Not a great time to talk about dental tourism
Sitting in King Shaka International Airport, Durban and waiting for my flight to Johannesburg, I'm watching the video patient story posted by Dental Concepts in Andover, Hampshire and featuring patient Adam's journey to the sister clinic in Mumbai for his dental implants.
(just take a look at any of my Facebook channels if you want to watch - it's very interesting).
I've visited the Mumbai clinic and know that (forgive the cliche) it is state of the art dentistry, delivered in a relaxed and comfortable environment and I've no doubt that after his treatment (and after he had finished bouncing on his hotel bed), the patient will have had a smashing time in India. Also that he will be well cared for back in the UK by my friend Dr. Manish Chitnis and the Dental Concepts team.
Dental innovators were extending the scope of clinics in Eastern Europe what seems like a very long time ago. I recall with fond memories trips to Pitești in Romania, to Istanbul, as well as Mumbai and Delhi in more recent years.
As always, some of the innovators were burned, others made a success of it - then, as the years go by, the early adopters begin to take note, the late majority bide their time and the laggards take to the social media forums to denounce the innovators as scoundrels.
We have seen the journey around the adoption cycle in digital dentistry happen very quickly. It's taken perhaps 10 years to progress from "a Cerec machine will never replace a human" to "our lab is a 3D printing hub".
My observation is that the adoption cycle on tourism has taken twice as long at least - and that I'm not even sure tourism has crossed "The Gap" between innovation and early adoption.
My last few days in Durban have convinced me that this would be a stunning option for tourism patients - why not combine your treatment with winter sun, a safari, an historic battlefield trip, a wine tour, some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, lovely people?
This is my third trip in 12 months and I love the place. I'm conscious of the challenges that the country faces and the diligence necessary to remain secure but it's a darn good lifestyle at incredible prices (and Durban is full of retired Brits, seeing their money go 250% further than at home).
Referencing the title of this post - this morning's news brings the first case of Covid-19 reported in sub-Saharan Africa and the game changes for a while. At this time I, let alone medical experts and governments, have no idea where that will end but let's hope that some form of normality returns.
At which point, I'm going to remind you of two kinds of dental tourism:
1. Patients travelling around the world to seek competitive pricing for high quality treatment and care and
2. Dentists asking labs around the world to digitally support them at more competitive prices (and having visited a digital lab a couple of evenings ago, I know that's possible).
I'm going to be interested to watch that space.