Game changers: Revealing the biggest healthcare transaction of the year

Newsroom 29/06/2023 | 16:33

Romania’s dental care services market is highly fragmented, almost entirely private, and lacking in visibility. 85 percent of the market is made up of small practices, and consolidation is the only way for this sector to develop further so that all Romanians can have access to high-quality dental care services nationwide. To this end, private healthcare network Regina Maria joined forces with the leader of the oral medicine sector, Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics, to take this market segment to the next level.

By Anda Sebesi

 

What prompted Regina Maria to purchase 51 percent of Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics shares, and why now?

Fady Chreih, CEO REGINA MARIA: Other medical systems abroad work within the concept of a “continuum of care,” a framework of integrated healthcare services that evolves along with patients’ needs, just as it should. The market in Romania has evolved as well, to a point in which it is able to sustain this kind of development. We have already seen measures that have consolidated the medical sector, while the big providers have started offering services addressing specific market niches. Dental care is one such segment, with great potential for growth, which can only be capitalised on through a real integration with other medical services as part of a reworked holistic approach. The best solution, with an eye on providing this kind of cross-disciplinary integrated approach, was to join our efforts with the leader of oral medicine in Romania, which had the necessary infrastructure, standards, ambition, and vision that would enable us to further develop this sector together.

 

With this takeover, Regina Maria enters the dental care market in Romania. What will be the impact of this move in terms of increasing people’s access to high-quality dental care services? 

Fady Chreih, CEO REGINA MARIA: As you know, for many years now, Romania has been faring very poorly in terms of medical prevention at the European level. It is a systemic problem with multiple causes, from the lack of medical infrastructure and the shortage of medical professionals to inadequate communication and deficient health education.

Nevertheless, in recent years, we have managed to determine an increase in nationwide access to medical services, including in smaller cities and even among certain categories of the population that had no previous access to medical care. We now have over 6 million patients, and we also service Romania’s biggest employers with industrial platforms that have thousands of employees. We have developed medical infrastructure not just in large cities, but also in smaller communities. As a result, Regina Maria is now represented in every county of Romania.

Investments in infrastructure, medical subscriptions that have become more than just a work-related benefit for corporations and white collar workers, as well as digitalization—in a country where 8 in 10 households have access to the internet—are the most important vistas for increasing the population’s access to medical services.

From this point onwards, this medical platform that we have been strategically developing over the years will also integrate dental care and will therefore facilitate Romanians’ access to oral medicine, whether we’re talking about prevention or treatment.

 

How will this takeover help consolidate the overall market for private medical services in Romania—and the dental care segment in particular?

Dr. Ionut Leahu, CEO & founder of Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics: The dental care services market is almost entirely private, highly fragmented, and lacking in visibility. 85 percent of the market is made up of small dental care practices. It is only through consolidation that this sector can develop to the benefit of all Romanians. It is the only way to take our healthcare standards, which are rooted in the concept of integrated medical services, to a national level. We have so far reached Romanian patients in 13 cities. Along with the REGINA MARIA Health Network, we will expand the availability of our medical services through an integrated approach. Concurrently, we will continue to develop our infrastructure nationwide. The union between our two companies, both leaders in the medical industry, is an expression of the readiness of the medical private sector to invest in the future of healthcare. Only when strong and trustworthy institutions join efforts can we ensure the long-term continuity of medical services of the highest quality. The future of medicine is built on pooling resources together and on an integrated approach to medical expertise, so that every Romanian can gain access to an inclusive medical system, and healthcare should become a normal thing. By working together, we will also increase our representativity with the Romanian authorities, to ensure the forward-looking development of the local medical system based on dialogue and fundamental changes.

 

What more can you tell us about this takeover? Will the dental clinics be an independent division of Regina Maria? What role will Dr. Leahu play in the future of the company?

Fady Chreih: Dental care will become a separate division of the REGINA MARIA Health Network, on equal footing with our outpatient, hospitals, laboratories, medical imaging, and maternity centres or our subscriptions. The division will be led by Dr. Ionut Leahu himself, who will preserve his 49 percent share of the network of dental clinics.

 

How much has Regina Maria invested since its establishment on the Romanian market and how have these investments impacted the country’s private medical system?

Fady Chreih: Our investments focus on three areas of strategic importance: medical infrastructure, the training of healthcare professionals, and the creation of quality standards that should serve as a reference not just for Romania, but for Europe as a whole.

Apart from the capital we have invested and the opening of new clinics and hospitals, all fitted with state-of-the-art medical equipment (with a total value that exceeds EUR 200 million, to which we add investments in digitalization and telemedicine), we are also talking about a sustained effort to consolidate the Romanian medical services market through M&A projects that have a separate budget. REGINA MARIA is the medical services provider with the greatest expertise in the successful integration of other medical businesses, having successfully carried out over 40 takeovers so far.

The training of future generations of healthcare professionals is also a resource we have been massively and systematically investing in. Hundreds of physicians and medical assistants took courses offered by the Surgical Training Institute, the Nursing Academy, and the Royal College of Physicians. These investments are quantified in terms of their quality and are reflected in the experience and positive feedback of patients who have opted for our services.

