Today I joined a group of about eight people from the Philippine Medical Tourism Summit on a tour of the top four hospitals in the Philippines:The Medical CityAsian Hospital and Medical CenterSt. Luke’s Medical CenterMakati Medical Center
I put them in this order because I was told that this is the hierarchy in terms of reputation – although all four are top hospitals in this country.
Each hospital we visited had new buildings under construction – they are all getting ready for an influx of international medical tourists. All four hospitals have a Wellness Department; one combined “Wellness” and “Aesthetics” into a single department called “Wellness & Aesthetics” and another had a small outsourced spa and salon accessible from their lobby. Most of the hospitals had some kind of concierge service which could arrange massages, facials, hair and nail care for patients upon request. The most visionary hospital, in my opinion (Medical City), is actively looking for a partner to develop and manage a spa which will be located in their new building and will be fully integrated with their wellness program.
I found it very interesting to learn how some of the terms I see used in other parts of the world are being defined here in this setting. It appears there are similarities and yet also differences. Medical/spa/medical spa/wellness/aesthetics/cosmetic surgery/regenerative medicine/prevention, etc. A few observations:
1. In hospitals here in Manila, the term “Wellness” seems to denote primarily or at least specifically Executive Physicals.
2. Spa is used to describe massage and other therapeutic and relaxing treatments. Spa services are considered part of alternative medicine and has respect from the medical community in terms of its benefits to patients.
3. Aesthetics is about services such as lasers, laser hair removal, BOTOX®, and other treatments which enhance appearance.
4. Wellness and Aesthetics can work together under one umbrella because the common characteristic is that people who partake of these services are not sick.
5. Cosmetic surgery includes the usual – liposuction, face lifts, breast augmentation, etc. While medical tourists include those interested in hip and knee replacements and heart operations, the largest area of interest is cosmetic surgery.
6. Regenerative medicine includes innovative medical therapies that enable the body to repair, replace, restore, and regenerate damaged or diseased cells, tissues, and organs.
Banking your own healthy stem cells which will allow for later usage, is beginning to be a protocol.
Perhaps most fascinating of all was something that Samuel D. Bernal MD, PhD, JD, MBA
mentioned during our visit with him at Medical City. Dr. Bernal
, is a physician, lawyer, molecular biologist, and an expert
in regenerative medicine. He practices at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
in LA and also at various hospitals in Manila. He was a mesmerizing speaker at the Summit. (I have never seen all of those credentials following one name, however, after hearing him speak, I don’t doubt any of them for a minute).
Dr. Bernal explained that he had just finished an entire day of meetings with a large group of medical professionals. The discussion was focused on the future of hospitals. The fundamental consensus was that there needs to be a shift from hospitals being considered as places where people go to when they are sick, to places that people frequent equally (and maybe even more often) when they are well. In essence, hospitals of the future need to be seen as serving multiple purposes and that developing the wellness aspect of hospitals is of greatest priority.
This is why the idea of spa is gaining a higher profile among hospitals and hospital staff. Executive physicals, aesthetic medicine and stem cell banking all work well together in terms of people’s participation while they are well – not sick. Spa does the same. And because spa brings with it an ambiance and a built-in positive connotation – and maybe even a bit of sexiness for marketing – it is an ideal vehicle for the wellness aspect of hospitals of the future.
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