Last week I posted an interview talking about HeatlhVault and the new International connection with Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand. Healthcare definitely has some global growing pains.
Interview with Curtis Schroeder, CEO Bumrungrad International Hospital and Nate McLemore, Health Solutions at Microsoft – International Personal Health Records with HealthVault
After the interview I took some time to walk around the exhibit floor to see what else I might learn about what is evolving in this area. There were quite a few booths and I spoke to some very interesting people who attended, from both here in the US and those from other countries. Cedar Sinai Medical Center was well represented and spent a few moments with Dr. Koerner, Medical Director for the Center for International Health and Telemedicine. Also UCLA was represented by their Department of Health Services and I learned quite a bit about what both do. Below is a video that takes a few minutes to watch and introduces the conference and it’s focus.
As mentioned above there were even more individuals and companies present from the US and one thing to somewhat keep in mind too, although we are looking to save money here in the US, tourism works both ways as there are procedures and physicians who do them that are pretty much only available in the US. Right now it may seem like it’s a bit lopsided with cost, but something to keep in the back of your head as they look our way too. Baptist Health from Miami was present and had quite a display of services and hospitals, both here in the US and affiliates outside the US. Their focus was to be a one stop shop for patients from the Miami area and they were looking for the patients coming in to the US as well as well as strategic alliances with facilities overseas. In the video below, representatives from US health insurance companies discuss their feelings and how they need to cover a surgical tourism trip from step one to the finish. I also was able to listen to their presentation at the very end of the conference and basically the representatives from Aetna and Cigna said “we are listening”.
I also ran across a booth from Continental Airlines who was basically there with a good will message to pretty much let everyone know that they can get you to your international destination. St. Lukes Medical Center from Quezon City located in the Philippines talked about their US affiliates to include New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University, Cornell University and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I noticed one technology company, Hayes was present. A couple countries were very well represented with a number of booths and that was Turkey and Argentina, somewhat newcomers in medical tourism as compared to Asia. Asia too was well represented and I had a lengthy talk with a company named Beike Biotechnology, relative to their stem cell work and what they were doing in China with regenerative medicine, many items perhaps not available here in the US as of today. Their main offices are located in Shenzhen, but they have several other offices in China and other Asian countries.
In addition, New Zealand had a booth and I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with them directly and have posted a little about their medical tourism business in the past, but I did spend a bit of time talking with an Australian business development manager from a hospital in Brisbane who was also there exploring opportunities. He stated that internally they somewhat are already doing an internal tourism effort within the country, I would guess similar to what we do here in the US with different states, but he felt that the business model they used is not that entirely different from a world tourism concept.
There were several hospitals from Mexico represented, everything from over the border to down to Mexico City, with some of the hospitals again being built and focused on tourism, big open buildings, and one even having it’s own luxury hotel on premise to make it easy for patients to go back and forth as needed.
I was also pretty surprised to see how well aware all of the other countries were about our health care and insurance issues, they all knew it pretty well. Most of the other countries too were able to give a price for procedures and again, they were very aware of that being an issue here in the US. Not too long ago I posted about 3 patients in the Boston area who were going to make a trip overseas to have surgery and the hospital here in the US was given the opportunity to lower the prices, they did and the patients did not make the tenative trips as planned with help from their insurance companies. Let’s face it, nobody wants to travel for healthcare unless they absolutely have to for the most part.
I mention this as it stands to be another angle facing US hospitals with budgets and being able to keep the doors open, as around 55% of the hospitals in the US are operating in the red, so again, a bit more pressure applied on the pricing side of things.
I met some healthcare individuals from Cancun who used to live here in the US and again they had some background here to make comparisons as both had lived in the US for quite a while. Costa Rica, Singapore, and Uruguay health centers had booths and information.
Israel was very much represented and I have to say they had a lot to say and show. The website, Global Health Israel, has quite a bit of information about tourism in Israel. The Assaff Harofeh medical center has hyperbaric chamber treatments for patients with wounds that do not otherwise heal. This was something I had not seen yet myself. Israel is known for their technology in healthcare and other industries, and I’ll use Intel as an example as their “think tank” offices provided much of what we use today. I didn’t expect anything less from Israel.
Probably one of the most interesting conversations I had was with a professor in Healthcare Management from Germany. Of course being a geek and not clinical, this area of international healthcare was more than just interesting to talk about how Health IT is handled elsewhere and to be able to speak with an individual who wrote an entire EHR system used in hospitals in Germany. What made this conference also very interesting too was the high level of the people manning the booths, just like the professor, top level healthcare individuals everywhere and not just marketing and sales people totally.
This is the work of Mr. Prof. Dr. Horst Kunhardt, Department of Business Informatics, University of App. Sc. Deggendorf and you can use the link here to a live demo to see how it works. I was curious having written an ambulatory EMR years ago myself just to see how it all came together. The system is created with open source software with my SQL and PHP for the demo shown. If you want to read up a bit more on German Medical Tourism, here’s a link to follow.
In Germany, you may not see as big of a price break as some other countries he stated, but quality and care is there. Again in talking with everyone outside the US, they all could talk a price for a procedure, different than what we face here. As a matter of fact, many German doctors take weekends and work in the UK and other countries, so they are already getting somewhat familiar with systems and software used elsewhere.
One other item worth mentioning, the folks from outside the US were pretty well versed on our lack of electronic medical records systems.
Everyone I talked with from every country and hospital represented here is using a computerized medical record system.
This was really a good opportunity for me to learn about how healthcare systems operate outside the US and their interest in providing tourism services to US citizens. Based on the conversations I had with various individuals from different countries, they are building it and looking for more to come. There was a lot more to talk about, but this post gives a quick summary I hope to share about what is happening with medical tourism, and again it is working both ways at times. BD