Thursday, March 26, 2009

PHILIPPINES: Phillipines begins to market medical tourism

Official figures for 2008 revealing that less than 1,000 medical tourists, rather than the 100,000 plus that the country has regularly claimed, shocked Philippine authorities and hospitals into a rethink. Existing marketing has been all talk, little action and a total failure; so new ideas are needed quickly.

The Philippine Convention & Visitors Corporation (PCVC), a non-profit marketing division within the Department of Tourism, has appointed agency DM9 to develop a campaign to attract medical tourists. This could include road shows, videos for websites and brochures.

Another agency, Campaigns & Grey has a project from Makati Medical Centre, the country’s premier hospital, to market the hospital ahead of its 40th anniversary. The brief includes promoting Makati’s improved facilities and boosting its standing among other medical centres.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is helping develop medical tourism with incentives to health and wellness spas, and hotels; the latter being vital to places like Cebu, as there room shortages. PEZA has so far accredited two hospitals, St. Luke’s in Taguig and Cabrini in Cavite. St. Luke’s at the Fort is a 600-room, 1,000-doctor facility built at a cost of P9 billion and will open in October 2009.

St. Luke’s Medical Centre promotes itself by pointing out that the cost of a heart surgery at $10,000,is just a tenth of the $100,000 in the United States, and a third of what hospitals in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia charge. The problem with cut-price offerings is that medical tourists are wary of prices that appear too low. The country will struggle until individual and national marketing understands why offering ultra-low prices backfires and scares potential customers away, and how other approaches are vital.

The Cebu city government here has given money to the Cebu Health and Wellness Council to help promote Cebu and its local health-and-wellness centres, hospitals and resorts as an international player in medical tourism and wellness. Hospitals, clinics, hotels

and travel operators that are partners of Cebu Health and Wellness will soon launch special packages for tourists where tourists can combine an executive medical check-up with a holiday.

Cebu Doctors University Hospital in January received 60 overseas patients, compared to an average of 10 a month in 2008. The hospital now aims for 100 foreigners a month for the rest of the year. It has rolled out a project to build suite rooms to accommodate foreigners. Most patients are Europeans in need of outpatient procedures, executive checkups, gastrointestinal procedures and heart surgery, not the Americans that everyone talks about. Cebu Doctors has new partnerships with hotels, travel operators and spas. The group sees Cebu as a top destination for spa and wellness, as an adjunct to medical services.

The Medical City has opened a satellite office in Tamuning to ease the paperwork for patients from Guam who want medical treatment at The Medical City.

All these projects are good, but the individual impact is small. What the country needs is for all those officials and politicians who have spent the last four years talking up how much they want medical tourists to come to the country, and making bloated claims on numbers, to spend money on proper marketing campaigns with selected targets, measurable results; combined with ensuring there are sufficient good quality hotels and hospitals to deliver the goods. Also, if the country wants American medical tourists, having just two JCI status hospitals is not enough.

JORDAN: Economy not hurting Jordan medical tourism

Medical tourism, one of the main sectors of the national economy, has not been negatively affected by the global economic crisis, says the PHA.

Private Hospitals Association (PHA) President Fawzi Hammouri said Jordan is ranked by the World Bank as number one in the Arab world, and among the top 10 in the world, as a medical tourism destination. “ In order to maintain this ranking, we have to keep the current markets in the Arab world and find new ones in Africa, Europe and the US.”

New markets have already been opened in Chad, Nigeria, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, while plans are in place to open markets in Germany, the UK and the US.

The high quality and competitive cost of healthcare in Jordan have made the country an attractive destination for foreigners seeking advanced treatments that are unavailable or unaffordable in their home countries.

“The medical tourism sector annually generates over US$1billion in revenues and the number of foreign patients seeking treatment in the Kingdom stands at over 200,000 per year,” said Hammouri

The PHA encourages hospitals to get Joint Commission International accreditation. There are 61 private hospitals, 48 of which are PHA members and four have JCI status.

The PHA is working with hospitals to offer medical tourism packages to Americans and Europeans who come to the country for medical services with unprecedented packages. Hammouri explains, “ We will provide them with packages that are 25 per cent below market prices. This includes the plane ticket, accommodation and a visit to Petra to encourage tourism as well.”

Prime Minister Nader Dahabi wants the Health Care Accreditation Council (HCAC), and Ministry of Health, to enhance efforts to attract more patients, especially from Europe and the US. HCAC hospitals responded that it would help if the government made medical tourism exempt from sales tax. HCAC was established through a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health and USAID/Jordan as an independent national hospital accreditor; whereby HCAC hospital standards are accredited by an International accreditor of healthcare accreditation organisation ISqua .

KOREA Are Korean hospitals ready for medical travel?

KOREA Are Korean hospitals ready for medical travel?

Attracting more foreign patients has become of primary interest to the Korean medical community. Korea has advantages in high-quality medical services at relatively low prices. That is why the Korean government is allowing hospitals to market themselves to foreign patients.

