Professional consultations, a welcoming and comfortable environment, central location and convenient end-to-end services – all this is provided by the highly-qualified and dedicated staff at FirstMed, the multi-disciplinary health clinic that celebrates its 20th anniversary this February.
Since opening in 1999, FirstMed has become the leading provider of private English-speaking family practice, women’s health, pediatric and specialist medical services in Budapest, serving individuals, families, companies, embassies, tourists and NGOs in the Hungarian capital.
The clinic was founded by Dennis A. Diokno, an American businessman, who gained his experience in private healthcare in Russia and China in the 1990s. At the end of that decade, he was sent by his boss to explore the possibilities of opening clinics in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. He liked the business opportunities offered by the region so much that he himself decided to set up a business in the Hungarian capital after raising money through family and friends. “I really liked Hungary; I fell in love with the people, the culture, and from a business perspective it seemed like the right place to be,” he says.
It was not only the money that came from his family but also the ‘feel’ for healthcare, having grown up in such an environment: his father is a physician, his mother a nurse and his two sisters work in the pharmaceutical industry. He says what he likes most about his job is working in a service industry, focusing on customers and the customer experience.
Dennis A. Diokno, who is CEO and Founding Partner of FirstMed in Budapest, tells Diplomacy&Trade that “while our busiest services are primary care like family practice, pediatrics and gynecology, our other 30+ specialties, including orthopedics, cardiology, ENT (ear, nose and throat), to name a few, see just as many patients. These services and practices are also very much sought after by our clients.”
He explains that “we like to think of our patients as family. Many of them are long time patients returning again and again. When a patient contacts us – either online, by phone or meeting us at the reception – we make sure they receive prompt attention. We are proud of keeping pre-registered appointment times and the time our doctors spend with the patients. Should a patient have specialty needs or require treatment outside of the clinic, we arrange appointments and monitor the process to ensure the best customer service possible.”
He notes that he is very proud of the clinic’s transparent operations, reliable and quality-controlled customer services. The staff consists of 100+ physicians, nurses, radiology and laboratory technicians, customer service, billing and back office support. People in customer service speak seven languages, all doctors speak English and have international experience.
Although, about three quarters of the clientele are expats living in Hungary temporarily or permanently, Dennis A. Diokno sees the number of Hungarian patients growing. He is of the view that while, in general, health awareness is growing and people have more money to spend, the primary reason for growth is the declining conditions in the state healthcare system in the country. There are frequent reports of underpaid and overworked doctors and nurses and there is a ‘gratuity’ system in place. Patients pay into the pockets of doctors and nurses for services that they are otherwise entitled to for ‘free’. He stresses that this is why one of the great advantages Hungarian patients appreciate at FirstMed is transparency.
Regarding plans to expand services in Budapest and in the region, the CEO highlights that “we currently occupy the entire fifth floor of the Hattyúház office building. This January, we signed a lease to take additional space to begin offering out-patient surgery. However, our expansion is not limited to the Hattyúház building. We have a plan for additional locations in the city as well as elsewhere in Hungary. As for regional development, we began working on a project in Italy last year and we expect our clinic in Rome to open in the second half of this year. We are also looking at other major cities in the region.”
Describing the guidelines of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy and practice, Dennis A. Diokno points out that “from our first year in Budapest, our clinic has always supported charitable causes. We focus on organizations that are healthcare and child related. The Robert Burns International Foundation and the Csodalámpa (Magic Lamp) Foundation receive the largest portions of our charitable gifts, but we support many foundations and causes with cash and in-kind donations.”
He adds that FirstMed is very proud of its CSR programs, it is at the core of their values and activities. “Being a health care provider, we have spent a lot of time supporting sick children by working closely with Csodalámpa Alapítvány for over ten years now. Our colleagues work as volunteers as we know first-hand how much a joyful and positive experience can contribute to the healing of a child or sadly sometimes only to the daily survival.”
FirstMed also started supporting the Robert Burns International Foundation several years ago. The foundation focuses its efforts on raising money to benefit sick and underprivileged children in Hungary and Central Europe. “We sponsored the foundation’s curling tournament, which brought companies together to introduce people to the sport and we sent the leading FirstMed team to the annual Burns Supper.”
The Managing Director concludes by saying that “we are active members of several chambers. With the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (BCCH), we offer networking platforms as well as training opportunities for SMEs to gain contemporary digital business skill sets.”