Croatian Health Tourism Excellence: Meet Arijana Hegediš Došen of Arithera Specialty Hospital

Total Croatia News

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July 13, 2018 – Continuing our look at the high-quality health tourism sector, meet Arithera Specialty Hospital in Zagreb. 

The Director of Arithera Specialty Hospital, Arijana Hegediš Došen, BPT and Vice-President of the Medical and Health Tourism Cluster of the City of Zagreb built her way towards the position of one of the strongest private entrepreneurs in medicine gradually, from working in the Zagreb Clinic for traumatology, to starting a private practice for physical therapy and rehabilitation, and developing a multidisciplinary, high-tech hospital centre at well-known Zagreb locations: Petrova 128 and Bukovačka cesta 1.  After almost 20 years of operations, the Arithera Specialty Hospital is positioned as one of the largest private hospitals in the Republic of Croatia.

At the recent 3rd Croatian Diaspora Congress in Osijek, TCN spoke to Arijana Hegediš Došen about the Arithera Specialty Hospital and the development of health tourism in Croatia. 

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  1. For our readers who are perhaps not familiar with your clinic, please introduce it and tell us what makes it special.

Specialty Hospital Arithera for orthopaedics, general surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal medicine, dermatology and venereology operates at two Zagreb locations: Petrova 128 and Bukovačka cesta 1. This year we celebrate 20 years of operations, during which have constantly continued to prosper and grow. Today, we are one of the most successful institutions among the largest ones in Croatia’s private healthcare business and we grow more quickly with each coming year. We have over 2000 m2 of top-quality and well-equipped premises with 2 operating rooms, a hospital department with single and double rooms and with halls and a swimming pool for physiotherapy and rehabilitation and a hall for robotic neurorehabilitation.

Arithera is known as an orthopaedic centre for treating all diseases of the musculo-skeletal system and as a Centre for the Spine where minimally invasive spine pain management methods are implemented, as well as surgery of the lumbar spine, spinal surgery revisions and surgery of degenerative diseases of the spine, such as scoliosis.

Arithera is regionally known for varicose vein treatment using the advanced UGFS method and haemorrhoid treatment using the minimally invasive surgical method DG-HAL+RAR.

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In the abdominal surgery centre we perform conventional and laparoscopic surgery, while the centre for reconstruction, plastic and aesthetic surgery and the centre for dermatology and medical cosmetology provide services focused on the beauty and care of the face and body.

We are the leading regional centre for physical medicine and rehabilitation. Recently we have made a new step forward by complementing the already rich programme consisting of conventional physiotherapy and rehabilitation with state-of-the-art robotic neurorehabilitation.

We are able to fully round-off the treatment process, from diagnostics, minimally invasive procedures, conventional surgical procedures to postoperative rehabilitation and physiotherapy.  Everything happens in one place; patients are handled by the same physician from the beginning to the end; after the surgery they are under the constant control of their operator who oversees the postoperative rehabilitation process, until finally being discharged. This reduces the possibility of postoperative complications and mistakes in rehabilitation to a minimum.

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  1. Zagreb is emerging as a new European health tourism hotspot. Are you happy with the direction things are moving, and what would you like to see happen to improve the situation? 

We increasingly recognize the progress made by our institutions in the health tourism segment, but we feel there is a lot more to be done. If we take into account the fact that the number of entrepreneurs in private healthcare has increased by 25% in the last 5 years, that the quality of services is in most cases at a European level and that on top of it we operate in a beautiful country, Croatia, which offers a multitude of tourist facilities as an added value to the healthcare services, it is logical that there is a great potential and capacities in the health tourism segment , which can be profitable for both the health institutions and the tertiary sector.

Three years ago, we gathered several medical subjects into a small cluster that was to jointly present Croatian health potentials on the British market.  We asked for support from the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the City of Zagreb Tourist Board and the Croatian Tourist Board. From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we received support in the form of presentation space we could use. All the other institutions provided support at the declarative and symbolic level by providing POS materials that were distributed at the presentation. For us, entrepreneurs in healthcare, this is not enough. Independently, we are too weak for intensive marketing campaigns on interesting Western European markets where we can provide quality service at a much lower price.

