International accreditation needed to firm up RP’s edge in medical tourism

Published by rudy Date posted on January 26, 2009

What took Thailand 25 years to become a leader in the $45-billion medical tourism industry will take only two to five years for the Philippines considering that it has the facilities, the latest technology and the skilled manpower to get there.

What needs to be done, however, is for Filipino hospitals, hospices, spas and wellness centers—all of which provide health care to local and foreign clients—to get international accreditation as a country, rather than as individual institutions or facilities, said Dr. Joven Cuanang, senior vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer of St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Cuanang was among medical specialists who participated in the recently concluded “Embracing Wellness in the Heart of Asia” summit conducted by the Department of Tourism at the Sofitel Hotel.

DoT Undersecretary for Sports &Wellness Cynthia Carrion said there is an evident shift from purely scientific and medical-based therapies to preventive medicine using wellness and alternative medicine, a service that Filipinos can be truly proud of. “We have what it takes to be high tech and high touch (meaning full of compassion and caring).

Carrion said the Medical Tourism Economic Report published in the globally circulated Medical Tourism magazine cited the Philippines as having all the ingredients for a sustainable medical tourism industry and culture.

She added that the wellness industry could, in the future, stop the massive brain drain that has been adversely affecting local hospitals and medical institutions in recent months. “We see highly trained Filipino doctors leaving for abroad as nurses and nurses getting other jobs when we have a lot of opportunities to keep them here through medical tourism,” Carrion said.

Carrion said the Philippines is home to the most competent and most compassionate, friendly, kind and caring people in the world. “We do not only take care of the patient’s physical needs but emotional needs too. And if you are recovering from illness or trying to escape the stresses of this world, what would be more helpful, more healing than the genuine love, care and concern extended by another human being,” she added.

US-schooled and trained Dr. Samuel Bernal said the Filipino wellness industry must compete out there as a nation, and not as individual companies or institutions. “We have world-class technology here but the local physicians have not pushed it as vigorously as they should,” Keller said.

Dr. Robert Keller, medical director of Keller Medical Institute noted for being the aesthetic surgeon of over 300 celebrity clients in entertainment, sports and business, advise the Philippines to take advantage of the wave of “personalized care” that is hitting the globe.

By personalized care, Keller meant the emerging trend in the US of delivering medical treatment with the integration of analysis of a person’s unique bio-molecular make-up, currently being done by Dr. Bernal (director emeritus of the Cancer Center of the Greater Los Angeles, VA Health Care System; Chief of the Cancer Research Laboratory and attending physician at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Century City Hospital and Enrico-Tarzana Hospital.

Genetic testing sprang from cosmetic medicine or preventive medicine which requires a lot of highly skilled people who can communicate their findings well, which the Philippines has an abundance of, Dr. Keller said.

Peter Magurean III, founder of American Biochem Technologies, said the richest American patient can not get in the US what they believe is the best treatment for them because of regulatory constraints. These same patients, who are very informed of alternative personalized treatments not available in the US, can easily go to the Philippines, he added.–Rose De La Cruz, Philippine Star

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