The Philippines hopes to build on it's reputation with service quality

 

Providing large numbers of medical professionals to much of the world’s hospitals and healthcare centres, the Philippines is logically fertile ground for a vibrant medical travel industry.

The fact has not been lost on quick minds in the government. A year ago, the Philippine Medical Tourism Program was launched with much fanfare and in the presence of a core group of key stakeholders – officials of the departments of tourism, health and foreign affairs and representatives of hospitals, tour operators, accommodation suppliers and spas.

“We’ve really made some great strides since then,” says Elizabeth F Nelle, director, Office of Product Research and Development of the Department of Tourism (DOT). “At the second World Health Congress in Cyprus (in March), we created awareness of the Philippines as a medical tourism destination, especially with several groups from the Middle East like Saudi Arabia.”

Prior to the recent buzz about medical travel, the archipelago was already well known to insurance companies in Micronesia as a viable option to sending their clients to the more expensively priced Hawaii. Balikbayans, as Filipinos working and living overseas are called, have always known and trusted the expertise and excellent bedside manner of their kababayan (fellow Filipinos) doctors and nurses, and didn’t need convincing to go in for consultation during holidays back in the Philippines.

Due to a shared past with the US, doing post-graduate or specialised training in North America has become the norm with local doctors, and it is this background, plus the Filipinos’ reputation for people skills that proponents of medical travel are banking on to help the fledgling industry fulfil its potential.

There is the hope, too, that more investment and optimism in the Philippine healthcare system will calm the alarming waves of medical professionals and graduates migrating to better pastures abroad, as well as get those who have left to reconsider coming home. Tax incentives for medical travel players are also being mulled, DOT’s Nelle reveals.

“Doctoring is about relationships,” says Dr Ernie Santos, head of special projects, Makati Medical Center.“In other societies, it’s all about efficiency, which is different from concern. You need to trust me (your doctor) to do what I want you to do to get well. Filipinos are industrious but they also have a lot of concern.

“Some doctors will simply want to be efficient and tell patients what they have to be told. A Filipino doctor might spend an extra five minutes with the patient until he sees in the relief in the person’s eyes. Filipinos have a naturally caring profile.”

When one is sick and uncertain about the future, nothing beats the personal touch in aiding the recovery process. And there is  certainly plenty of that in the Philippines.  

Asian Hospital &
Medical Center

www.asianhospital.com

Located in the booming southern Luzon corridor – 10km from Metro Manila’s financial hub of Makati – the state-of-the-art Asian Hospital & Medical Center is a reflection of the country’s rapidly improving economic outlook.

A realisation of Washington DC-based heart surgeon, Dr Jorge Garcia’s dream to establish a medical facility of “world-class calibre”, Asian Hospital is now preparing to expand its healthcare services to cater to an international market. The entry of Bumrungrad International in 2005 as a major investor and awardee of the management contract helped hasten developments.

According to a hospital spokesperson, balikbayans (overseas-based Filipinos) and visitors from Micronesia form the bulk of current foreign admissions with Japanese and Koreans starting to gain in number. Those from the Pacific Island nations are sent by various insurance companies for executive check ups and various surgeries. from heart to orthopedic. Metro Manila’s tertiary medical facilities and their reasonable fees have impressed these PPOs. It has been noticed that a sizable number of people have been shopping around (for procedures) and willing to pay in cash.

Recently, a new stream of medical travellers has discovered the Philippines – the Arab market. “Hospitals in the Middle East haven’t all got the doctors and facilities, so people have been going to Thailand, and now here,” says the hospital spokeperson. “For some procedures in Canada or the UK, they have to wait a long time. In Asia, they can get it done straightaway.”

The Asian Hospital management sees no need to dedicate special facilities or amenities for foreigners, commenting: “Our building is of an international standard as are our rooms. We strive for a restful and stress-free environment.

“The entire staff, and not only those at the front desk are trained in customer skills and to deal with patients no matter where they come from.” In total, Asian Hospital boasts 145 clinics and 178 rooms, which vary in conveniences but all have cable TV connection and internet access (except the birthing rooms). The lift system has also been designed for visitors and patients’ comfort alike, ensuring that each group is assigned a dedicated elevator and privacy is respected. Other facilities include a spa with a full complement of treatments, the well-known Manila restaurant, Makati Skyline and ATM machines.

