Alison Hope is the Editor of 'Discover Poland' magazine. She has extensive experience of Poland's medical tourism market, advising several clinics on how to extend a welcome to patients from Western Europe. She monitors trends on the global medical tourism market and has spoken on the Polish medical tourism market at conferences across Europe, and on television and radio.
In recent years, Poland has emerged as a popular destination for patients from Western Europe seeking dental and medical treatment. There are many reasons why patients are prepared to travel, although the cost of treatment in their home countries is the reason most commonly cited. In some cases, patients are faced with a choice between having treatment in another country, where the procedure is more affordable, or not having treatment at all.
Poland's original 'medical-tourists' came from Germany, with patients driving across the border for dental treatment. This is one of the reasons why Szczecin, in North-Eastern Poland, has become something of a hot spot for medical tourism in Poland. When Poland joined the EU in 2004, the low-cost airlines responded to increased demand in traffic by introducing flights between Szczecin and other destinations across Northern and Western Europe, making the city even more accessible. Indeed, there are a number of private clinics in Szczecin which excel at treating patients from outside Poland. In addition to offering a high standard of care at an affordable price, they have adapted their services based on understanding the needs of patients from countries such as Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. For example, they have invested in multi-lingual staff, who are briefed to understand foreign patients' expectations and to assist with travel arrangements. Many clinics have had to be flexible and extend their opening hours.
Poland's medical tourism market is not, however, limited to dental treatment in Szczecin. Cosmetic surgery, fertility treatment, medical diagnostics and orthopaedic surgery are just some of the kinds of treatment which 'medical tourists' seek in Poland, and private clinics across Poland are seeking to attract patients from outside Poland. Fans of television's Coronation Street may recall the story line a few years ago, when one of the characters travelled to Gdansk for a hip-replacement... perhaps a sign that the notion of travelling to Poland for treatment is becoming increasingly acceptable?