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Destination Spotlight

Korean Healthcare at its Finest

Destination Spotlight

Korea made a significant investment in medical tourism this year, becoming a platinum sponsor for the World Medical Tourism and Global Health conference and sending representative delegates and diplomats to network and mingle with hundreds of other key players in the industry.

By way of background, Korea covers the full spectrum of the healthcare industry from pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food products and ancillary services of the healthcare industry. Overall, Korea has a very unique healthcare system in its ability to achieve both efficiency and equity.

James Bae, Director of International Marketing for Korea’s Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), comments that “In some specialties, we are recognized as top in the world. Even U.S. doctors come to Korea for training in such specialties as living donor liver transplantation and robotic surgery.

There is a very short waiting time, and we have a national hospital evaluation program in place similar to JCI. We have two JCI accredited hospitals — one is the largest JCI accredited hospital in the world — and about eight other hospitals are preparing for JCI accreditation in the near term.”

Currently, in terms of comparable metrics, approximately 75 percent of the doctors in Korea are specialists. The level of medical technology available is about 80-90% of that available in the U.S. In terms of clinical outcomes, the five year survival rate is 96% compared to the U.S.

And while Korea expects approximately 50,000 – 70,000 patients to come for healthcare services this coming year, 2010; they also acknowledge the upside of competition in the medical tourism landscape. A high-level spokesperson from Korea commented that; “As we know from endeavors in every area, competition has a tendency to raise the bar, as we all reach towards excellence.

Competition brings innovation and market relevance and looking at the primary overarching goal of striving to improve quality and ensure patient safety; it assists in achieving all of these objectives.”

Korea’s distinguished four-panel CEO speakers included: Dr. Myung-Whun Sung of Seoul National University Hospital, Dr. Jee-Soo Jang of Woodridul Spine Hospital, Dr. Jong-Hoon Park of Korea University – Anam Hospital, and Dr. Sang-Eun Park of SAM Medical Center.

Specifically, Seoul National University  Hospital, established in 1885 is the oldest and most prominent hospital in Korea with three sister hospitals in Boramae, Gangnam, and Bundange with an established office in Los Angeless as well. Woodridul Spine Hospital is one of the largest private specialy hospitals in South Korea with five hospital locations in-country; international business development efforts in China and Dubai and a training program for physicians from other countries.

Korea University’s Anam Hospital is working to affiliate specifically for medical tourism purposes, and as with other Korean hospitals, they are considering JCI accreditation. Finally, SAM Medical Center has three hospitals; a 450-bed SAM general hospital specializing in orthopedic surgery, a women’s hospital, and a SAM oriental medicine hospital. SAM Medical Center also has a research institute for gene therapy that provides stem cell therapy services.

Finally, when asked about S. Korea as a medical tourism provider, James Bae comments that “We have plenty of medical resources. One of our strengths is that our hospitals have PACS and EMR, and we are leading Asia in robotic surgery fields.

We provide world class care at a much lower cost than U.S. standard rates and while we are getting patients from the U.S., we are also seeing patients from Russia and Mongolia. Our medical travel benefit plan, in design, is to utilize Korea’s high quality life-saving capabilities, to which three U.S. companies have already signed on for these services.

We are also developing a limited medical insurance plan for medical tourists to Korea, having signed an LOI with United Healthcare to plan travel benefit options together. Our comprehensive program for medical tourists also includes a malpractice/conflict resolution call center that is available 24/7 with five language capabilities.”

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