One morning, a man woke up to unbearable pain in his abdomen. He managed to drive himself to the hospital, where doctors requested for an ultrasound. The catch? The results could only be released several days later.
Then he remembered a friend mention Centre Médicale Internationale (CMI), a multispecialty outpatient clinic in Bonifacio Global City. A walk-in patient, he was received by care specialists who took his information and vitals before he underwent an ultrasound.
In less than an hour, the result was out: The man had a huge gallstone. Surgery could wait, he told himself and went home to rest. But the pain only worsened, so he called CMI who advised him to go to the nearest hospital. There, he was met and operated on by the hospital’s surgeon, who also happens to be among CMI’s stable of specialists.
The following day, while recuperating from surgery in his room, the man received a fruit basket from CMI. He recognized that if it were not for the timely intervention of CMI’s medical staff, his case would have become more complicated.
CMI was also where an expat family relocating to Africa dropped by for their complete immunization shots, and where a foreign national received an ultrasound-guided nerve block injection on her back, a treatment that got her dancing soon after.
Urgent care vs emergency medicine
Stories like these illustrate CMI’s strength as an urgent care center, a relatively unheard of concept among Filipinos who tend to take their health woes to the emergency room (ER) of a hospital.
“Urgent care is different from emergency medicine,” says Dr. Hazel Zuellig, CMI board director and a practicing neurologist. “Emergency medicine refers to what’s critical—stroke, heart attack, stab wounds—and for that you go to the ER. Urgent care is relative. You could be preparing to leave for a flight tomorrow when suddenly you’re not feeling well. Can you proceed with the trip? What medicines do you need? Will they stop you at the airport because you have a fever? These concerns are urgent. They’re not critical or life-threatening, but they’re urgent to you.”
To this day, people consider the ER the place to go for health issues of this nature. It’s certainly a quicker route than seeing a doctor: You don’t need to make an appointment and you’ll get the diagnostic tests you need.
“But you still have to wait about 4-5 hours, and you’re put with patients with more serious cases; someone being resuscitated, another bloodied from trauma,” says Zuellig. “Generally, the experience in the ER is stressful, and if you’re a mother with a child who has an upset stomach or are accompanying an elderly parent who needs an X-ray because of a bad fall, you’d wish there was some place you could go that is less stressful and could attend to your needs.”
Launched last year, CMI branded itself as “the healthcare equivalent of a Swiss private bank.” Company presidents and CEOs were the target of the facility that specialized in concierge medicine—thorough, personalized and private medical care in a luxurious setting of clean, white interiors with touches of green and floor-to-ceiling glass windows that bring in natural sunlight and views of lush trees.
Interestingly, it was these first clients who were instrumental in leading CMI to focus on urgent care. Impressed by the services and efficiency of the center, they would come back with their families.
“A mom could be in the middle of a board meeting when she finds out that her son was sent home from school because he has a fever. If she takes him to the ER, the rest of her day is over. In CMI, we have doctors on duty and we have 150 doctors from 40 different specialties on call,” says Zuellig. “So in a way we’re operating like an emergency room, minus the hassle.”
Operating like an emergency room, however, doesn’t mean the center charges like one. “Our rate is less than an ER consult,” says Zuellig.
Through CMI, Zuellig also hopes to bring back the concept of the family physician, a dedicated primary care physician who knows each member’s medical history and can address health issues as they arise. “You want to have a doctor you can call to consult for issues like blood pressure, fever, or a cough or cold, and who could refer you to the appropriate specialists when necessary,” she says.
Patients can choose from a roster of doctors—from cardiologists, neurologists and oncologists to highly specialized pediatric gastroenterologists, chronic pain specialists, psychiatrists, and counselors. CMI also boasts the latest medical equipment for diagnostic laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging, ear-nose-and-throat concerns, obstetrics and gynecology, rehabilitation medicine, neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology and dentistry.
A complete healthcare solution, CMI even offers personalized health programs and Executive Wellness and Preventive Medicine packages.
Regulars of CMI will tell you that the center still maintains its concierge medicine approach. Appointments with a doctor are made based on a patient’s availability. When a patient arrives, he’s received by cordial care specialists and given his choice of snacks while waiting for a doctor or his test results. Results can be delivered directly to a patient or accessed via password-protected e-mail.
“It feels like home for them,” says Zuellig of the center. Indeed, CMI’s bright and welcoming atmosphere is a breath of fresh air to a 22-year-old girl undergoing chemotherapy for an advanced form of cancer, or a woman in her 90s who drops by the center once a week for an hour of physical therapy. Call it healing with a heart.
For Zuellig, the urgent care center is a game changer. “In our market research, we found out that 85 percent of the people we surveyed want convenience in their choice of health clinic,” she said in an interview on ANC’s “Early Edition.” “With the traffic and all our activities, sometimes we tend to neglect our medical care because it just doesn’t fit in our schedule.
“CMI conforms to your schedule,” she said. “This is healthcare when you need it.”
Centre Médicale Internationale is at 2/F, Ore Central Bldg., 31st corner 9th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Call 8161035, 8161036; visit cminternationale.com.