We talked to Kagan Seymenoglu, Founder and CEO of Longevita about medical tourism and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kagan Seymenoglu: Thanks, we are doing well. Fortunately, we were successful in isolating ourselves from the virus so far. My wife and I got the first dose of the vaccine, and we are scheduled to get the second dose in May.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Longevita.
Kagan Seymenoglu: I spent my professional career mainly in the auto and banking industries before setting up Longevita. I come from a family of doctors, so I was always involved in healthcare. When we first moved to London, my wife had an accident – she broke her cheekbone while ice skating with her sister – so I had to take her to the A&E. We waited for hours and hours before someone saw her and told there was nothing wrong although we were able to see that a bone was sticking out from her nose! Finally, we convinced the A&E doctor to take an x-ray, and only then he verified that the cheekbone was broken. However, he said there was nothing he could do, and the only option was to refer her to a specialist the next day and sent us home. The following day our appointment with the specialist was at 09:00 am in the morning, but he saw us at 14:30 in the afternoon, so my wife had to wait there the entire time with a broken bone. After the specialist saw her, he said she needed to undergo surgery, metal would be placed on her face, and she needed to live with it for the rest of her life. Also, the nearest available date for surgery was in two weeks which meant she needed to wait for another two weeks with a broken bone on her face. At that point, I knew there was something wrong. I thought it was ridiculous, so I called my brother to arrange a private doctor and sent my wife on the first flight to Turkey. She was operated on the following day by a plastic surgeon without the need for metal on her face. It was so quick, efficient, and cost a fraction of what it would cost us here in the UK. There I spotted an opportunity for UK patients to get affordable, high-quality private healthcare in Turkey. My wife was my first patient, and the Longevita story began.
How does Longevita innovate?
Kagan Seymenoglu: We are closely monitoring the tech space and are actively incorporating technology into how we serve our patients. We use multiple integrated software to automate our workflows. This enabled us to scale our business quickly and streamline our human capital.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kagan Seymenoglu: Due to the flight restrictions from the UK to Turkey, patients were unable to travel for medical treatments for 3.5 months in 2020 and since the beginning of 2021. However, there is huge pent-up demand. We continue getting bookings for the summer and beyond. We experienced the same scenario last year when the flight bans were lifted. We tripled our patient volumes in the summer, so we are expecting the same this year. There is really no alternative country that would offer the same value for money Turkey offers for private healthcare, so we are confident that the business will return as soon as the flight bans are lifted. UK vaccination success will also be very supportive to our business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kagan Seymenoglu: To be honest, I was really disappointed with the world’s leaders because they could not agree on a coordinated plan to fight the virus together and open up their economies. Ultimately this is a threat to all humankind and all economies. The infection across the borders was inevitable from the outset. It has been more than a year now since the pandemic started, and still, there is no coordinated effort across the nations, not even on the vaccination front. As a business impacted by the rules and regulations both in the UK and Turkey (a country outside the EU), our main difficulty was managing the ambiguity and the inconsistency around the decisions taken in these countries. Our staff and patients were seeking guidance from our management team; however, at times, we had no clear guidance from the authorities regarding detailed regulations around flights, quarantine, etc., that would help us make business decisions on our daily operations. In the end, we tried to make decisions that would protect the wellbeing and best interest of our staff and patients.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Kagan Seymenoglu: We use ZOHO One, which is a cloud-based suite of 45+ integrated applications. We use Analytics, Bookings, Campaigns, Cliq, CRM, Desk, People, Recruit, Flow, Meeting, SalesIQ, Sign, Social, and Survey apps.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kagan Seymenoglu: Medical travel is a very fragmented market. It is very easy to enter but difficult to build a brand and make a sustainable business out of it. We compete with hospitals, clinics, agencies, and sometimes even with doctors themselves. As long as you take care of your staff and patients and continue to innovate and develop your processes, you stay in the game. In fact, we were listed in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 as one of Britain’s fastest-growing companies. We grew our market share despite the big inflow of new players into this market over the years.
Your final thoughts?
Kagan Seymenoglu: This was not the first pandemic that hit humanity, and it surely won’t be the last. Our attitude towards this crisis and our ability to handle the challenges that come along will determine the level of our happiness out of it.
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