Hygeia Healthcare Offers New Outsourcing – Thailand’s Medical Heaven

Medical tourism to Thailand is gaining momentum as the word is out that healthcare there is both inexpensive – and superb. Bangkok Hospital group has entered into collaborations with service providers in both Sweden and the UK so far and various new companies are mushrooming to establish medical tourism services, where Thailand seems to be one of the strongest destinations worldwide. Its world-renowned Bumrungrad Hospital is expected to reach 1 million foreign visitors from all over the world within a few years from now, which is unprecedented in the world.
“We’re looking at Europe where there will be a lot of demand for this within healthcare for specific procedures, but also at the US because there we’ve got a large group of people that are uninsured. When they require medical treatments their companies pay for it. So what we see is a gap in the market where you have some kind of insurance product, that will allow you to have acute medical treatment in the US and at the same time you could have the more expensive procedures carried out abroad. Now everything is carried out at home and it’s very expensive, which is why many employers are actually not offering it to their employees. This, one of our focus areas, we call it outsourcing,” Managing Director Martin Olsen explains.
The idea is to give corporations and institutions the opportunity to offer their employees access to elective surgery abroad and thus enjoy significant cost savings.
Hygeia paints a picture, where plenty of countries are experiencing serious healthcare problems, where the national health services are unable to guarantee timely treatment to its patients and furthermore face an immense financial burden of aging populations. As a consequence employers and their employees and society as a whole are suffering.
So far medical tourism is mainly customer-driven and a niche market. But its strong increase – the health/wellness sector is reported to have among the highest growth rates in the world – as individuals discover significant cost-savings for treatments taken overseas, along with the urgency of the escalating costs for healthcare in the western world, points to a massive break-through around the corner.
Individuals can save up to 70 per cent for treatments taken overseas and the medical care and facilities are found to be as good as in their home country. Add to that the attractive bonus opportunity to enjoy recuperation in a warm and wonderful holiday environment.
Since the Public Health Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand in a joint effort to turn the country into Asia’s hub for medical and spa services launched a campaign a few years back, with a proclaimed budget of over 2 billion baht, this sector has developed vastly.
“It’s quite an experience walking in to Bangkok Hospital or Samitivej, with their marble floors and smiling people, in contrast with walking into a UK or Danish public hospital. It’s a deep contrast,” says Martin Olsen, who used to work with outsourcing for Accenture, a global management consulting and technology services company.
Martin Olsen’s job was to outsource certain tasks to countries with low-cost labour which did not exactly make him popular, making people in the west unemployed.
“I thought of using this outsourcing model in a different sector, looking at what is happening in Europe where we have an increasing demand for medical services but we may not have the capacity in our hospitals. So I found it could be interesting to offer the service and maybe help governments and larger organisations to have healthcare delivered in Thailand where the services are a whole lot better, and it’s also cheaper.”
There is also the area of insurance companies having clients that needs certain procedures carried out which would be cheaper in Thailand, maybe with some recuperation connected to it.
“The patient would get up and running faster, hence also saving money for the insurance companies. And the procedure all inclusive may actually be cheaper than doing everything in the home country,” is the managing directors’ idea.
Thus Hygeia Healthcare was launched in June 2006 with four websites and being so new, the business is still under development, for example how to cater to private and public organizations at home for pre- and post- treatments.
“It is really one of the main issues. You go abroad and get some kind of procedure carried out. Then you come back and might need some kind of maintenance or check-up. What we are doing, is looking into setting up partnerships with private hospitals in the home country, where these can be checked up. Innovative insurance companies are also needed to work with us to make sure we can offer the full product.”
Ultimately a more complete product would also offer an insurance to have get a ticket back to Thailand for any needs of adjustment should complications occur.
Meanwhile, off-the-shelf products are being offered where procedures require a minimum of post-surgery, basically only maintenance; focusing on eye surgery, cosmetic surgery, and knee and hip replacements.
Other than that Hygeia will offer employee incentive packages, stress management, and wellness incentive packages for companies and organisations’ employees.
Stress management includes a comprehensive health check and stress assessment followed by a stress relief program that includes stress management techniques and professional counselling.
Working on a short list of initially mainly larger UK clients Martin Olsen is confident of getting response, proposing having seminars in Thailand.
“I believe there’s a lot of interest in it, and HR departments need probably to innovate a little bit in what they offer to their employees.”
Hygeia would like to bring their customers to Thailand and out of the daily context, leaving the ordinary environment in order to break patterns and let people absorb new learning and new experiences.
“Ideally we would like to bring them here because I think if you are to focus on the areas of stress management, healthy living, cooking and exercise – doing it in a nice environment is going to change how they absorb what they learn. If it’s being done as a cheap solution in the meeting room home in the office, I mean, people will be checking their emails in every break and not get less stressed by that.”
To what extent that companies in Scandinavia is willing to invest in healthcare is yet to be seen, but for sure they are targeted.
“It’s definitely going to be offered by us to them and maybe combined with some local seminars and also offer the wellness aspect, because if you look at executives today, the main reason why they are not performing is because they are stressed, over-weight, drinking too much. They’ve got all these sorts of discipline issues that are basically causing them to retire very early, have serious health issues and not performing really well.”
“What we’ll want to go with our wellness offering is focusing on prevention, doing something with these over-weight, burned out executives before it is too late. And the healthcare in the Scandinavian countries doesn’t offer this kind of stress management seminars. They are already fully stretched.”
Scandinavians using Thailand’s healthcare facilities pays from their own pockets, with little prospect of getting any refund.
“You have to go through a long process to qualify, so as for now that’s not happening. But of course when the governments in Scandinavia fully come to realise they cannot deliver all the services they are supposed to, maybe they will start buying services abroad.”
Martin Olsen actually foresees they will also open up for outsourcing preventive healthcare.
“I think they have no choice but to do that. There’s a lot of focus in Denmark now around prevention because what the medical system in Denmark does is basically taking care of what happened after you didn’t prevent. That’s where it starts getting expensive. There have even been discussions about whether you should be allowed a tax break if you join certain kinds of health and wellness programmes. I think the tax payers should benefit not only from when it’s too late. It’s an interesting thought that requires a little bit of change in how taxes are being spent in Scandinavia,” he follows up.
While the governments are slow in coming up with solutions for the escalating healthcare crisis, individuals, Martin agrees, are much more pro-active these days in seeking wellness and their own solutions to any ill-health than years ago.
“And if you have been to Thailand as a tourist you are familiar with the spas, an easy way of wellness, doing a massage and coming out feeling a lot better. But it goes further than that; it also concerns eating, exercise etc. So absolutely people are more aware of that and even look for these kinds of trips.”

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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