Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Sink or Swim?

Changes in the Czech Health Care System

 Spas in the Czech Republic
The Czech spa industry has a long tradition. Quality spa care in the Czech Republic is based primarily on natural medicinal resources associated with the use of highly specialized medical science. Spa towns have been creating unique architecture for many years, and have supported and continue to support culture and the arts. The best known Czech spas are part of the West Bohemian spa triangle, which includes Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad), Marianske Lázně (Marienbad) and Františkovy Lázně (Franzensbad) and aims to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Františkovy Lázně
At present, however, the spa industry is undergoing very significant changes and some spas are literally fighting for their existence. The situation is caused by changes in the List of Indications, a decree by the Ministry of Health which regulates the diagnosis and under what conditions a patient is eligible for treatment stays covered by health insurance. The new list was made effective in October 2012 and now the first effects of the changes are beginning to show. According to the Association of Spas "... through this adjustment the number of of insured residential days at spas has decreased by more than 50%. This is due to a combination of these restrictions and shortened lengths of patient's stays. One has to consider that policyholders made up an average of 56% of all overnight stays and in spa locations outside the West Bohemian spa triangle even up to 90%.“

Janské Lázně
Czech spas are now in a situation where they have to rethink their strategies. There are certainly a number of strategies they can apply, whether it be penetration of new markets in geographical terms or in terms of market segment, or the creation of new products, focusing for example on medical tourism, which is a new trend, and not only in Europe. A recent example is Janské Lázně, which has always been focused primarily on children and treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Now, however, parts of the Vesna children's treatment center are being rebuilt for accommodation facilites even for adult patients. Time will tell whether the changes in the List of Indications from the Ministry of Health will lead to the promotion of the Czech spa industry in terms of its further development or will ultimately harm Czech spas.