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1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference South Korea Triumph

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The Medical Tourism Association, (MTA) in partnership with the Korean Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) formally concluded the 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference, South Korea . Over 600 attendees gathered at the COEX in Seoul, Korea from April 13-15th, 2010.

28 Countries and 6 Continents were represented at the conference, which was the largest presence of international healthcare “buyers” at any medical tourism conference to date. Many of the “buyers” who attended were thrilled at the high-quality hospitals and innovative technology available in Seoul.

The VIP Buyers Incentive Program permitted for benefits such as travel expenses, airfare and hotel coverage for insurance companies, employers and leading medical tourism facilitators who are interested in medical tourism and sending patients to Asia for medical care.

The sponsored buyers were also able to attend a full day of hospital site tours in Korea which allowed the buyers to learn more about the Korean and Asia healthcare system. Buyers toured leading international hospitals including: Seoul National University Gannam Center, Asan Medical Center, JK Plastic Surgery Center, Wooridul Hospital, Inha University Hospital, Severance Hospital, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, Gachon University Gil Hospital, and Samsung Medical Center.

Some of the VIP sponsored attendees from large employers, governments, insurance companies, benefits consulting firms, medical tourism facilitators included companies such as: Bupa International, CIGNA, Elite Underwriting Services, Green Crescent Insurance Company PJSC, Mahoney & Associates, Allianz Egypt, Arab Misr Insurance Group, Arabia Insurance Company – Bahrain, McKinley Financial Services, Mondial Assistance USA, Partners Insurance, Piper Jordan, Trusted Insurance Services and others.

“I would like to express my admiration for the huge efforts done by MTA and KHIDI to organize a successful and enlightening event, as well as our sincere gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference Korea 2010.  The conference, exhibition and business meetings were very beneficial for us to gain insights and exposure on the global medical tourism.

The Familiarization Tours of the South Korean hospitals were a very productive experience in promoting Korea as a medical tourism investment destination, providing valuable insight of excellent medical facilities, infrastructure, traditional values and hospitality.”  Said Yekaterina Gorkusha, Managing Partner, GloriaMED, Kazakhstan.

A Country in Perpetual Motion ~ Medical Tourism Pushes Forward with Commitment, Speed and Innovation

By way of background, South Korea, also known as the ‘rising dragon’ continues to be an economic miracle.  The country excels in many areas.  It has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world since 1960; today it ranks as the 13th largest economy in the world.  It boasts the world’s largest shipbuilder and is a dominant leader in global construction.  

Additionally, South Korea ranked first in the 2009 Global Innovative Index while Seoul ranked sixth in terms of most economically powerful cities by Forbes magazine. This year, in 2010, South Korea expects to welcome 120 million visitors which reflect a 20% increase in both leisure and business travel sectors over 2009 trends.

This level of robust growth, in the face of economic recessionary pressures includes an anticipated 40% increase in medical tourism to 70,000 visitors seeking medical treatment in Seoul and other areas in South Korea.  

Therefore, it seems fitting for Seoul to host the first-ever three-day Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Congress in the Asia Pacific region; bringing together leaders from over 34 countries, almost 600 delegates, over 100 buyers from all six continents including Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Spain, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, United States of America, Canada, Germany, Spain, Africa, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Iran, Turkey, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom, India, Brunei, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, Afghanistan and more.

1st Global Healthcare and Medical Tourism Conference, Korea 2010

Director General Kyungwon Jang, of KHIDI opened the proceedings for a day of workshops by welcoming all delegates to the 1st Global Healthcare and Medical Tourism Conference at COEX in Seoul, Korea this April 13 – 15, 2010.  In his words, “South Korea is well known for manufacturing, mobile services, and the auto industries.  It is the desire of South Korea through this Conference to bring attention to the world about Korea’s infrastructure forming in this arena of medical tourism.”

The day of workshops then proceeded with topics ranging from Medical Tourism 101 by Renee-Marie Stephano, to Marketing Plans, Legal Issues, Medical Tourism Facilitation and International Patient Care Departments. Workshop speakers Duhie Han, Richard Jun, David Vequist, Brian Bongsik Woo, Jim McCormick, Alex Piper, Rosanna Moreno, Shing Ye Tan, James Lee, Brad Cook, Tom O’Hara, Ves Gitchev, and JP Bos carried the day with their insightful comments on each of the above topics.  

Youngho Lee closed the day by thanking the many speakers for their contributions to 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference Korea 2010 and South Korea.

One of the highlights of the congress was the one-on-one business-to-business meetings that allowed the buyers of healthcare to sit down and discuss with the providers the actual steps to start to implement medical tourism.

These business meetings were a great success for both parties as they were able to continue networking throughout the entire congress. After seeing the hospitals first hand prior to the conference and then being able to sit down and discuss with the providers, this set up proved to create a truly valuable experience for all delegates.

On Day 2, the Opening Ceremony for the Conference began with President of KHIDI, Bupwan Kim acknowledging that “medical tourism is one of seventeen platforms and engines for growth in Korea”.  Minister Jaehee Jeon from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs then acknowledged that South Korea is blessed with human resource assets and a ubiquitous healthcare industry.  

