The Philippines established its Medical Tourism Program back in 2006—and now, a little over six years later, we can say that while results have not been as quick as first envisioned, the country’s efforts to become a regional healthcare hub are slowly but surely bearing fruit.
A few years ago, the country was re-launched as a medical tourism destination under the brand “Philippines: The Heart of Asia” and the tag remains as true today as it was before. The Philippines really is The Heart of Asia in more ways than one.
As the Department of Tourism meets with success in presenting the country as one of the most desirable destinations in the region, especially through its “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign—it will be recalled that the Philippines was included in several international “best destinations” lists in 2012—it can be reasonably expected that this will also help highlight the Philippines’ strong points as a medical tourism, healthcare, and wellness destination.
Hearts in the right place
Various research studies show that patients’ recover faster and feel happier when they receive compassionate care. Compassionate care, unfortunately, is often overlooked as more and more hospitals overseas struggle to save on costs and increase efficiency—this is the reason why Filipino nurses are in such demand the world over: Filipino nurses are not simply competent but also friendly, cheerful, caring, and compassionate.
Friendliness, compassion, caring, and cheerfulness are aspects of Filipino culture that every Filipino grows up with and imbibes. He or she learns it from parents, siblings, relatives and friends. This is because most Filipinos value relationships more than material possessions. Whether rich or poor, strong family bonds and smooth, mutually beneficial relationships among relatives and friends define the Filipino way of life.
Foreigners who visit the country as tourists, work here as expats, or choose it as their second home after retirement, all discover the warmth and hospitality that are unique to the Filipinos. These are attributes that medical tourism travelers discover when they receive treatment in the country’s hospitals and clinics.
English is widely spoken in the Philippines as one of its official languages. English is the language used in education and business, and Filipinos in government agencies and the service industry are fluent in it. There are many English-language publications in the Philippines, including the major newspapers and magazines. There are also many English-language programs on television and Hollywood movies are regularly shown in theaters. Foreigners who speak English will have no difficulty relating to and transacting with Filipinos.
Top-notch healthcare facilities
Filipino doctors are expertly trained in the Western medical tradition and are up-to-date with the latest advances in medical science. Many of them have trained overseas, including the United States and Europe, and are affiliated with medical organizations in those countries.
The country’s top public and private hospitals are equipped with the latest in medical tools, machines, and technologies—the same equipment, if not better, as those found in the U.S. and Europe. The high standards of their facilities assure medical tourists that they are getting the same quality care, or better, as they would receive from their home countries.
This same high quality of care is found in the Philippines’ top specialty clinics that offer dental and aesthetic procedures.
With more than 7,000 islands in its archipelago, the Philippines is home to beaches and seaside resorts that provide relaxing, refreshing tropical paradise settings. There are natural landscapes of breathtaking beauty in the highland regions. Medical travelers will discover many picturesque places where they can enjoy their recovery.
Together with these various natural settings, the Philippines also offers all the modern conveniences needed for 21st century living. From high-tech telecoms networks to cable TV, to Internet service, and highly urbanized, cosmopolitan areas with malls retail complexes offering local products and international brands.
Filipino food is a blend of Western and Eastern influences that include Spanish, American, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. With such a sophisticated palate, Filipinos easily welcomed the entry of Japanese, Korean, Thai, Italian and Continental food in the culinary scene. As a result, there are now so many different dining establishments that offer a gamut of authentic, gourmet fare.
More work ahead
As more of the country’s top hospitals make considerable investments in their personnel and facilities, the benefits to Filipino and foreign patients will also increase. There really is no other way to help the Philippines become a regional medical tourism hub except to make sure that its healthcare facilities are world-class.
One very important area that more Philippine hospitals need to get into is international accreditation. This accreditation is the most credible certification of a hospital’s, clinic’s, or wellness facility’s world-class quality standards.
When we talk about world-class healthcare certification or accreditation for hospitals and other healthcare facilities, we usually refer to accrediting bodies like JCI, NABH International, Accreditation Canada and others that are affiliated with the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua). The ISQua is the world body that accredits these accrediting bodies.
One ISQua-accredited body that has been giving generous support to Philippine hospitals is NABH International. Through its local affiliate, HealthCORE, the NABH International has been giving workshops to Filipino hospital administrators to help them learn how to meet ISQua standards, and assist them in the actual process of accreditation.
The success of the Department of Tourism’s campaign plus the increasing number of foreign patients being treated in the Philippines top hospitals prove that the country still has a bright future and great potential to be a medical, health, and wellness hub in the region.
To fulfill that potential, all stakeholders in the healthcare and travel sectors must get their acts together. Only then will the world truly realize that the Philippines is the Heart of Asia—a heart that gives care, compassion, life, love, and healing to those in need. – Ramil Digal Gulle, contributor