It has been only one year since the opening of Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin, but in that short time the hospital has already reached out twice to the Scandinavian community in Hua Hin – the first time was at a live demonstration of its Sky ICU helicopter and the second time was at a meeting with the Swedish Association of Hua Hin.
At both events, the charismatic director of the hospital, Prof. Dr. Somarch Wongkhomthong, took the center stage. Dr. Somarch was also the driving force behind Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin attaining the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation in a record-breaking nine-month period.
“Joint Commission International accreditationis widely regarded as the gold standard for healthcare providers worldwide. Achieving this certification puts our hospital among the finest hospitals in the world and sends a positive message to patients and insurance companies regarding our dedication to providing the best possible care,” says Dr. Somarch.
An additional certification earned by Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin is the German-based TEMOS accreditation.
“Temos stands for Telemedicine for Mobile Society. This certification evaluates not only the quality of our medical services, but also non-medical services like our accounting practices.”
Temos certification is rapidly gaining importance among patients who wish to seek medical treatment overseas – which an increasing number of Europeans are now doing.
33 pct Nordic Patients
Breaking the patient statistics of Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin down demographically, Dr. Somarch is pleased to report that the single largest group among the international patients comes from the Nordic countries – Sweden (12 pct), Norway (9 pct), Denmark (7 pct) and Finland (5 pct).
The migrating habits of the Scandinavians in Hua Hin are revealed in the patient mix at Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin. While approximately half of them stay all year round, the seasonal Scandinavians represent a predicable sloping curve in the patient numbers as they fly back home during the summer months and return in time to escape the Nordic winter.
The goal in establishing Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin was to provide an exceptional healthcare care option to both Thais and foreigners living in this historic seaside retreat, and its ability to offer high quality service can be seen in the numbers. Each month, the patient volumes have exceeded those of the same month from the previous year, which serves a good indicator that quality of care is being maintained.
Starting from the most essential service, one needs to look no further than the state-of-the-art emergency room, which has since Day 1 has been in a class of its own. Staffed with six emergency physicians, no other hospital in Hua Hin can offer the same level of professional care when it is needed most, explains Dr. Somarch.
Another advantage of the hospital which Dr. Somarch highlights is the effective use of telemedicine.
“This means, for instance, that we can convert all scans and x-rays to digital format and transfer them to our headquarters in Bangkok, where an expert radiologist confirms our reading of the images. We also have an advanced high-definition web camera and RP7i Robot which can be used by medical advisors in Bangkok to help diagnose and recommend treatment for patients in Hua Hin.”
Private vs. Public hospitals
The private vs. public debate is often a hot topic among Nordic patients. Most Nordic patients tend to be impressed by the private hospital offerings in Thailand, extending beyond the décor or even the level of advanced medical technology, to the higher levels of service and personal attention. But perhaps paradoxically, many of these same satisfied patients can be heard defending the Nordic public welfare system with cries of contempt, saying that private hospitals only cater to those with means, that they draw human resources from the public sector and create inequality in healthcare. And while these are difficult and complicated questions, Dr. Somarch has a very even handed and clear-minded perspective with respect to how the public and private systems work side-by-side in Thailand.
“Put simply, we offer the choice of more personalized healthcare services, with the added benefit that every time a patient decides to choose a private hospital, the government can save the money they would have spent on taking care of that patient and use it for patients who are less fortunate.”
“It is also worth noting that if we provide our value added services efficiently, we both create a positive contribution to the economy while also contributing more in terms of taxes that can be used by the government to fund health programs for those in the public system,” says Dr. Somarch.
The argument that private hospitals drain the public hospitals for medical staff is also not as clear cut as it may seem.
“In Thailand, many of our best doctors work in both the public and private sector. Some of our university hospitals, for example, are truly exceptional and have surgical complication rates lower than can be found in many western hospitals. To further complicate the argument, several of the public hospitals are now building private wings to provide value added services for patients seeking additional comfort.”
In Japan, where Dr. Somarch has a distinguished career as a doctor and professor, he is familiar with a system that is different both from the Thai as well as the Nordic.
“Insurance is compulsory in Japan and everybody pays to their health insurance provider. But that doesn’t provide free choice for the individual either. There you are limited to what the insurance company scheme is willing to reimburse, which is just as restrictive.”
“With the private hospitals in Thailand, individuals can make the personal choice to forgo the free treatment they are entitled to and choose instead a different avenue of treatment. Private hospitals provide patients with choice,” says Dr. Somarch.
Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin is part of the Bangkok Hospital Group. The first Bangkok Hospital was founded in 1972 and has since expanded to become the flagship of the largest network of private hospitals in Southeast Asia, with 27 hospitals throughout Thailand and two hospitals in Cambodia.