We consider that the branding of Croatia and Zagreb as a destination with excellent health services is of utmost importance. This we are, but we are still not recognized internationally. There is still much work to be done in this area. 

  1. What are the biggest challenges ahead for developing Croatia and Zagreb as a premier health tourism destination?

Branding and creating confidence in the Croatian healthcare offer. We are surrounded by countries that long ago realized and did a lot in positioning their cities and countries on the map of the world’s health tourism destinations. Shining examples close to home are Hungary, Turkey, and more and more Slovenia.

Almost 20 million tourists arriving to Croatia each year are a good starting point for spreading the information that in addition to its natural beauty and entertainment Croatia can offer health care. We can certainly achieve good results through continuous and well-designed marketing efforts. An approved budget for advertising health tourism is also creating a better climate and giving us, private entrepreneurs, the belief that we will succeed in these endeavours.

If the KPI for our country is to fill its tourism capacities 365 days a year, healthcare is then an excellent tool for achieving that goal. Patients travelling for treatment are most likely to come accompanied; they stay for treatment for some time; in addition to using the health services they also want to experience the destination with other senses, which creates a great opportunity for transport companies, hotels, restaurants, tourist agencies, cultural institutions…

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  1. What are you hoping to get from congresses such as the 3rd Croatian diaspora congress? How much of your business comes from the diaspora, and what is the best way to increase that?

Since there is another Croatia living outside Croatia, we feel there is a great potential in the Croatian diaspora. We see them as potential patients in our hospital, as well as potential investors.  We are also open to such partnerships.

A large number of Croatians are already coming to our hospital during their visit to the homeland. This is mainly for the treatment of orthopaedic diseases, the spine, veins, haemorrhoids, but more and more of them are also coming for aesthetic procedures. As our offer includes minimally invasive procedures for treatment using the “walk-in walk-out” principle, in a short period of time, patients can be cured of very serious illnesses, thus avoiding surgical procedures and long-term postoperative rehabilitation.  The lack of a language barrier, affordable prices and trust in the doctors and the quality of service are additional benefits of treatment in Croatia. A large number of Croatians living abroad recognize this. Our capacities are really great and by participating in this congress we wanted to send this message to the Croatian diaspora.  We hope that successfully treated Croatians will be our ambassadors abroad.

  1. With emigration of skilled personnel a key issue in the modern Croatia, are you having issues keeping your brightest talent? What suggestions do you have to prevent the emigration of Croatia’s brightest skilled workers?

We focus on attracting talents and fostering the development of personal potential. We choose teams on the basis of professional, human and moral traits and qualities. Our employees promote this relationship with their colleagues, making us a hospital with a pleasant working environment. We focus on capital investments, procurement of state-of-the-art equipment, investing in knowledge and development of new services, as well as raising the level of service and marketing activities.

Because of such working conditions, we have attracted world-class experts to our team, such as Prof. PhD Vladimir Kovač, an eminent specialist in treating scoliosis using the anterior instrumentation approach. The Vice President of the European Society of Aesthetic Surgeons Rado Žic MD PhD, one of the greatest European authorities in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, is also member of our staff. Our orthopaedist, Saša Janković MD PhD is a physician for our football players who are currently achieving great results. We have no problem with our staff leaving us. Quite the contrary. We are a desirable employer and our team includes more and more excellent physicians, physiotherapists, nurses and technicians.

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  1. Three key reasons why international patients should consider Croatia for their next medical treatment.

We are a wonderful country that can offer top-quality health services along with tourist facilities. We have highly educated physicians, we use state-of-the-art treatment methods and are equipped in accordance with the latest international achievements. For instance, Arithera is the European reference centre for robotic neurorehabilitation using the Perpedes and Tyromotion devices. Some of these devices are installed for the first time in Europe and our physiotherapists have been entrusted with the responsibility of rehabilitating patients using state-of-the-art robotic and computer-aided equipment. We are recognized for our quality and we hope to offer this quality to patients coming from abroad. 

For more information about Arithera Specialty Hospital, visit the official website


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