From the very beginning, another underlying pillar of our strategy has been leadership in terms of quality and the implementation of standards of international excellence in Romania. To a large extent, this guideline has attracted all our other results. We have always sought ways to be the best, and not necessarily the biggest healthcare providers. When you do things right, results will inevitably follow and your business will develop accordingly.

Today, we pride ourselves with the medical breakthroughs made by our physicians, who have carried out pioneering work in their respective fields in Romania, as well as with the over 1 million appointments in our Virtual Clinic, the most sophisticated telemedicine platform in the country. We are the only medical network in Romania with an integrated feedback system that allows patients to rate physicians after a consultation—their reviews are posted in real time and in a transparent fashion on the website. Over the years, we have amassed over 600,000 patient reviews for our 2,000 physicians, with an average rating of 9.54. This helps other patients quickly identify a good physician when they need one. And our plans don’t stop there. There is so much we can still do for the Romanian medical system and patients!

 

You mentioned earlier that the timing was ideal for Regina Maria to enter the dental services market. What is your vision and long-term strategy for the Regina Maria Health Network in Romania?

Fady Chreih: We are operating on several strategic levels. Some of our projects are planned ahead for the next 5-6 years, including developing the specialties that we’re already strong in. We also seek to attain leading positions in new segments, including dental care. For Romanian patients, this means they will be able to access all medical services inside a single network, enjoying the same standards of quality regardless of the city or the location where they visit us. They can enjoy an integrated medical experience and have personalised digital medical records that are available to all their physicians. At the same time, we are also increasingly focusing on the concept of prevention and on every aspect of the healthcare process, from primary care to oral medicine and even psychological-emotional support.

 

What are the short- and long-term joint business goals of Regina Maria and Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics?

Dr. Ionut Leahu: Our goal is to liberalise access to integrated medical services, so that they may become a go-to solution for every Romanian.

We will continue to develop our infrastructure at the national level and we are taking into account expanding to new cities, particularly in university centres, because we value the swift training and integration of new medical teams. We remain open to discussing new partnerships as well.

We will continue to focus on patient-centred education, community initiatives, and an open dialogue with the authorities in order to get dental care integrated into the national healthcare strategy. As for our clear-cut business objectives, we seek to increase our turnover for 2023 by 10 percent.

 

How will this takeover generate added value in terms of setting new quality standards for dental care in Romania?

Dr. Ionut Leahu: Over the years, we have created a working standard that we’ve implemented at the national level in the 13 cities in which we operate. By pooling resources with the REGINA MARIA Health Network, the leading provider of medical services in Romania, we are also expanding our infrastructure and the access to high-quality integrated medical services for an increasing number of patients.

 

How are Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics represented at the national level and how do you plan to expand your presence in the future?

Dr. Ionut Leahu: By stepping up our efforts to expand in recent years, we are now the widest network of oral medicine in Romania, with 19 dental clinics in 13 cities and a balanced distribution across Romania’s historical regions. We are operating in Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, Craiova, Galati, Iasi, Oradea, Pitesti, Ploiesti, Sibiu, Timisoara, and Turda. We continue to encourage talks to broker new partnerships in various cities and we are ready to open new agreements with entrepreneurs who own local clinics and want to join our network.

 

Have you considered creating new development opportunities for individual dental practices by co-opting new partners into your network?

Fady Chreih:  One of the underlying values of the REGINA MARIA Health Network is entrepreneurial cooperation, which is why I can say opportunities for entrepreneurs in this field are deeply imprinted onto our company’s DNA. REGINA MARIA offers a great number of successful examples of businesses that continued to grow once they joined our network, by gaining access to a greater territorial reach and benefiting from the support and know-how of our colleagues inside the network.

This first step we’re making today along with Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics is an expression of our openness and support towards consolidating and developing oral medicine in Romania.

 

Are you planning to expand the network through franchising?

Dr. Ionut Leahu: We are always open to new partnership opportunities. This has been one of the guidelines that have helped our network expand nationwide in recent years.

 

***

REGINA MARIA Health Network in numbers:

  • Number of practices at the national level: >300 own locations.
  • Number of cities with a REGINA MARIA presence: operating in all Romanian counties, through 300 own locations and another 300 partner clinics
  • Investment: over EUR 200 million to build modern healthcare infrastructure
  • Types of services offered: integrated care, from preventative medicine to treatment options—primary care and telemedicine, surgery and hospitalisation (incl. robotic surgery), a full range of laboratory and imaging tests, genetics, maternity, IVF, stem cell harvesting and storage, medical subscriptions, and oral health.
  • Number of employed healthcare professionals: 8,500 employees and contributors.

 

Dr. Leahu Dental Clinics in numbers:

  • Number of practices at the national level: 169
  • Number of cities with Dr. Leahu presence: 19 clinics in 13 cities (Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, Craiova, Galati, Iasi, Oradea, Pitesti, Ploiesti, Sibiu, Timisoara, and Turda)
  • Types of services offered: The clinics are one-stop-shops providing every type of dental care service: prophylaxis and treatment, radiology, fixed dentures in 24 hours, dental implants, dental crowns, orthodontic appliances, treatment options for periodontal diseases, root canal treatment, etc.
  • Number of employed dental care professionals: a team of 500 employees, including 200 dental medicine professionals.
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