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Phl urged to invest in new tech to boost medical tourism

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 9, 2013 - 12:00am

Hong Kong – The Philippines should continuously invest in new technologies, focus on niche treatment and medical products, and seize untapped markets to boost its medical tourism industry, an official of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. said.

MPIC operates the country’s largest hospital network with a total of 2,150 beds in its eight full-service hospitals.

Augie Palisoc Jr., MPIC executive director for the hospital group, said medical insurance portability is vital to attracting more patients, particularly retiring Filipino overseas workers who will be dependent on medical insurance for their hospitalization needs.

“The transferability of insurance will open the gates for more people to come to the Philippines,” Palisoc said.

OFWs whose insurance policies are not transferable could not retire in the Philippines because they could not reimburse medical expenses from their policies.

Health and wellness tourism in the Philippines in terms of value grew by 18 percent last year, largely due to the rise of medical tourism as more foreign tourists and Filipino expatriates flew to the country to avail themselves of medical treatments and procedures for a fraction of the cost in developed countries.
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There are four hospitals in the country that that have been awarded Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation for quality and patient safety. These include St. Lukes Medical Center, The Medical City, Makati Medical Center, all located in Metro Manila; and Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu.

JCI is considered the authority in patient safety and quality improvement with a presence in more than 90 countries to date.

The accreditation means the services offered by a hospital is benchmarked with the highest standards of care and safety practiced by renowned hospitals around the world.

The most popular procedures sought in the Philippines are cosmetic surgery, diagnostic testing and imaging, elective surgeries, prostate surgery or coronary bypasses, and dermatology.

The Philippines, however, lags behind other countries in the region in drawing health tourists due to its restrictive policy and uncompetitive business environment, as well as lack of quality infrastructure.

The Philippines has well-trained doctors and nurses with high standards of English communication but they eventually migrate to other countries where salaries are significantly higher than in their home country.

To attract at least 175,000 foreign medical tourists annually, the government is ramping up spending on infrastructure by putting up new roads, bridges, and airports.  It is also undertaking an intensified marketing campaign.

MPIC’s growing healthcare  network includes the Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Asian Hospital and De Los Santos Medical Center in Metro Manila; Central Luzon Doctors Hospital in northern Luzon, Riverside Medical Center in Visayas and Davao Doctors Hospital in MIndanao.

The hospital group, which accounts for five percent of MPIC’s portfolio, saw a 24 percent jump in net profit in the nine months through September to P670 million.  The increase was attributed to higher patient revenues, lower losses at the nursing schools and tighter expense controls.
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