Arriving at the pristine airport and being efficiently whisked through customs gives visitors the first inkling why medical tourism in South Korea has achieved so much in such a short period of time – receiving over 60,000 patients in 2009, 40 percent of which are from the US. Global healthcare being a key economic driver led to the establishment of The Korean Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) to oversee this sector and to support international patients. KHIDI ensures that participating hospitals are registered, medical outcomes are reported and there is even a multilingual medical call center specifically to help foreign patients, if needed.
South Korea does not stray from its reputation as a technological leader with “slip-less hospitals” that are paperless, chartless and filmless, using rather, RFID chips, completely electronic medical records (EMR) and telemedicine. When hospitals commonly utilize the third generation of da Vinci Surgical System, fourth generation of CyberKnife and where 64 slice CT scans are de rigueur, surgeons pride themselves on using a laparoscopic solution first. Even Dr. Kim of St. Mary’s Hospital was a pioneer in this arena and published his initial findings about minimally invasive options for colorectal cancer seven years before this method received the nod from The New England Journal of Medicine.
Significant inroads have been made in living donor organ transplantations for not only the liver, but also kidney, pancreas and bone marrow transplants since it is important in Confucian culture to preserve the body whole. Highly specialized developments have also been made for cancer treatments and outcomes for stomach, liver and cervical cancers are higher than those in the US. Other areas of specialization include spinal treatment, joint/rheumatism treatment, health screenings, dental care, infertility treatments and integrated traditional Korean medicine.
|Cancer 5 Year Survival Rates
|Korea Percentage (2003-07)
|USA Percentage (1999-2005)
|Colon and rectum
(Source KHIDI/ December 2010)