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Medical Tourism in Asia



Asian healthcare providers have been treating foreign patients for decades. The quality of care is abundant not to mention to amount of experience Asian providers already have in treating foreign patients. Vivian Ho interviewed Datuk Mohammed Radzif Yunas about medical tourism in Malaysia.Although medical tourism in Asia thrived in past years many do not know about the high quality of care offered in Malaysia. &ldquoWe found out over the years that people know where Malaysia is and they know what tourism has to offer.

However not many know about our health care facilities. Even though we have highly trained and highly qualified health care professionals getting people familiar with our capabilities is a challenge&rdquo reports Yunas. &ldquoMany Malaysian professionals are involved in some aspect of international medicine through their professional associations and the various centers of excellence&rdquo he adds.

At the National Heart Institute its reputation is one of a center of excellence for heart care. Based in Kuala Lumpur in the state of Selangor their goal in medical tourism is to provide the American people with an alternative for health care. &ldquoMost of our current international patients come from within the Asia region. We have never lost sight of what we could offer the American market. With 50 million of the American population without health insurance just from a cost perspective we have a lot to offer&rdquo reports Yunas.

The National Heart Institute was accredited by the Malaysian Society of Health and is in the process of JCI accreditation.Yunas has big plans for Malaysia. The unique standing of Malaysia purely in terms of the American marketplace is the cost advantage combined with high quality services. &ldquoMany of our doctors are associated with American societies and they do have ties globally.

Our cardiologists also sit on Asian cardiology societies. We have been getting lot of patients coming in from within the Asian region especially Indonesia. Malaysia is on par with Singapore in that way&rdquo states Yunas. In prior years Malaysia exported their patients for better access to healthcare. Now the tides have turned and the export of patients has been reduced. People are traveling from all over the world in growing numbers to these top notch hospitals.

South Korea

South Korea also sees this growing marketplace as an opportunity worthy of dedicated government support. &ldquoOur perspective on medical tourism is we believe it is a global trend in the health care market. Travelers have been interested in medical tourism for a long time. They moved about individually. Now intermediaries provide more convenience&rdquo explains James Bae of KHIDI.

The Korean government has decided the brand their high quality if healthcare through various organizations. They launched the Council Korean Medical Promotion (CKMP) specifically to brand Korean healthcare services including 35 qualified healthcare providers. KHIDI and KTO support the marketing efforts as well. In attracting U.S. patients to Korea CKMP's focus will be on creating a network with health insurance companies and facilitators and TPAs. &ldquoA lot of medical facilitators are available and it is very hard to discern the good from the bad&rdquo says Bae.

Recently KHIDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the MTA. &ldquoAnd our expectation is to get marketing information at this Congress meeting. We think the Congress can help us find good network parties. For the international hospitals within our network our expectation at Congress is to promote Korea hospitals to buyers. Our other purpose is to establish our network of Korea hospitals to these buyers. For the seven Korean hospitals attending Congress we are going to make a group panel session on best practices in Korea and we will have a Korean pavilion in the exhibition&rdquo explains Bae.

As a platinum sponsor of the Medical Tourism Congress Bae hopes to gain a great amount of recognition and to provide an opportunity to educate the world about Korea's high quality healthcare offerings. &ldquoThe medical doctors are familiar with other doctors but business insurance facilitators are not familiar. Through Congress we hope they will understand more about Korean hospitals and services. As a platinum sponsor we want the world know that Korea is ready to service international patients.&rdquoAs for the quality of the healthcare Bae reveals that Joint Commissions International is being used as a guide for quality standards.

The Korean government initiated its own accreditation system a few years ago. &ldquoBecause of this insurance companies can work with hospital and through CKMP the government guarantees quality of care. It provides assurance to buyers of Korean health care services&rdquo adds Bae. In 2009 the Korean Accreditation they will apply for IsQua international accreditation which shall give Korea the advantage it needs to attract the attention of the insurance industry.

While the rise in Latin American healthcare poses a challenge to the Asian marketplace Bae believes medical tourism to Asia will be on the rise. &ldquoIt is because there are a number of patients in underdeveloped countries looking for better care abroad and the demand from Western countries is growing.&rdquo What challenges exist for this growing trend? &ldquoOur challenges include how to deal with legal issues on international patients.&rdquo Korea's target market covers U.S. Canada Russia Southeast Central Asia China and Japan.

However they are looking to South Asia Australia Middle East and East European Countries as a secondary market. Other Asian providers agree with Bae particularly with respect to what the Congress could provide in terms of proliferation of information. Judy Lim of MOH Holdings in Singapore reports &ldquoOur main objectives in attending Congress were to learn from the industry and the networking opportunities. We came back having achieved both objectives. Because we brought our hospitals there that exhibition allowed delegates to get to know Singapore's strengths and capabilities.


For Singapore it too was an opportunity to meet people in insurance companies and medical facilitators. &ldquoThe Congress event was a great value to Singapore. It was beneficial to see broad segments of the industry coming together it was a good platform for both buyers and sellers. At the same time it was well organized and platforms for both opponents and proponents were displayed so delegates could see both sides of story.

It provided a very balanced perspective. Finally it was useful to bring in patient perspective that view is valuable to the medical tourism industry&rdquo explains Lim.For countries like Singapore which have led the medical tourism industry in prior years Lim believes that Singapore will continue to thrive. &ldquoIt is seamless in the sense that medical travel for persons coming from within Asia to Singapore for medical consult and procedures has been going on for decades. While this is not new for Singapore it is the public health care perspective that is growing in appreciation of medical travel as it is an evolving and expanding industry.

We see it as part of Singapore's natural expansion process to reach beyond the region into the U.S. onto an international platform&rdquo states Lim. Areas that may benefit from Singapore's capacities include the United Kingdom Russia and China in addition to the U.S. For Malaysia the Congress providing unique opportunities for networking. Dato' Dr. Jacob Thomas Group Medical Advisor for SJMC Healthcare Group said &ldquoI have yet to attend a Medical Tourism Conference like this Congress which has brought together so many likeminded people who were looking for answers as to where to go or where to send their patients and who to link up with.

Thomas believe that providers were given a great chance to show off their expertise and to meet interest groups. &ldquoA real meeting of 'great medical tourism players'. A melting pot&rdquo he added. &ldquoI must particularly mention the session with first hand testimonies of patients facilitated by Renee-Marie Stephano. It was so very powerful and answered everyone's questions. It was so good that there was pin drop silence&rdquo reports Thomas. Dr. Mohd Radzif CEO of the National Heart Institute in Malaysia agrees.

National Heart Institute of Malaysia would like to congratulate MTA for the successful event and it is a privilege attending World Medical Tourism Congress & Global Health Conference in San Francisco recently&hellip.[NHI] is looking for business associates in US.&rdquo The San Francisco congress certainly provided the opportunity. Thomas and Radzif look forward to the event in Los Angeles in 2009 to continue with the momentum and to participate in the efforts to create a solid foundation for medical tourism globally.

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