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Vol 20, No. 10, October 2016   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Providing the Personal Touch in Medical Tourism

by Cherinjit Kumar Shori
Asian American Medical Group

Singapore is well known as a medical tourism centre in the region. High standards of medical care, a large pool of specialists in diverse fields and state-of-the art medical facilities are some of the factors that have been drawing patients from Asia and beyond into the country since the 1980s.

This has meant brisk business for private hospitals like Mt Elizabeth and Gleneagles. However, the success of medical tourism in Singapore has come at a cost – literally. Healthcare costs in the country have gone up notably over the years. This, together with the stronger Singapore dollar against currencies like the Indonesian rupiah and the Malaysian ringgit, has led many foreigners in need of quality medical care to seek treatment elsewhere.

Still, Singapore continues to have an edge over its competitors. For one thing, the city-state is able to attract the best medical talent from around the world. Some countries, because of their regulatory framework, have not been able to do the same.

As a result, certain treatments, especially for more complex medical conditions, are more sought after in Singapore than in these countries. In other words, Singapore still comes out top for quality and accessibility of treatment.

Offering a “personal touch”

Besides the quality of its medical care, the success of Singapore’s medical tourism can also be attributed to allout efforts by healthcare providers to ensure foreign patients feel welcome and at ease.

Indeed, offering that personal touch to patients is something ingrained into the DNA of healthcare providers here. From the rank-and-file to senior doctors, everyone has a part to play to help patients settle down and rest easy.

Medical jargon and treatments can be intimidating for patients. The experience for a foreign patient can be even more daunting if the doctor, nurse or supporting staff does not speak the same language.

To allay such concerns, healthcare providers in Singapore are proficient in not only explaining to the patient his condition and the necessary treatment but also in handling queries and requirements on related matters, such as accommodation for those accompanying him for treatment.

More than 95% of the patients in Singapore at the Asian American Medical Group (“AAMG”) are from overseas. Many hail from Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Vietnam and Mongolia. AAMG offers a number of services to ensure peace of mind for them and their carers.

For starters, staff at AAMG are trained to speak multiple languages at a basic level. There are also in-house translators to explain complex medical terms to foreign patients. AAMG also offers concierge services for airport pickups, visa applications and extensions, hotel accommodation and more.

These personal touches have played no small role in making AAMG – founded in 1994 by liver surgeon Dato’ Dr. Tan Kai Chah – the go-to place in Asia for the treatment of liver conditions and other ailments.

Getting the buy-in from healthcare providers

While private healthcare providers in Singapore have been actively marketing their services in the region over the years, including establishing medical referral offices in major cities in Southeast Asia, more can be done to improve the existing foreign-patient experience.

Once just a medical centre for foreign patients in Singapore, AAMG has grown its international footprint to Malaysia, Myanmar and Russia, where it has established medical centres for liver treatment and radiation oncology. Consultants from AAMG in Singapore regularly visit these countries to offer treatment, though complex cases are still handled in the city-state.

AAMG’s overseas presence enables its doctors to establish rapport with their counterparts in those countries, ensuring continuity of care for foreign patients upon their return from Singapore. AAMG views medical tourism as an opportunity to bring the best of medical care to the doorstep of prospective patients, rather than simply attracting them to Singapore.

Technological advancements have also enabled patients to seek medical opinions from overseas without having to leave the country. Huge imaging files and pathology slides can be uploaded and sent to doctors for a second opinion. AAMG in Singapore provides telemedicine services to patients in countries such as Vietnam, Russia and India.

In certain cases, AAMG will partner local healthcare providers for pre-treatment diagnosis before patients proceed with treatment overseas. Even for post-treatment care, doctors from the Asian American Liver Centre and Asian American Radiation Oncology work closely with local doctors to ensure they continue to receive optimum care.

Singapore is able to retain its edge in medical tourism thanks to the quality of its clinical care, advanced technology and robust medical infrastructure. All this makes for a winning combination that enables institutions like AAMG to expertly handle local and foreign patients alike. Beyond the treatment know-how, being a top medical hub is about going the extra mile to make sure patients feel at home.

AAMG was the first – and, to this day, the only – medical group to set up a private Living Donor Liver Transplant (“LDLT”) centre in Southeast Asia. AAMG’s subsidiary, Asian American Liver Centre (“AALC”), has been the leading centre for the treatment of liver diseases since 1994. To date, 230 LDLTs have been performed at the clinic. In 2015, AAMG expanded to provide radiation oncology through its other subsidiary, Asian American Radiation Oncology (“AARO”).

To strengthen its position in Asia, AAMG formed a strategic collaboration with U.S.-based University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (“UPMC”). UPMC are pioneers in the field of transplantation and ranked No. 13 on the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of American’s Best Hospitals. This longstanding partnership has become a great platform from which to realize AAMG’s vision to expand across the region, through more collaboration with healthcare partners.

About the Author

Mr Cherinjit Kumar Shori
B Acc, PGDip Marketing & Healthcare
Group Chief Operating Officer
Asian American Medical Group

Mr Cherinjit Kumar Shori holds a Bachelor of Accountancy degree from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Mr Shori also holds a Graduate Diploma in Marketing from the Singapore Institute of Management and Certificate in Healthcare Management from Georgetown University, USA.

He has more than 20 years’ experience in the healthcare and hospitality industries covering business development and marketing. He was the Group Vice President/Deputy Chief Marketing Officer for Singapore-based Parkway Group Healthcare Pte Ltd, one of Asia’s largest healthcare providers, where he served for ten years in strategic marketing, business development and regional expansion to increase the market share for its group of hospitals in Singapore, before joining AAMG.

Prior to that, he held senior management positions with various companies including Sun Cruises and Sembawang Leisure (a subsidiary of Sembawang Corporation).

Mr Shori has also been invited to speak at international conferences, the latest being the Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin (ITB Berlin) Conference 2012 where he shared his experience in the future of global medical tourism.

Mr Shori joined AAMG as Group Chief Operating Officer in November 2009.

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