President Charm Lee of KTO, one of the five joint collaboration partners in 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference Korea 2010 graciously thanked the partnership that led to this conference.

Renée-Marie Stephano provided a perspective on events leading up to this conference stating that the dedication of South Korea to this initiative resulted in a collaboration ranging from educational workshops to Diamond sponsorship at the World Medical Tourism & Global Health Congress 2009 in Los Angeles, California, USA.  In her words, “Korea has truly delivered an international brand.

We support Korea’s aspirations in becoming one of the top five bio-health centers of the world.”  OECD Economist David Morgan provided an insightful keynote on the trends of globalization in healthcare commenting that “health is a major sector, health trade is still marginal in most countries but growing fast and medical tourism/travel is just one part of the equation”.

Panelists Jennifer Son, Prem Jagyasi, Alon Shlesinger, Judy Lim, and Michael Morton provided case studies on global healthcare development in the world.  Models ranged from South Korea, United Arab Emirates, to Israel, Singapore and Thailand. Delegates were provided with an overview of how each of these countries and organizations represented were addressing the challenges of global healthcare, and medical tourism specifically.  

In both of the afternoon sessions on critical issues in medical tourism and medical tourism & insurance, delegates were provided with information on the drivers and inhibitors of medical tourism.

Industry wide challenges ranging from international accreditation, legal issues and the aftercare & continuation of care which speakers Jin A. Kim, Marcelle McPhaden, Scott Edelstein, and Jean Forbes addressed contribute significantly to the growth in medical tourism, perceptions of service quality, and the search for affordable, available and accessible healthcare. The day concluded with presentations and a discussion on insurance vehicles ranging from expatriate insurance coverage, to health insurance plan integration, and international healthcare service options with domestic insurance policies.

Day 3’s proceedings began with a keynote address by Jonathan Edelheit, CEO of the Medical Tourism Association, on US healthcare Reform’s effects on medical tourism.  This was followed by Scott Simmons addressing telemedicine applications in pre and post care and customer service improvements as part of the treatment process.  

Patrick Lee, Sara Kim, Hyungtaek Hugh Lim, Lee Woon Hee and Hyung-Lae Lee provided insights into expanding the medical tourism market via on-line business opportunities, and health tourism aspects of wellness and complimentary & alternative medicine practices.

The final day of the 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference, Korea ended with speakers Rosanna Moreno, Robert Gerl and Tae Woon Kim who shared the models of Texas Medical, Germany and Daegu Metropolitan City’s development as a medical tourism hub.  

Rick Van Pelt addressed the topic of hospital management and affiliation programs, while Prem Jagyasi and Laila Al Jassami jointly provided information about the Middle East’s development, Dubai Health Authority’s progress as a model and its partnership with Samsung.  Todd Fitz and Cagri Kanver tackled the topic of sustainability and social responsibility in healthcare development and design, and provided an overview as to how this enables long term success in medical tourism.

The congress concluded in traditional Korean style at the Gala Dinner reception which included a five course meal for all delegates and traditional Korean entertainment.

South Korea Medical Tourism ~ Past, Present & Fast Forward

One of the many highlights of the conference was provided by Dr. Bernard J. Park, MD who is the Korean American Medical Association’s (KAMA) President and Dr. Chul Soo Hyun, President-Elect of KAMA 2011.  Dr. Park spoke of looking at past relationships as a view into what the foundation for the future will be.  He started by saying his father was a Korean immigrant to the United States and he is 2nd generation Korean American. Dr. Park serves as one of the first 2nd generation Presidents in the history of KAMA.

“The conference was very fruitful for all the participant, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication they have rendered for the field in our conference, whether as esteemed speakers, buyers and participants. This contribution gave many of our participants’ exposure to renowned professional in the field. The conference drew attendance of nearly 600 participants from 34 countries,” said, Bup-Wan Kim, President, Korea Health Industry Development Institute.

In closing, it appears that South Korea is making a compelling case as the medical travel destination of choice as they say that they provide the most advanced, reliable healthcare services in the world.  This is further supported by statements of easy accessibility, affordable prices, and the leading healthcare country in Asia.  

Given that global healthcare is struggling on all continents and in crises on some; a view into the past three days proceedings at the 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference, Korea would suggest that South Korea has come a long way in its medical tourism development since November 2007, is rapidly building capacity, and offering itself as a global health-hub solution.

The Medical Tourism Association is thrilled with the success of the 1st Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference, Korea and anticipates seeing everyone whom we formed relationships with in Seoul at the up-coming 3rd Annual World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, September 22nd-24th 2010, Los Angeles, CA.  See you there!

About the Author

Vivian Ho leads and supports strategic and operational initiatives for MTA globally, with a particular focus on business development, new ventures & partnerships. A recognized global health leader, she has extensive domestic and international experience in Asia Pacific, North America and Europe. Previously, in her role as President & CEO, Queens International in Honolulu, she provided leadership in medical and health tourism development for Hawaii. She may be reached at

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