WMTC Taiwan: China Means Business to Medical Tourism Entrepreneurs

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During a recent business trip to the United States, Huang Xiaoyuan discovered an unexpected value proposition that she could not find to her liking back home in China. The venture capitalist from Beijing left San Francisco heart in hand and with a new appreciation for medical tourism services abroad.

Healthcare entrepreneurs interested in tapping into China’s lucrative markets are sharing ideas and solutions, this week, at World Medical Tourism Congress — Taiwan 2014.

At my age, when I'm ill, I need reliable information at my fingertips to fight the fight, Huang, who was introduced to More Health, Inc., a local start-up specializing in accommodating medical tourism patients from China, told chinadaily.com. Over the years through my friends and family, I have witnessed several drug overdoses in (in China's medical system) and instances of malpractice.

Industry insiders aware of just how difficult a trip to the doctor can be in China and entrepreneurs interested in tapping into the Middle Kingdom's lucrative market are sharing their experiences and offering solutions at World Medical Tourism Congress — Taiwan 2014, this week, at the Taipei International Convention Center.

Sponsored by the Medical Tourism Association in collaboration with the Global Benefits Association and Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), World Medical Tourism Congress — Taiwan 2014 is spotlighting healthcare services available in Asia to some 400 delegates representing 25 countries from the medical and insurance industries.

Strait Talk in Taiwan

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From left to right: Renee-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association, Elizabeth Greenbaum, Assistant Director, Global Business Group on Health; and Breckon Jones, Director, Global Compensation & Benefits, American Express, meet at World Medical Tourism Congress — Taiwan 2014, in Taipei.

Renée-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association, said from Taiwan that there is a wide gap in medical services for what wealthy patients expect and receive in China. Patient complaints can range from long waits at public hospitals, mediocre treatment, limited choice of physicians and medical negligence.

New facilities in Taiwan along with loosening of restrictions on both sides of the Strait have created perfect conditions to extend medical tourism opportunities to Chinese patients on the mainland, said Stephano. Chinese medical tourists want high-end stem cell procedures, detoxification programs and spa therapies, among others. As relations continue to thaw, healthcare providers and entrepreneurs in Taiwan, throughout China and around the world need to be positioned to accept a large share of this market.

Stephano said Saint Lucia Consulting, a member of the Medical Tourism Association, is regarded as China's largest medical tourism facilitator company. The Beijing-headquartered medical tourism firm, which opened in 2011, assists patients with evaluating options, choosing specialists, arranging appointments at foreign hospitals, transferring medical records, making hotel reservations and completing visa applications.

Our mission is to overcome geographic and linguistic barriers that prevent Chinese from receiving world-class medical care, said Wang Shun, an officer at Saint Lucia Consulting, which recently agreed to terms on a deal with Sequoia Capital China, an international investment company, worth 50 million Yuan to promote medical tourism.

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Cai Qiang is founder and CEO of Saint Lucia Consulting, a member of the Medical Tourism Association and China’s largest medical tourism facilitator company.

Cai Qiang, Saint Lucia Consulting founder and CEO, said he lost partial sight in his left eye when he was a teenager living in China as a result of medical negligence. He said Saint Lucia has assisted more than 100 patients abroad, many of them wealthy Chinese seeking procedures at the consulting firm's partner hospitals in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Before their experiences overseas, they had never expected such quality care and services as they received at foreign hospitals, said Cai, who has lived the past decade in Australia. Over the last four years, our team has provided Chinese corporate executives, and the wealthy elite and their families with highly personalized medical tourism facilitation services, expert translation services and informed advice on their overseas medical treatments.

Membership Has Rewards

Membership with the Medical Tourism Association helps Saint Lucia identify hospitals to contract with, said Cai. Saint Lucia has a formal agreement with Partners Healthcare — the largest network of hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School which includes Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, McLean Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Cai said a 46-year-old Shanghai man diagnosed with lung cancer in June took advantage of a medical tourism opportunity through Saint Lucia with Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was able to undergo outpatient chemotherapy without the side effects he may have experienced back home in China.

Saint Lucia also works with healthcare systems in the United States including the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Cleveland Clinic.