Capitol Medical Center (CMC)

www.capitolmedical.org

Known for having pioneered the country’s first successful kidney transplant in 1970, this 300-bed facility boasts providing care in major specialties, including surgery, radiology and rehabilitation medicine, as well as various sub-specialties. It has a total of 11 operating theatres and recently added what is claimed to be the Philippines’ only Spine Care Center as well as a Voice and Swallowing Clinic to address the needs of voice professionals and dysphagic individuals. Latest state-of-the-art acquisitions include the GE Senographe DMR+ mammography machine and Hitachi Aperto 0.4 Tesla Open MRI System, both promising faster and more accurate testing.

From one building 37 years ago, CMC now consists of three, occupying 5,000sqm and continues to expand. Increasing arrivals from Micronesia and the Middle East are partly fuelling growth, says Carmina C Desales, hospital CEO and daughter of CMC founder, Dr Thelma N Clemente. “These make up around five percent of our admissions.”

Patients from the Pacific Islands often seek treatment for heart disease and back pains – diet and genetics playing a role here – and those from the Middle East come for organ transplants. To cater to them, CMC has had to acquire larger wheelchairs for the hefty South Pacific visitors and create a new special 15-room wing for Arab guests, complete with a lounge and prayer room.

While word of mouth has greatly helped to bring in new overseas business, Desales believes showing a JCI accreditation wouldn’t hurt. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re already rendering care that’s on par with other JCI-hospitals, and not all patients really come to us on that basis. But we’re still preparing toward getting it, hopefully in two years’ time.”

Makati Medical Center (MMC)

www.makatimed.net.ph

MMC was considered the most state-of-the-art medical facility when it was inaugurated in 1969, with a not-yet-notorious Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos as the guest of honour who drew aside the curtains on the commemorative marker.

Located in Metro Manila’s first banking enclave of Makati (then a town and now a city), it was identified as a hospital serving the wealthy, many of whom made their homes in the area. This was a misconception, however, as MMC, established by a core group of three prominent physicians, an OB-gynaecologist (Dr Constantino Manahan), a surgeon (Dr Jose Y Fores) and a cardiologist (Dr Mariano Alimurung) – encouraged by industrialist Enrique Zobel, whose clan developed the Ayala Centre and other wide -reaching projects -– always provided subsidised and semi-subsidised care for Makati indigents. A later tie up with the local government in the Makati Health Program only formalised what had been running for years.

Cash flow problems, due to high operating costs and inability to collect outstanding payments, beset MMC in 2004 and prevented servicing of maturing debts. Conditions improved when the Metro Pacific group came in to restructure systems and operations. With its guidance, MMC’s net income as of April this year rose to P80 million (US$1.8 million), from P23million (US$520,000) in the same period last year. A recent restructuring of its P1.2 billion (US$27 million) loans with local banks has allowed a refurbishment and expansion project to take place over the next three years.

As one of the founding participants in the government’s Medical Tourism Program, MMC will in the future be able to welcome patient-visitors – and locals alike – to a brand new seven-storey wing, housing five centres of excellence related to cancer care, eye services and the heart among others. Patients’ rooms will remain in the original building which will also undergo major refurbishment. The new facility is envisioned to have the feel of a hotel and spa.

St Luke’s Medical Center

www.stluke.com.ph

Four years ago when this well-regarded Philippine institution, founded by an Episcopalian minister in 1903 as a free clinic for the poor – named the Dispensary of St Luke the beloved Physician – decided to try for JCI accreditation, it was already doing so from a position of excellence.

An international affiliate of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St Luke’s has built a firm reputation for quality healthcare service, not only in the country but the region as well.

Michael Alan Hamlin, author of The New Asian Corporation, described St Luke’s as “one of the most innovative organisations to establish itself in twenty five years of observing Asian enterprise”.

At the helm of this medical hub – nine institutes, 20 multi-disciplinary centres, 659-bed hospital – is its president and CEO Jose F G Ledesma, who says: “When we went for JCI accreditation, we agreed that regardless of whether we would pass or fail, the exercise would only improve our customer service. That’s the underlying reason for getting audited – you keep raising the bar on standards.”St Luke’s received JCI certification in 2003, the second in Asia to be awarded one; and last year, it maintained  leading edge and was re-accredited.

But as far as Ledesma is concerned, “every day is JCI-day”, with streamlining and enhancement of operations a constant preoccupation. Telephone calls answered after three rings and regular time and motion monitoring of daily tasks are SOP at St Luke’s. Benchmarking against tried-and-tested organisations such as American Express and five-star hotel chains has resulted in attractive and helpful perks not found in other medical facilities (although St Luke’s counterparts are gradually putting in their own service innovations ).

