July 14, 2024

Holistic Pulse

Healthcare is more important

CHA Global Hospital seeks to promote Korean healthcare by attracting international patients < Hospital < Article

5 min read

To raise the renown of K-medical, Korean hospitals are actively working to attract international patients.

Kim Young-tak, president of CHA Global Hospital (Credit: CHA University Bundang Medical Center)
Kim Young-tak, president of CHA Global Hospital (Credit: CHA University Bundang Medical Center)

In line with this trend, the International Medical Center under CHA Bundang Medical Center, in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, has expanded and renamed itself as “CHA Global Hospital,” transforming the organization from the ground up.

A consultation room and waiting area have been set up for foreign patients, and remote consultations between multinational medical teams are also prepared.

CHA Global Hospital will also improve access to care for foreign nationals in Korea, as well as international school employees, parents, and students, including U.S. military personnel.

English-, Chinese-, Russian-, Arabic-, and Mongolian-speaking staff are on-site to help patients navigate the hospital from consultation to hospitalization.

Korea Biomedical Review sat down with Kim Young-tak, president of CHA Global Hospital, to learn more about the hospital’s vision and goals.

Question: I understand that CHA Medical Center has established a global hospital by integrating an international medical team. What is the significance of establishing a “hospital” beyond a “center” and how is it different from the previous one?

Answer: The advantage of CHA Medical Center is that its branches are spread across the Seoul metropolitan area, allowing patients to receive care and treatment according to their preferred location.

We felt that a unified management organization was needed to create a systematic and integrated process to ensure that patients receive one-stop consistent service no matter which hospital they visit.

In addition, about 17,000 foreigners have visited CHA Medical Center as of December 2023, becoming a functional organization that can take on roles and responsibilities as a hospital beyond the center, raising the brand image of the hospital, and contributing to medical tourism in Korea.

Q: As a gynecologist, is there a particular reason or trigger for your interest and involvement in treating international patients?

A:  First, I’ve been to Johns Hopkins, which lives up to its title as an international hospital, treating patients regardless of their race or religion. I was very impressed with this idea. 

Of course, international hospitals should be able to see patients from all over the world, but Korean hospitals are too busy seeing only domestic patients. They want to be called global healthcare institutions but don’t have much recognition overseas.

While physicians in other countries have some knowledge of Korean healthcare, it is not well known to the international public.

Secondly, there is a need for Korea’s contribution to healthcare globally, and I thought we needed an internationalized hospital that fits our status in the healthcare field.

Thirdly,  catering to international patients can contribute positively to the hospital’s financial sustainability and support the diversification of revenue for the Korean economy. Recognizing the varying cost structures for different patient groups, we aim to ensure a fair and comprehensive healthcare experience for everyone.

Q: What makes CHA Global Hospital different from other hospitals?

A: First of all, international patients have a limited period of stay in Korea and it is difficult for them to visit multiple times, so we have a fast track for foreigners entering Korea to organize the schedule so that patients can have tests or surgeries as soon as possible.

The first online telemedicine consultation before arrival provides a basic medical examination and prescription for necessary tests, allowing the patient to be examined and operated upon as soon as they arrive.

Second, Bundang is located close to Pangyo Techno Valley, where many international schools and foreign employees reside. To cater to this population, we offer Saturday clinic hours for patients who cannot easily visit on weekdays.

Q: Do the regional characteristics of Bundang affect the visit to CHA Global Hospital for the patients?

A: Bundang is a suburb of Seoul that can be reached in 20 minutes by car from Gangnam, Seoul, and I think it has good geographical conditions for foreigners living in the Gangnam area and employees of IT companies in Pangyo.

There are also foreign schools such as Korea International School (KIS), so there is good patient access to gynecology and pediatrics. It is also close to Pyeongtaek and Osan U.S. military bases, so the number of patients continues to increase, especially in obstetrics and gynecology, in which CHA Medical Center excels.

Q: Are there any areas you would like to develop further in the future?

A: For the convenience of our international patients, we will further enhance our concierge services, upgrading our multilingual interpretation support and vehicle pick-up and drop-off services. We will also create more opportunities for patients to receive primary care overseas through our overseas-based centers.

Q: Do you have any concerns about treating global patients?

A: In Korea, when doctors see patients, it’s doctors who decide on treatments. However foreign patients want to be fully explained and all decisions to be made in agreement with the patient or guardian.

The Korean healthcare system requires doctors to see 30-50 patients a day, but it takes about 30 minutes to see a single foreign patient.

We need to have a system where patients are fully informed and counseled about their preferences and treatment procedures. However, given the current structure of our healthcare system, implementing such practices could potentially lead to hospital closures.

I also think the healthcare system in Korea needs to be improved, as it often requires interpretation due to language issues, resulting in longer treatment times.

Q: I understand that CHA Global Hospital emphasizes contactless medical treatment. Is the communication with overseas medical centers after telemedicine smooth?

A: Last year, CHA Medical Center conducted about 180 teleconsultations, and the demand is expected to increase, and Korean doctors are familiar with this process.

Many hospitals overseas are working to enhance their systems and services to attract foreign patients. It is essential for us to listen attentively to the specific needs of international patients rather than adhering rigidly to the same processes designed for Korean patients.

As long as we increase communication between international healthcare providers, streamline unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy between countries, and focus on providing the best care for our patients, we shouldn’t have any problems.

Q: Finally, what are some of the challenges you face in the process of virtual care itself?

A: According to Korean medical law, virtual care is a form of consultation in which a local doctor must participate. Therefore, it is more difficult to coordinate the schedules of the three parties – the patient, the local doctor, and the Korean doctor. This is especially true if there is a time difference. I wish this could be improved a bit more.


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