Medical Tourism in Latvia: Fast Facts

Annual patient flow: 57,000

Price-level: low, medium

Top patients' countries: the UK, Germany, Ukraine, Estonia, Canada, Sweden, Ireland

Top treatments: phlebology, obesity treatment, plastic surgery.

Gunta Uspele, the President of the Latvian Medical Tourism Cluster, shared with Bookimed significant achievements and challenges Latvian healthcare faced because of the pandemic and the Russian war against Ukraine in 2022. Also, she shared secrets about how Latvian clinics remain on the edge of the latest medical technologies but still provide medical services for international patients at very affordable prices.

 

About Gunta Uspele and the Latvian Medical Tourism Cluster

How did your personal path in medical tourism start?

During my 25-year career, I have been always managing activities related to medical tourism. First, we developed a business in Jurmala with its healing nature resources focusing on spa and wellness, and rehabilitation services. But then we started hospitals in Jurmala providing child births and bariatric treatments for patients from abroad. In 2012, we started to involve more partners, founded Latvian Health Tourism Cluster. Now the Latvian Medical Tourism Cluster counts 67 clinics, both private and municipal. They are single- and multi specialty medical facilities specialized mainly in bariatric surgery, infertility treatment, dentistry, plastic surgery, check-up programs, aesthetic laser treatment, dermatology, and phlebology etc. 

What are the main goals of the Medical Tourism Cluster in Latvia?

There are three main goals of the Medical Tourism Cluster in Latvia:

  • Proper targeting. We attract patients from countries to deliver them to our partner clinics in Lavia.
  • Developing medical tourism services. We collect patient data and statistics. We analyze some tendencies to solve problem issues. For instance, if we see that it takes too long to get to a doctor or there are some problems with logistics, we're working on optimization. If the ultimate costs are too high, we detect the reasons and offer patients more affordable options. Also, our clinics work on the latest methods and technologies used. We develop innovative medical products. Complex medical tourism products and programs.
  • International educational workshops and training. Phlebology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, and obesity treatment are very strong in Latvia. So our doctors share how to use the most modern technologies. Every year we have international training, practical workshops etc.

Northern Europe Medical Tourism Rising Star 

What benefits does Latvia offer for international patients?

  • Availability

In many countries, it takes months to get a consultation with a doctor. But in Latvia, we provide treatments much faster. Our private clinics in particular are very flexible.

  • Medical education

Medical education in Latvia is very strong. So, people from Germany, Norway, Finland, and other countries come to Riga to get educated.

  • Competitive prices & good logistics

Private clinics invest a lot in the newest technologies, and despite medical high-tech, the prices remain very competitive. Plus, we give special prices for hotels on Booking.com for medical tourists. Also, Latvia has excellent logistics with the most popular and cheap airlines.

What treatments are the most popular for medical tourists in Latvia?

The top treatments are bariatrics, plastic surgery, dentistry and dental implantation, phlebology, diagnostics, dermatology, infertility treatments and preventive medicine, as well medical rehabilitation. 

Patients from what countries come to Latvia as medical tourists? 

Patients mainly from the UK, USA, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Estonia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Iceland, France and Israel visit Latvia for treatment.

What are the Top plastic surgery procedures in Latvia among foreigners?

They are breast augmentation, liposuction, blepharoplasty, and abdominoplasty, as well face lifting.

Hair transplant is a popular tendency, too .We use medical materials produced only in Europe. Latvian clinics provide hair transplants, but it is not a major procedure for medical tourists in Latvia.

What are the three main features of Latvian people?

Latvians are introverts. From the first impression, they are cold, not smiling. But when you know them better, you will see they are very friendly people with big hearts. We have a strong identity of the culture. We love our home and nature.

 

Pricing and Travel Arrangements

Tell more about the price policy for medical services for locals and foreigners.

Mainly treatment prices are the same for both. But some services are more expensive for medical tourists because the state compensates expenses for Latvian citizens. It mainly concerns childbirths and eye surgeries, infertility treatments. For some plastic surgery operations, the price for international patients may be 10-20% higher

Is there any price control for clinics belonging to the Cluster?

There is no regulation. Clinics set up prices themselves. The deal is that clinics can update equipment from their own pocket and determine fees for medical staff. However, this year we expect price increases of up to 20% for medical services due to the crisis and inflation. It takes place not only in Latvia, but also in other countries.

What does the process of medical trip arrangement look like in Latvia?

The chosen clinic provides all services required, also if it's needed including flight booking, accommodation, transfer, and medical visas. Also, if it's necessary we are helping with such kind of support. Clinics deliver all consultations, and translation of all treatments into the native language of our guests. If you come home, you will have all these recommendations in your native language. Latvian clinics usually answer fast, within 1-3 days. However, a patient should consider that complex surgeries schedule may be full, and it takes some time to find a free place. Some clinics can be very flexible and patient-oriented to provide a convenient day to schedule. 

Which clinics can serve international patients?

There is no clinic division for local or international patients. Both local and medical tourists can be served in one facility. The percentage of serving international patients in each clinic is different. 

Are there any specific requirements for clinics to receive medical tourists?

The Ministry of Health regulates the activity of every clinic. The Medical Tourism Cluster cooperates with the Ministry of Health — we inspect quality and hospitality issues, how the clinic works with patients, its hospitality, and communication level, and the Ministry with Health Inspectorate controls the quality of the medical service. 

The Medical Tourism Cluster has developed its own system of clinics’ assessments devoted to control the quality of patient service provided. According to it, we divide hospitals with basic, superior, and advanced scores.

So we do our best to make sure they provide advanced service. We encourage them to provide excellent service for medical tourists. 

Marketing tools in Latvia

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Medical Tourism in Latvia: Challenges and Plans for the Future

What challenges has the Medical Tourism Cluster faced recently?

I think that it is the pandemic and closed borders because of it. The war also affected the industry — we do not work with Russia and Belarus anymore. We will continue to work with other markets. Our clinics provide medical equipment aid. Some doctors do surgeries and train with Ukraine. In some cases our clinics served refugees free of charge. Private clinics are also into this help. Some doctors from Ukraine also start working in clinics of the Latvian Medical Tourism Cluster..

How exactly has Latvian medical tourism market changed due to the Russo-Ukrainian war in 2022?

Our strategic countries to receive medical tourists are Baltic countries, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, Ireland, Germany, USA, Israel, Iceland and Ukraine. 

We also had 2 big markets — Russia and Belarus, but we have switched them off due to the war they started. We serve citizens from these countries, but if they come not directly but from the countries of the European Union. We are not targeting these two countries and do not develop their markets. 

We train doctors from Northern Europe, Ukraine, and other countries in different methods like in phlebology used most modern technologies, in oncology performing robotic surgery, to treat prostate cancer. We also cooperate with Ukrainian urologists to show how it acts.

How many medical tourists come to Latvia annually? Do you expect a patient flow increase?

53,000 international patients got treatments in Latvia in 2021. It is difficult to predict the tendency because of the pandemic impact and now due to the Russo-Ukrainian war in 2022. This year also shows interest and an increase of our medical tourists from abroad.

What countries do you consider prospective to get more patients?

Denmark, Canada, and Spain are prospective. Currently, we work with about 10 markets; among them are the UK, Ireland, Finland, Norway, and Estonia.

What marketing instruments do you use to attract medical tourists?

Patients come to us directly; we also develop social digital marketing, promo videos, ads, and use patient and doctor stories.

Medical tourism platforms are also one more working source to increase patient flow.

What country is your competitor?

I will name Turkey. They dump the market. But we focus on our experience, technologies, highly-skilled professionals, and material quality.

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