This is especially reassuring for St Luke’s growing foreign clientele, which now comprises about 6 percent of the total customer base. They enjoy perks such as a la carte meals, free concierge assistance, grocery procurement – useful when staying at the hospital’s apartelle block located within the premises – visa extensions and customised private tours. If a guest needs a computer, you can be certain Ledesma’s team will make sure he or she gets one ASAP.

 St Luke’s has set the goal of becoming one of Asia’s top five medical institutions by 2010. Success or not, this hospital will not be deterred from trying.

The Medical City (TMC)

www.medicalcity.com.ph

When The Medical City applied for JCI accreditation in 2005, it knew the process would be a painstaking one. Millet P Escasinas, the hospital’s manager, relationship management and business development, recalls: “We really spent time and invested in the exercise – it took about two years to prepare and put all the documents into place. We also oriented all our staff, from the top down to the doctors to the janitors about what was happening.”

JCI representatives then arrived, staying a week “to turn the hospital upside down,” says Escasinas. The temporary disruption to the routine was worth it. TMC was awarded the precious certification in February of this year, and the inspectors gave it perfect marks in two very important standards: access to care and continuity of care and quality improvement and patient safety. 

TMC promotes a unique service philosophy founded on the patient as an equal, educated and empowered partner in achieving health goals. Says Dr Florianne Feliza Valdes, TMC’s department head of Center for Patient Partnership: “Here, patients are not passive objects of expertise and care. They are managers of their health. They have rights and responsbilities. We encourage them to participate in the decision-making process.”

Even before winning JCI’s nod, the hospital, located in the Ortigas area, Metro Manila’s second CBD, was already popular with a clientele that was familiar with the Filipino healthcare system – visitors from Guam, Saipan, Palau and the Marshall Islands. For these overseas guests, TMC can arrange airport transfers through their car rental partners and has set up the Executive Patients’ Centre which handles their check in. Currently, TMC has 500 beds (with provision for 288 more), occupying two tower blocks, a podium housing diagnostic facilities and offices, an 18-storey Medical Arts Tower with 280 doctors’ clinics. Over 1,000 physicians from all specialties make up the medical staff. n

Providing large numbers of medical professionals to much of the world’s hospitals and healthcare centres, the Philippines is logically fertile ground for a vibrant medical travel industry.

The fact has not been lost on quick minds in the government. A year ago, the Philippine Medical Tourism Program was launched with much fanfare and in the presence of a core group of key stakeholders – officials of the departments of tourism, health and foreign affairs and representatives of hospitals, tour operators, accommodation suppliers and spas.

“We’ve really made some great strides since then,” says Elizabeth F Nelle, director, Office of Product Research and Development of the Department of Tourism (DOT). “At the second World Health Congress in Cyprus (in March), we created awareness of the Philippines as a medical tourism destination, especially with several groups from the Middle East like Saudi Arabia.”

Prior to the recent buzz about medical travel, the archipelago was already well known to insurance companies in Micronesia as a viable option to sending their clients to the more expensively priced Hawaii. Balikbayans, as Filipinos working and living overseas are called, have always known and trusted the expertise and excellent bedside manner of their kababayan (fellow Filipinos) doctors and nurses, and didn’t need convincing to go in for consultation during holidays back in the Philippines.

Due to a shared past with the US, doing post-graduate or specialised training in North America has become the norm with local doctors, and it is this background, plus the Filipinos’ reputation for people skills that proponents of medical travel are banking on to help the fledgling industry fulfil its potential.

There is the hope, too, that more investment and optimism in the Philippine healthcare system will calm the alarming waves of medical professionals and graduates migrating to better pastures abroad, as well as get those who have left to reconsider coming home. Tax incentives for medical travel players are also being mulled, DOT’s Nelle reveals.

“Doctoring is about relationships,” says Dr Ernie Santos, head of special projects, Makati Medical Center.“In other societies, it’s all about efficiency, which is different from concern. You need to trust me (your doctor) to do what I want you to do to get well. Filipinos are industrious but they also have a lot of concern.

“Some doctors will simply want to be efficient and tell patients what they have to be told. A Filipino doctor might spend an extra five minutes with the patient until he sees in the relief in the person’s eyes. Filipinos have a naturally caring profile.”

When one is sick and uncertain about the future, nothing beats the personal touch in aiding the recovery process. And there is  certainly plenty of that in the Philippines.  

Asian Hospital &
Medical Center

www.asianhospital.com

Located in the booming southern Luzon corridor – 10km from Metro Manila’s financial hub of Makati – the state-of-the-art Asian Hospital & Medical Center is a reflection of the country’s rapidly improving economic outlook.

