Meets in Cleveland

March 30, 2019 - An important meeting for the emerging Croatian medical tourism story in the diaspora heartland of Cleveland, as the ACAP medical tourism task force meets to see how to strengthen health tourism ties with the Homeland.

As Croatia looks to advance its medical tourism story, the role of the diaspora will be crucial. As recently reported, the Croatian diaspora last year sent more back to the Homeland in remittances than Croatia welcomed in foreign investment, some 2 billion euro in total.  

International experts agree that Croatia has the potential to be in the top 10 medical tourism destinations in the world in the next ten years, and while few would argue about the quality of the healthcare and service in the private sector, promotion and marketing are some way behind. 

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With more than 1.2 diaspora (40% of the total) in the United States alone, developing strong relationships between the diaspora in the USA and Croatia is a sensible and solid strategy. That potential partnership is especially true in Cleveland, home to 50,000 Croatians, as well as the renowned Cleveland Clinic, whose current CEO Tom Mihaljevic is Croatian. 

What better location, then, for a gathering of the Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) and its medical tourism task force, which met today after a successful first gathering in Washington DC last year, as reported previously by TCN

Today's meeting included Croatian Ambassador to Washington Pjer Simunovic.

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“I’m extremely excited about the possibility of having students involved with healthcare in Croatia.” Kerry Laufer, Director, Onsite Global Consulting, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

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“We can learn from healthcare facilities like Cleveland Clinic. They can teach us methods to make the patient experience better.” Ognjen Bagatin, CEO, Bagatin Clinic in Croatia.

Bagatin, the most active proponent of medical tourism in Croatia on the international, was clearly pleased at the progress made, posting later on social media:

What a great day with #acap Medical Tourism Task Force in #Cleveland??? we made some great plans for an Annual meeting organize by @acapcleveland From 19th to 21st of September in Cleveland???? See you all there? #croatiandiaspora #medicaltourism #healthtourism #tie

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For the latest news in the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN page

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