Foreign patients travel to countries with different cultures and languages and entrust not only their health, but also their lives to doctors in another country. But Korean hospitals are squeezing medical tourism into existing premises. The international patient centre is often in annex, staffed by doctors and nurses who can speak foreign languages. Foreign patients experience problems communicating at Korean hospitals, which lack foreign-language signs.

There is a debate between those who want to spread the fruits of medical tourism around, and those who think that service quality can only be achieved by foreigner-only hospitals. The standard of medical care is high, but deficiencies in other service areas means there is a chance that Korea may end up losing foreign patients in the long term, despite some early successes. Reports suggest that some hospitals have not understood that while domestic patients may be content with delays and poor service, in medical tourism, the customer is king.

Last month, the Korean Medical Association conducted a survey of ten hospitals out of the 44 largest hospitals across the country, which are keen on attracting foreign patients. It showed that only four of them have assigned doctors to handle foreign patients, so nurses often have to act as translators.

The Ministry for Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs (MIHWF) and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) have established a foundation to attract foreign patients; the Global Healthcare Service Association (GHSA). The GHSA will become a private corporation, help with domestic and international advertising to promote Korean healthcare, train hospital staff to deal with foreign patients, and prepare brochures on treatment fees for foreign patients.

UNITED KINGDOM: Inbound UK medical tourism

It is well documented that thousands of Britons leave the UK every year for dental and cosmetic surgery, with a minority going for medical treatment. But global medical tourism is a two way process: travel into the UK for healthcare has existed for many years, well before medical tourism became a business.In the UK, although numbers are unknown, anecdotal evidence suggests that it is concentrated on hospitals with an international reputation, almost all being in London. Some private and NHS hospitals actively seek out international patients, whether self-funded, insured or paid for by their governments. Others passively accept the business that has come to them for decades. The UK is more expensive than Asia but cheaper than the US or Middle East.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children trust is also looking to grow its international business both from Europe and further afield over the next few years. In the UK, HCA International owns six leading London hospitals; The Harley Street Clinic, The Lister Hospital, London Bridge Hospital, The Portland Hospital for Women and Children, The Princess Grace Hospital and The Wellington Hospital. Since the 1970’s many international patients have travelled to London for specialist patient care. The International Patient Centre (IPC) caters to the needs of patients from abroad, across all the hospitals. With offices in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Nigeria, Greece, Cyprus, Libya, Egypt, HCA offers an extensive network of access points for the medical tourist.

HCA will also look for expansion in countries where high quality specialised medical services at an affordable price are needed. Other hospitals have already taken opportunities abroad. Moorfields Eye Hospital has a clinic in Dubai; Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai has seen over 2000 patients since opening in July 2007 in Dubai Healthcare City. Moorfields currently treats a significant number of patients in the UK from the Middle East.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Hair-Raising Experience

Hair transplant procedures have come a long way since the early 1950's. The “corn row” or “doll’s” hair look that was associated with hair transplantation has evolved into today's follicular unit procedure which, when done right, is undetectable even by a barber or hair stylist.

At the Bangkok Hair Restoration Clinic, hair transplantation is an out-patient procedure performed under twilight local anesthesia. The procedure usually lasts from four to eight hours depending on the number of grafts being transplanted and patients are discharged 15 minutes after the surgery is completed.

Modern techniques of surgical hair transplantation can restore lost hair and replace or re-shape your hairline with your own natural, growing hair, which needs no more care than the ordinary washing, styling and trimming you have always given it.

Hair transplantation is both an art and a science and involves removing permanent hair-bearing skin form the back and/or sides of the scalp (the donor area). Then, using magnification, the tissue is dissected into follicular unit grafts, each containing 1-4 hairs. These small grafts are then meticulously planted into the bald or thinning areas of the scalp (the recipient area) so as not to injure any existing follicles and at precisely the same angle as the natural hair. These very small follicular unit grafts enable the hair surgeon to create very natural, feathered hairlines, which do not have the abrupt, “pluggy look” that was commonly seen in the hair transplants of yesteryear.

While moderately effective medical treatments are offered in the form of pills and lotions, colored creams, sprays and powders that when applied to the scalp help to camouflage areas of thinning hair, and of course hairpieces and weaves, hair transplantation is the only type of hair restoration that will produce a natural appearance with the actual re-growth of real hair. A “fringe” benefit is the return of self esteem and confidence.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Economic woes hit Dubai’s health projects

The fate of a high profile international project indicates troubled times for Dubai’s healthcare building projects. Dubai’s third-largest property firm may cancel a proposed Formula 1 theme park if it fails to receive government cash or tap debt markets.

The project timeline for the proposed theme park has already been postponed. The plan was to fund the park with the sale of houses, but UAE property markets have collapsed and banks are unwilling to lend to the property sector.

Marriott International’s global expansion plans over the next five years of 30 new hotels in the Gulf region, including 17 new hotels in the UAE, nine in Saudi Arabia, three in Qatar and one in Bahrain. But construction is not going to be soon as the global economic slowdown hits, with the UAE’s hotel trade is suffering more than other Gulf countries. UAE hotels have slashed room rates in a bid to stimulate business.