A realisation of Washington DC-based heart surgeon, Dr Jorge Garcia’s dream to establish a medical facility of “world-class calibre”, Asian Hospital is now preparing to expand its healthcare services to cater to an international market. The entry of Bumrungrad International in 2005 as a major investor and awardee of the management contract helped hasten developments.

According to a hospital spokesperson, balikbayans (overseas-based Filipinos) and visitors from Micronesia form the bulk of current foreign admissions with Japanese and Koreans starting to gain in number. Those from the Pacific Island nations are sent by various insurance companies for executive check ups and various surgeries. from heart to orthopedic. Metro Manila’s tertiary medical facilities and their reasonable fees have impressed these PPOs. It has been noticed that a sizable number of people have been shopping around (for procedures) and willing to pay in cash.

Recently, a new stream of medical travellers has discovered the Philippines – the Arab market. “Hospitals in the Middle East haven’t all got the doctors and facilities, so people have been going to Thailand, and now here,” says the hospital spokeperson. “For some procedures in Canada or the UK, they have to wait a long time. In Asia, they can get it done straightaway.”

The Asian Hospital management sees no need to dedicate special facilities or amenities for foreigners, commenting: “Our building is of an international standard as are our rooms. We strive for a restful and stress-free environment.

“The entire staff, and not only those at the front desk are trained in customer skills and to deal with patients no matter where they come from.” In total, Asian Hospital boasts 145 clinics and 178 rooms, which vary in conveniences but all have cable TV connection and internet access (except the birthing rooms). The lift system has also been designed for visitors and patients’ comfort alike, ensuring that each group is assigned a dedicated elevator and privacy is respected. Other facilities include a spa with a full complement of treatments, the well-known Manila restaurant, Makati Skyline and ATM machines.

Capitol Medical Center (CMC)

www.capitolmedical.org

Known for having pioneered the country’s first successful kidney transplant in 1970, this 300-bed facility boasts providing care in major specialties, including surgery, radiology and rehabilitation medicine, as well as various sub-specialties. It has a total of 11 operating theatres and recently added what is claimed to be the Philippines’ only Spine Care Center as well as a Voice and Swallowing Clinic to address the needs of voice professionals and dysphagic individuals. Latest state-of-the-art acquisitions include the GE Senographe DMR+ mammography machine and Hitachi Aperto 0.4 Tesla Open MRI System, both promising faster and more accurate testing.

From one building 37 years ago, CMC now consists of three, occupying 5,000sqm and continues to expand. Increasing arrivals from Micronesia and the Middle East are partly fuelling growth, says Carmina C Desales, hospital CEO and daughter of CMC founder, Dr Thelma N Clemente. “These make up around five percent of our admissions.”

Patients from the Pacific Islands often seek treatment for heart disease and back pains – diet and genetics playing a role here – and those from the Middle East come for organ transplants. To cater to them, CMC has had to acquire larger wheelchairs for the hefty South Pacific visitors and create a new special 15-room wing for Arab guests, complete with a lounge and prayer room.

While word of mouth has greatly helped to bring in new overseas business, Desales believes showing a JCI accreditation wouldn’t hurt. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re already rendering care that’s on par with other JCI-hospitals, and not all patients really come to us on that basis. But we’re still preparing toward getting it, hopefully in two years’ time.”

Makati Medical Center (MMC)

www.makatimed.net.ph

MMC was considered the most state-of-the-art medical facility when it was inaugurated in 1969, with a not-yet-notorious Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos as the guest of honour who drew aside the curtains on the commemorative marker.

Located in Metro Manila’s first banking enclave of Makati (then a town and now a city), it was identified as a hospital serving the wealthy, many of whom made their homes in the area. This was a misconception, however, as MMC, established by a core group of three prominent physicians, an OB-gynaecologist (Dr Constantino Manahan), a surgeon (Dr Jose Y Fores) and a cardiologist (Dr Mariano Alimurung) – encouraged by industrialist Enrique Zobel, whose clan developed the Ayala Centre and other wide -reaching projects -– always provided subsidised and semi-subsidised care for Makati indigents. A later tie up with the local government in the Makati Health Program only formalised what had been running for years.

Cash flow problems, due to high operating costs and inability to collect outstanding payments, beset MMC in 2004 and prevented servicing of maturing debts. Conditions improved when the Metro Pacific group came in to restructure systems and operations. With its guidance, MMC’s net income as of April this year rose to P80 million (US$1.8 million), from P23million (US$520,000) in the same period last year. A recent restructuring of its P1.2 billion (US$27 million) loans with local banks has allowed a refurbishment and expansion project to take place over the next three years.

