ITIJ are reporting on all the discussions taking place at ITIC APAC 2022 in Singapore. Read more of the reviews here
Dr Antika Jacqueline Klein, UM & Insurance Product Director, Bangkok Hospital Headquarters/Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS)
Dr Klein shared what international patient care means to the BDMS network, explaining that international patients include expats and those who specifically fly in for care. While fly-ins were non-existent during Covid, they are returning – “at the end of last year,” she said, “we saw numbers at about half of pre-Covid levels.” Most are coming from Europe, and the Middle East, as well as some from the African continent. Most are coming to Thailand for cancer care, cardiology and neurological treatments.
Attracting international patients is key to a hospital’s success, and attending events that help insurers or medical tourism agencies recognise your hospital brand is also helpful to marketing efforts, said Dr Klein. She then detailed BDMS’s network of hospitals, which number 53, with 51 in Thailand and two in Cambodia, and have multilingual contact centres to deal with enquiries from patients or insurers related to costs, bookings, visas, and accompanying family support, etc. The hospital is also capable of arranging ground or air ambulance transport for patients.
Also vital when treating international patients is a hospital’s ability to cater to their cultural wellbeing, so BDMS ensures that it allows for changes to protocols in line with cultural norms and religious beliefs, as well as language barriers being overcome through the use of translators.
Ensuring a smooth billing process, whether for self-pay patients or third-party payers is also essential, and BDMS have dedicated utilisation management staff ready to take care of the paperwork. Teams of dedicated physicians ensure that medical reports are sent in a timely manner and are in a digestible format – ‘no more handwriting’ she promised!
Finally, telemedicine means that international patients can receive follow up care from their treating physician remotely.
Santosh Marathe, Regional CEO – Western Region, Apollo Hospitals - Navi Mumbai | Nasik | Ahmedabad | Gandhinagar
Santosh’s presentation began by reviewing the past and current Covid situation in India, and explained the role Apollo Hospitals played in ensuring patients were treated during the pandemic where necessary, and setting up ‘isolation hospitals’ to enable those stuck with large families in one-bedroom apartments to isolate safely. He went to say that sadly, Covid has resulted in patients delaying their care, and has also revealed where infrastructure and skills are lacking in India.
Santosh’s presentation focused on the potential market for international patients travelling for treatment, showing that there are millions of people intending to travel for care; the estimated value of the market is US$130 billion. He identified the key market drivers as:
- Better quality care
- Faster access to care
- Cost savings
- Access to the latest technology.
Key markets for outgoing medical tourists were shown to be North America, Latin America, Africa, the Gulf Cooperative Council, Russia/CIS, China and South Asia. The most popular treatments being sought by medical travellers depend mostly on the destination – Thailand, for example, is a primary destination for medical tourism for cardiology and health surgery and orthopaedics, but not for stem cell therapy. Singapore, conversely, is a primary destination for stell cell and regenerative therapy but not for dentistry.
Looking next at the value of money in different medical tourism destinations, Santosh showed that India represented the best value for care for many procedures, including heart bypass, angioplasty, hip replacement and spinal fusion. India, he said, has 37 hospitals accredited by Joint Commission International, is a leader in the adoption of new technologies, and is well known for its alternative medicine options, and excellent clinical outcomes.