Medical Korea 2012
“Korea must streamline overseas patient referral process”
By Noh Hyun-gi
The third Global Healthcare & Medical Tourism Conference concluded on Thursday with a panel discussion on the globalization of Korea’s healthcare services at COEX in Samgsung-dong, southern Seoul. The three-day event invited 37 professionals from 13 countries to discuss healthcare IT, medical tourism, and healthcare policy.
Abdullah Suliman M. Al Amor, CEO of King Fahad Medical City in Saudi Arabia opened Medical Korea 2012 on Tuesday with the speech “Medical Tourism moving East or West.” He urged Korea to aggressively pursue patients from overseas.
The highlight was the second day of the conference; officials from the Middle East and Asia lectured on challenges at home and expectations on medical tourism.
Ali O. Al Ali, Director of Abu Dhabi Health Authority said “We consider medical tourism as a measure to gauge the gap (between our and foreign medical services). The goal is to improve our healthcare system through such opportunities.” According to Ali, the majority of medical tourism cases involve organ transplants, blood and marrow transplants and cancer therapy. However, the lack of a systemized process between countries causes complications regarding reimbursement, transportation, documentation and cost management. Abu Dhabi health officials hopes to establish a federal entity to streamline international referrals.
Orsida Gjebrea, a policy specialist, from Qatar highlighted the unique demographic of the Arab state that affects its medical financing. Male immigrants working in construction make up the majority of the population. As the current healthcare system charges non-nationals much more compared to its own citizens, there men opt out of health insurance and only visit hospitals in an emergency, which is expensive. This phenomenon helps the national health expenditure there shoot up. To address the unsustainable cost structure, Qatar is implementing social health insurance which will charge insurance fees based on ability to pay, not on nationality.
Countries successfully attracting foreign patients shared their strategy at the conference as well. According to Hasan Kus, president of Anadolu Group, Turkey leverages on its advanced tourism industry for flight accommodation and complimentary sightseeing. It also encourages its medical practices to gain international accreditation.
Yee Yitshasiri, deputy business alliance director from the Samitivej Hospital in Thailand advised Korea to attend to details such as providing transport and adequate interpreters.
Local medical professionals promoted Korea’s cancer treatment standard healthcare IT. Asan Medical Center has developed a variety of mobile applications for smartphone users. The software allows patients to access their health records, search for information on cancer and consult pharmacists.
TheMinistry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Health Industry Development Institute and Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism organized the conference.