As one of the founding participants in the government’s Medical Tourism Program, MMC will in the future be able to welcome patient-visitors – and locals alike – to a brand new seven-storey wing, housing five centres of excellence related to cancer care, eye services and the heart among others. Patients’ rooms will remain in the original building which will also undergo major refurbishment. The new facility is envisioned to have the feel of a hotel and spa.

St Luke’s Medical Center

www.stluke.com.ph

Four years ago when this well-regarded Philippine institution, founded by an Episcopalian minister in 1903 as a free clinic for the poor – named the Dispensary of St Luke the beloved Physician – decided to try for JCI accreditation, it was already doing so from a position of excellence.

An international affiliate of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St Luke’s has built a firm reputation for quality healthcare service, not only in the country but the region as well.

Michael Alan Hamlin, author of The New Asian Corporation, described St Luke’s as “one of the most innovative organisations to establish itself in twenty five years of observing Asian enterprise”.

At the helm of this medical hub – nine institutes, 20 multi-disciplinary centres, 659-bed hospital – is its president and CEO Jose F G Ledesma, who says: “When we went for JCI accreditation, we agreed that regardless of whether we would pass or fail, the exercise would only improve our customer service. That’s the underlying reason for getting audited – you keep raising the bar on standards.”St Luke’s received JCI certification in 2003, the second in Asia to be awarded one; and last year, it maintained  leading edge and was re-accredited.

But as far as Ledesma is concerned, “every day is JCI-day”, with streamlining and enhancement of operations a constant preoccupation. Telephone calls answered after three rings and regular time and motion monitoring of daily tasks are SOP at St Luke’s. Benchmarking against tried-and-tested organisations such as American Express and five-star hotel chains has resulted in attractive and helpful perks not found in other medical facilities (although St Luke’s counterparts are gradually putting in their own service innovations ).

This is especially reassuring for St Luke’s growing foreign clientele, which now comprises about 6 percent of the total customer base. They enjoy perks such as a la carte meals, free concierge assistance, grocery procurement – useful when staying at the hospital’s apartelle block located within the premises – visa extensions and customised private tours. If a guest needs a computer, you can be certain Ledesma’s team will make sure he or she gets one ASAP.

 St Luke’s has set the goal of becoming one of Asia’s top five medical institutions by 2010. Success or not, this hospital will not be deterred from trying.

The Medical City (TMC)

www.medicalcity.com.ph

When The Medical City applied for JCI accreditation in 2005, it knew the process would be a painstaking one. Millet P Escasinas, the hospital’s manager, relationship management and business development, recalls: “We really spent time and invested in the exercise – it took about two years to prepare and put all the documents into place. We also oriented all our staff, from the top down to the doctors to the janitors about what was happening.”

JCI representatives then arrived, staying a week “to turn the hospital upside down,” says Escasinas. The temporary disruption to the routine was worth it. TMC was awarded the precious certification in February of this year, and the inspectors gave it perfect marks in two very important standards: access to care and continuity of care and quality improvement and patient safety. 

TMC promotes a unique service philosophy founded on the patient as an equal, educated and empowered partner in achieving health goals. Says Dr Florianne Feliza Valdes, TMC’s department head of Center for Patient Partnership: “Here, patients are not passive objects of expertise and care. They are managers of their health. They have rights and responsbilities. We encourage them to participate in the decision-making process.”

Even before winning JCI’s nod, the hospital, located in the Ortigas area, Metro Manila’s second CBD, was already popular with a clientele that was familiar with the Filipino healthcare system – visitors from Guam, Saipan, Palau and the Marshall Islands. For these overseas guests, TMC can arrange airport transfers through their car rental partners and has set up the Executive Patients’ Centre which handles their check in. Currently, TMC has 500 beds (with provision for 288 more), occupying two tower blocks, a podium housing diagnostic facilities and offices, an 18-storey Medical Arts Tower with 280 doctors’ clinics. Over 1,000 physicians from all specialties make up the medical staff.

FURTHER CONTENT PUBLISHED BY THIS AUTHOR

India powers ahead

Articles, 01 October, 2008

India's is becoming a major hub of medical travel

Manila's expertise

Articles, 26 July, 2008

Manila shows off it's expertise in international medical travel

The value of medical travel

Articles, 01 July, 2008

The industry discusses the best way to describe itself

The accommodation issue

Articles, 01 July, 2008

Facilities and accommodation providers have a tentative relationship with the industry

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