The medical tourism industry in UAE is not immune to the global financial crisis either.

Indeed, Dubai’s attempt to take business from Asian medical destinations such as India by creating local brands to attract international patients maybe in jeopardy. DeveloperTatweer has apparently put some projects in its major project Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) on hold.

The most well-known medical tourism project in the Middle East, DHCC is designed not only to attract medical tourists but also to reduce the need for residents to travel abroad to receive high quality treatment.

Although the government-owned business is keeping quiet about what it is or is not doing, details of some future projects have vanished from the DHCC website, and the sole survivor no longer gives expected completion dates.

The current debate is whether in tough times, medical tourism will accelerate in countries offering lower cost, or a lack of cash will reduce the demand for non life-threatening surgeries like cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and Lasik/laser procedures. Dubai’s problem is that by selling itself as a high-cost, high-quality destination, it loses out whichever argument is true. Healthcare tourism isn't recession proof, and new destinations will find it harder than ever to break into the market.

CYPRUS: American expertise tapped for new medical facility

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Leptos Group, a leading property and hotel conglomerate in Cyprus, are developing a world-class hospital that will offer a wide range of medical services to both local residents and foreign visitors in the Mediterranean island.

Under the 23-year partnership, UPMC will manage a new 100-bed hospital and the existing 36-bed Iasis Hospital in Paphos. With its global expertise in providing clinical, technological and hospital management services, UPMC will assist the new health complex in developing centres of excellence in the areas of oncology, transplantation, aesthetics, cardiology, orthopaedics and minimally invasive surgery.

The new hospital called Neapolis, which will be completed in three to four years, is an integral part of a mixed-use development project that includes a university, research centre, office park and luxury lifestyle housing, as well as retail, entertainment, cultural and leisure facilities. The project is one of the largest landscaped parks on the island.

Michael Leptos, chairman of the Leptos Group, said: “Despite the economic climate, we are confident that the new Neapolis health centre will be a success, filling the need for more health care options in Cyprus and alleviating long-wait times for many patients seeking specialised care. In addition, these facilities will be well positioned to attract patients from throughout the Middle East and Europe as medical tourism grows throughout the region."

UPMC's services in Cyprus will include on-the-ground senior management for the hospitals, staff training, equipment procurement and implementation of sophisticated information systems. UPMC expects to develop medical services that are now in short supply on the island, including comprehensive cancer services at Iasis Hospital.

UPMC already manages of two cancer centres in Ireland and it plans to develop at least 25 more cancer centres throughout Europe and the Middle East with partner General Electric Company.

In addition to the Neapolis project, UPMC's international portfolio includes management of the independent Beacon Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, and a leading transplant hospital in Palermo, Italy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

North India Spiritual Tour Allows You to Rediscover Harmony Through Yoga

India is where yoga was developed and practiced by the Gurus and yogis (and yoginis). Yoga, which is practiced by most Indians of all ages, has made India one of the most peaceful countries on the face of the earth. Think about it - mediation, yoga - all Indian principals of life. No matter if you’re a beginner to a highly experienced yogi or yogini, when you take a Spiritual Tour of India, you will go home with an understanding of yoga and meditation techniques taught by India’s masterful yogis themselves. By taking a spiritual journey, you can incorporate the peaceful lifestyle of India into your own life and go back home renewed, reenergized and peaceful.

The Spiritual Tours of India is not just about visiting Indian temples and other sites: this tour is about finding yourself. You’ll start out in Delhi, where you’ll have a chance to explore the old and new city of Delhi, including the 17th-century Red Fort, India Gate and the Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandi (Father of the Nation) Memorial. Then it’s on to Rishikesh, home to the world’s oldest and largest population of Ashrams and yoga centers. For six glorious days you’ll be able to learn and practice yoga and meditation with the best yogis in the surroundings of ancient Ashrams filled with ancient, peaceful energy, or one of India’s newer yoga centers.

You’ll start each morning off with a yoga class at one of the many Ashrams or yoga centers. First you’ll visit the Omkaranda Ashram, also well known as Durga Mandi and the Swarg Ashrams, one of the oldest Ashrams in Rishikesh. While in Rishikesh, you’ll also have the opportunity to travel to the Vashist Guffa Cave along the Ganges River, where you will experience a profound meditation while in the cave. Next you’ll visit Devpryag, Karanprayag (an important city of the Hindus), and a few Karna temples. Last stop is Haridwar, one of the holiest places of Hindus in India, where you’ll visit the Sapt Rishi Ashram and the Sapt Sarovar, the holy temple of Daksha Mahadev and Sati Kund; the Maya Devi temple on the hill Bilwa Parvat; and the Maya Devi temple on hill Bilwa Parvat.

Finding peace and harmony is important for everyone in our stressful times. Yoga and meditation is the secret behind rediscovering harmony, and living a more peaceful and healthy life. Now you can learn yoga and meditation from India’s wisest yogis in the surroundings of ancient Ashrams, or India’s newer, world-class yoga centers. Classic Holiday’s Spiritual tour of India will be what you need to come back home renewed, reenergized and peaceful.