This is second of the two-part series on Korea`s medical tourism. The first part, published on Aug. 19, looked into Korea`s overall tourism industry. The second part introduces some of the recommended hospitals for potential travelers. -Ed.
By Lee Joo-hee
Hospitals like Wooridul Spine Hospital were working hard to fortify their international readiness even before the wave of medical tourism caught the government`s attention.
Now with the full backing of the government, an increasing number of hospitals are joining the move to better serve foreign travelers in Korea.
With its excellent treatment rates and relatively low expenses, Korea appears poised to become one of the popular destinations for medical travel seekers.
Korea is now looking beyond Asia and into untapped markets such as Europe to promote Korea`s medical finesse. On Friday the Korea Tourism Organization will host a seminar in London to introduce a package, together with Hana Tour, Hanyang University Hospital, Wooridul Hospital and Hanshin Medipia. The package offers a seven-day program to experience the medical service through receiving health checkups to be followed by a tour around the metropolitan and Jeju regions. The KTO has prepared 14 other such package programs targeting Japan, China, the United States and Far East Russia.
In July, a manual was produced by the KTO along with the medical consulting firm Medi Members and Cheongshim International Medical Center to provide a basic guidelines for medical-related businesses seeking to advance to the global market. The manual includes examples of Singapore and Thailand, required procedures in treating incoming international patients, as well as other essential conditions such as visa, language and others.
"When comparing Korea`s health-checkup with other countries, the price may be similar at around 400,000 won and 500,000 won, but those offered in Korea are different in the sense that they include high-end checkups such as gastroscope and ultrasonography," the KTO said. The tourism body also established an English service last month on medical tourism using www.visitkorea.or.kr to provided essential information. Services in the additional languages of Japanese, Chinese and Russian will also be offered.
To start a medical journey to Korea, the most basic step would be to figure out what kind of hospitals it has and what kind of services they offer.
To help in that effort, the government hosted the International Medical Travel Conference last November. There, it joined hands with Healthy Travel Media, an independent publisher of books on medical travel and services, along with the Korea Health Industry Development Institute to release the Korean edition of its Patients Beyond Borders (www.patientsbeyondborders.com) book in English for international distribution. The publication was also supported by the Council for Korea Medicine Overseas Promotion.
Josef Woodman, CEO of Healthy Media Travel, agrees that Korean hospitals are worth visiting, based on his personal visits and information gathered.
"For example, Severance Hospital in Seoul has performed 1,000 plus robotics-driven prostate surgeries, along with a host of other specialties. Jaseng Oriental Hospital, also in Seoul, specializes in spine work, and has recently opened a facility in the Los Angeles area - one of the first such hospitals in the United States," Woodman told The Korea Herald.
Some of the best hospitals cited by international medical travelers are introduced in the guidebook. Most hospitals operate international websites in the languages of English, Japanese and Chinese and some even in Russian.
Here are some of them:
Wooridul Hospital was established in 1982 and has gained a distinguished reputation for spinal treatment. Wooridul is one of the few hospitals standing at the vanguard of Korea`s medical tourism. It has more than 1,130 neurospinal specialists and services include neurospinal, spinal thoracic, anterior spine surgery, spinal medicine, orthopedics and rehabilitation. The hospital has five facilities in Seoul, Busan and Daegu. It plans to open a branch in China and in the United Arab Emirates, along with another one in Korea. Wooridul is famous for its minimally invasive surgery and technique, and has also operated the Wooridul International Patient Center since 2006, providing one-stop service for international patients - starting from a pick-up at the airport until the patient is well-served and leaves back for home. Each branch hospital has coordinators to help patients on a one-on-one basis. Foreign languages spoken by these coordinators include English, Japanese and Chinese. To prepare for international patients, doctors` conferences are conducted in English. For a closer look, visit www.wooridul.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 513-8385.
Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine
Jaseng, established in 1999, also specializes in spinal treatment. It is famous for its scientific and globalized approach towards oriental medicine and is well-known for non-surgical solutions. Its specialized centers include some 30 clinics for spinal disorders, bone and joint ailments, and other services. It uses nonsurgical treatments from both Western and Oriental medicine. With its specialized treatment gaining international attention, it has also conducted collaborative research with Harvard Medical School`s Oscher Research Center. The hospital`s International Clinic has staff members who speak English, German, Japanese and Chinese. More information can be reached at www.jaseng.net or via email@example.com or (02) 3218-2167.
Cheongshim International Medical Center
Cheongshim strives to help patients who struggle with limited solutions in modern medicine and treat their illnesses with a combination of Western and Oriental medicine.
Since 2003, Cheongshim has been providing treatments that range from internal medicine to general and orthopedic surgery, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, diagnostic radiology, rehabilitation medicine and anesthetics. Patients are treated for stroke recovery, palsy, arthritis, lumbago, allergic disease, obesity and post-natal recuperation, among others. Most of the medical staff speaks English. By 2007, about 20 percent of its patients were foreigners. Cheongshim also operates a Health Screening Center and the Rehabilitation Center (Korea`s largest). It is located in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, in the vicinity of Seoul. More information can be reached at www.csmc.or.kr, or through firstname.lastname@example.org or (031) 589-4488.
ArumdaunNara Beauty Clinic
ArumdaunNara has since 2000 been comprised of five dermatology clinics, two plastic surgery clinics, a hair transplantation center, an obesity center, aesthetic care centers and a cosmetic franchise. What`s more, it also operates two branches in Beijing.
This is a full network of everything to do with beauty, providing one-stop service.
It is known to have popularized laser treatment for wrinkles, as well as other techniques in cosmetic dermatology. The clinic has mainly concentrated on promoting its service to potential patients from Japan and China. For more information, visit www.anacli.co.kr, send an email to email@example.com or call (02) 3420-2286.
Inha University Hospital
Inha`s Health Promotion Center has been recognized by the Korea Association of Health Promotion as one of the country`s best health screening centers, where patients can choose from pre-designed screening packages. It also operates the Cancer Center, the Women`s Cancer Center, the CyberKnife Center (offering new approach to cancer tumors and lesions that diagnosed as inoperable or terminal), and the Digestive Disease Center. It also operates tour packages in conjunction with Korean Air and Hanjin Tour for those who wish to experience the country`s culture. Other facilities include a Cardiovascular Center, Emergency Medical Center, Obesity and Diabetes Center and the satellite Incheon International Airport Medical Center. For more information, log onto www.inha.com or email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (032) 890-2341/3305.
Seoul National University Hospital Healthcare System, Gangnam Center
Although the main hospital is not focused on drawing foreign patients, the Gangnam Center is acknowledged for its services and active promotion for international patients. The SNU Hospital itself was Korea`s first modern public hospital of Western medicine when it opened in 1885. The Gangnam Center provides customized health screening with diverse equipments, along with disease-prevention clinics and continuous health management at a spacious facility located on the 38-40th floors of the Star Tower building in the posh district of southern Seoul. The center`s International Treatment Service receives more than 100 international patients per month. For more information, visit http://email@example.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02)2112-5503.
Severance Hospital, Yonsei University Health System
Severance, which opened in 1885, is the world`s largest Joint Commission International-accredited hospital with more than 2,000 beds and nearly 1,000 physicians and surgeons, many of whom speak English. On average, it performs more than 44,000 surgeries and sees about 1.6 million outpatients and 66,000 inpatients a year. It is best known for oncology, cardiology, ophthalmology and orthopedics. Its Da Vinci robotic surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgeries are especially well-known among international patients. For more information, visit www.yuhs.or.kr, send an e-mail to Dylan Davis, its coordinator for medical travelers, at email@example.com or call (02) 2228-1485.