Seoul Central Clinic offers one-stop customized services
Small clinics need stronger support for medical tourism success
By Kim Tae-jong
“One-stop service” is a key phrase in many industries striving to boost customer convenience. Yang Woo-jin, head of the Seoul Central Clinic, believes that the health care industry should adopt it, especially for patients from abroad.
“Foreign patients tend to stay here for a comparatively short period of time, and therefore they want to receive all examinations and due treatments within a few days after arriving at the hospital without experiencing the hustle and bustle,” Yang said.
Such a belief is well reflected in customized medical services at the SCC, which include easy registration procedures, comprehensive medical tests and treatments.
Located inside the Post Office Tower in Chungmuro, downtown Seoul, the SCC specializes in medical health checkups and offers due treatments. If patients need more complicated treatment, it also introduces them to networked hospitals here.
The center even offers post-operative care, which helps patients receive due medical monitoring at a networked hospital in their country.
“We’re now trying to build a network with hospitals in other countries so that we can fully provide foreign patients with all the necessary services even after they go back to their country. Our commitment is we will take full care of our patients,” she said.
The SCC has done business with travel agencies in foreign countries to attract international patients here, but has also built a network with local and international hospitals to effectively monitor and provide post-operative care, she said.
She believes that such efforts have paid off, pointing to the center’s average growth of 20 percent every year despite fierce competition with large nearby hospitals.
Another attraction that Yang believes is unique to the SCC, is a more “thorough” consultation with patients, which is hardly expected at major hospitals due to the tight schedules of doctors.
“We try to explain in detail patients’ test results and required treatments or procedures, as it is very critical to affect how patients feel about the service,” she said.
Advice for medical tourism
Yang’s emphasis on the quality of customized medical service for foreign patients comes from her long experience and observation in medical tourism as she has also served as the president of the National Association of Global Medical Tourism.
In her efforts to boost the nation’s medical tourism, she has realized what’s more important is to identify target patients and to come up with measures to offer them customized services.
“People tend to think the construction of state-of-the-art medical centers and the purchase of advanced medical devices involving considerable investment of money is the most important thing to do to boost medical tourism. But they’re wrong. What can attract and impress overseas patients most is quality medical services that can be customized to each patient,” she said.
In this regard, she is skeptical of the government’s incentive schemes, which mainly support major hospitals.
“I don’t think medical tourism can be a lucrative business for big hospitals that specialize in patients with serious diseases. I don’t think so many foreign patients with critical conditions will come here, and therefore, simply speaking, for them, it’s not going to be cost-effective,” she said.
Instead, she rather suggested that the government provide more support to small but specialized clinics and help them to have more patients.
“I think a majority of foreign patients come here for cosmetic surgeries, dental treatments or health checkups, and clinics here can effectively provide necessary services for them without much investment,” she said.
To support clinics or small medical centers, mostly with limited resources, the government should help them market themselves, she said, also asking for more practical help, including more deregulations.
“For example, tens of thousands foreigners come to this district annually, but it is now illegal to put up a signboard on this building to promote our center. How should foreigners know what we’re doing here? Such a small deregulation can be a great help for us,” she said.