HMi meets… Ognjen Bagatin

Ognjen Bagatin, chief executive, Bagatin Clinic

The chief executive of Bagatin Clinic talks about digitisation, his expansion plans for the group and how he has had to adapt his business after lockdown

Bagatin Clinic is one of Europe’s leading clinics for aesthetic surgery, dentistry and dermatology. Founded in 1995 by the father of the current chief executive, the Zagreb-headquartered company has won numerous awards.

Last year, in fact, it was named international cosmetic surgery clinic of the year by HMi’s sister publication IMTJ.

The modern history of the company can be said to have started in 2006 when Ognjen Bagatin and his two cosmetic surgeon brothers started to develop the business.

From a beginning of only offering cosmetic procedures, it now has nine different specialities and offers more than 250 treatments and procedures in three locations in Croatia’s two largest cities: Zagreb and Split. The latter clinic was opened last year.

The company’s dermatology, dentistry and cosmetology departments are in its Green Gold Tower location, above the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel. Of particular note are its aesthetic dentistry services of oral surgery, implantology, 3D diagnostics and orthodontics.

Bagatin Clinic’s downtown location in Zagreb specialises in maxillofacial, general and plastic surgery. At that site, it is the only clinic in the region which offers consultation with a Vectra XT 3D device that enables simulation of postoperative results and helps the clinic’s clients and patients when deciding upon the procedures.

And in Split, at the Hotel Dioklecijan & Residence, Bagatin Clinic specialises in dentistry, cosmetology and aesthetic dermatology.

Here Ognjen Bagatin talks about how medical tourism is beginning to pick up since the Covid-19 pandemic, how he had to put expansion plans in Zagreb on hold during the lockdown, and why he is now prioritising digitisation.

The following transcript of HMi’s interview with Ognjen Bagatin has been edited for brevity and clarity.

HMi You reopened your facilities on 4 May. How have you had to adapt?

OB It’s working a lot better now. We had a slow couple of weeks in May because everybody was cautious. June was excellent, as was July.

Our international patients came in, mostly in June especially from the DACH region – Germany, Austria, Switzerland – as well as Slovenia and Italy. Now we have some more activity from the UK and Ireland, especially for our surgical and dental departments.

HMi How hard has it been to keep your new operations in Split up and running?

OB We opened them last year. It was a bit slow in May, but June was very good and July continues to be good.

Unfortunately, a lot of patients from Australia and the US usually visit that location, so this [traffic] was something that we missed.

And in July, the neighbouring country of Bosnia-Herzegovina was mostly closed which had an impact on footfall, but we have a lot of domestic patients which helped compensate for that.


HMi You’ve talked in the past about telemedicine. Can it really work with medical tourism?

OB Telemedicine was used before Covid-19, but the pandemic has increased its use a great deal, not just internationally but domestically as well.

We used to use telemedicine through Skype, but we now use WebEx and we have a contract with Cisco which is much safer. We’re also trying to implement it into our medical customer relationship management (CRM) system.

We used to have ten or 15 telemedicine calls a month and we now have 50 or 60. We saw the technology as a way to improve the patient experience.

Patients can establish trust with their doctors and with our staff much more easily when they do a consultation online. The patients are used to this now as well. Telemedicine is here and it will help us to do follow-ups, to provide a better service both before and after any procedure.

HMi Are your patients happy with the telemedicine experience?

OB Yes. They love it. They want a fast response from operators and from clinics so this is something that was seen before, but now even more so.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that they want that personal touch and they want to see the doctor, but this is something that can help establish trust. Patients can see that the clinic is professional, that we care about them and that they can trust us.

HMi You have two locations in Zagreb and one in Split. Are you considering further expansion?

OB We were planning to do so at the beginning of March. We had been working for six months on two new expansions – both of them in Zagreb.

It was going to be one more floor of the Hilton and one in the city centre. But we have stopped [all plans for the year] because of Covid-19 uncertainty.

We have everything ready, but we stopped the investments, I would say, a minute before midnight.

HMi With lower valuations, is now the time to start thinking about M&A? Are you considering acquisitions?

OB This is something we’re considering. We wanted to grow through expansion of our own premises and we’re currently working on something – though I can’t talk about it at the moment. In the future, we are definitely going to grow because our client base is expanding. Clients are coming back to us and they are referring us to their friends. We’ll make more space, but this year, let’s see how it goes.

We don’t want to rush into something. First, we need to take care of our staff. We have a large team of more than 120 people.

I want to make sure that they have a lot of work and then, we will expand.


HMi You had record revenues last year. How much of a hit are you expecting from Covid-19?

OB We had revenues last year of €6.5m (US$7.6m).

It will be great if we finish this year with that result. But our goal was much bigger for this year – we expected a 25% increase on last year. But if we finish flat to last year, we will be happy, particularly because we have lowered some of our expenses.

HMi What are your priorities for the rest of the year?

OB The top priority is definitely digitalisation. We started to transform the business last year. We implemented our new medCRM system.

For example, we’re now using digital signatures which will save our nurses around 4,000 hours that they currently spend on typing things that clients sign. This means we are able to focus more on our patients.

We’re working on a medical records app for our patients so that we can provide an even better service. It will be easier to schedule their appointments, to have all of the information about them and what they do in our clinics.

We’re going to continue to work on our congress with the Cleveland Clinic that we had to postpone. That, unfortunately, won’t be until May next year, but this year we are going to have an online conference in November.

We have also opened a webshop, which is working phenomenally well. And we want to combine all of our data into one system so that we can track everything more efficiently.

We have always focused on new clients, but the focus for next year is definitely going to be on how to work more on our existing database, our existing clients.