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Korean Medical Tourism: Spotlight on Seoul

Views 45645 Votes 0 2011.03.07 17:58:45
date Mar 07, 2011 

Korean Medical Tourism: Spotlight on Seoul

By Patricia K. Kummer

KHIDI may well look back to 2010 as the year when Korean medical tourism got its jumpstart with the U.S. market. In April 2010, KHIDI partnered with the Medical Tourism Association and hosted the successful 1st Asia Medical Tourism and Global Health–care Conference in Seoul. About 800 people in various segments of the health–care industry came from more than 25 countries to attend the conference. May 2010 marked the first full year since the amendment to the Korean Medical Act went into effect. This amendment allows hospitals to promote themselves to international patients. The number of international patients has increased considerably. Later in 2010, KHIDI hosted a group of U.S. health insurance representatives on a tour of Seoul´s finest medical facilities.

In the summer of 2010, KHIDI sponsored the Body and Seoul Sweepstakes– trip for two U.S. residents for a week of medical, health, and wellness experiences in Seoul. This contest captured the attention of about 2,500 entrants. The lucky winner and her guest chose the last week in October for the trip. (See the accompanying article for information about the winner´s experiences during the trip.)

When the staff at KHIDI arranged the sweepstakes, it chose the top facilities and treatments that Seoul offers international medical travelers. Seoul St. Mary´s Hospital provided a VIP health checkup; East–West Neo Medical Center, an array of traditional medical treatments; Seoul National University Dental Hospital, a dental exam and teeth whitening; Arumdaun Nara Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Clinic, a wide choice of skincare; and Konjiam Resort, a complete spa experience. Additional partners for the trip were Hyundai Medis for the car and the English–speaking driver who took the winner to the medical and health facilities and who arranged the sightseeing part of the trip; and the JW Marriott Seoul for six nights of lodging.

SEOUL ST. MARY´S HOSPITAL, THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF KOREA

Seoul St. Mary´s Hospital was an easy choice for the medical segment of the trip. Although St. Mary´s was founded in 1936, it is Korea´s newest and finest tertiary–care hospital. In March 2009, St. Mary´s moved into its new US$1–billion home–a 22–story building with 1,200 beds, about 3,500 medical personnel, and state–of–the–art medical equipment. This makes St. Mary´s Korea´s largest single–building medical facility and the world´s largest Catholic hospital.

Besides size, St. Mary´s is perhaps one of the world´s most beautiful and brightest hospitals. From the natural light filled lobby to the VIP suites on the 21st floor, the atmosphere is more like a resort hotel or an up–scale shopping mall than a hospital. Escalators and glass–enclosed elevators move patients and staff quickly and quietly between floors. Soft lighting and artwork create a serene mood in waiting areas.

With the opening of the new building, St. Mary´s received a new name–Seoul St. Mary´s. From 1980 to 2009, the hospital was called Kangnam St. Mary´s because of its location in the Kangnam district of Seoul, which is south of the Han River. (Kangnam is now spelled Gangnam.)

International Medical Services

In 2004, St. Mary´s began offering medical services to international residents in Seoul. Patients came from nearby French, Japanese, and other expatriate communities. In addition, St. Mary´s had an agreement with the U.S. Eighth Army, Eighteenth Medical Command, based at Yongsan in Seoul. For treatments not available at the base hospital, active–duty and retired personnel and their families may seek treatment at St. Mary´s.

Today, international patients begin their relationship with Seoul St. Mary´s at the International Healthcare Center on the 1st floor. The center provides coordinators who are fluent in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. According to Stan Perry, "The International Healthcare Center was a big decision maker in getting my cancer treatment here and staying in Korea rather than going back to the United States." Perry was stationed in Seoul when he retired in 2004 as a sergeant–major in the U.S. Army and decided to remain in Seoul where he started a business.

Perry continued, "The center does a great job of interpreting, going from place to place with you, and making sure you understand what´s going on. The center designates someone to be with you through the entire process–taking you to your appointments, seeing that everything is scheduled, and being available around the clock for phone calls with problems."

Perry also stated that most of his doctors were trained in the United States and that language has not been a problem. "Everyone–from the nurses to the X–ray and blood–work technicians–has been very professional. I always feel like a VIP when I´m here. . . . And the medical care here is as good as anything you can get in the United States," he concluded.

High Quality of Care at Lower Cost

St. Mary´s is well known as a cancer treatment center. Dr. Young Seon Hong, president of Seoul St. Mary´s and an oncologist, stated, "The Blood and Marrow Transplant Center was the first BMT center in Korea; and for the number of transplants a year, it is the fifth–largest in the world." He received his medical degree from The Catholic University of Korea, did his internship and residency at St. Mary´s Hospital, and was a fellow at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.

Continuing, Hong pointed out a recent article on survival rates for gastric cancer surgery. The data compared St. Mary´s with Memorial Sloan–Kettering. At all stages of gastric cancer excluding stage IV, the survival rate of St. Mary´s patients was higher.

Adding to St. Mary´s prestige is accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI), which was received in July 2010. Hong pointed out, "In September, the JCI Korea Practicum was held at this hospital, and about 80 people from many different countries attended the practicum to find out the procedure to receive accreditation."

Following accreditation, many U.S. insurance companies have shown interest in forming contracts with St. Mary´s to cover care for their U.S. clients. Tricare covers active–duty and retired U.S. military personnel.

According to Hong, 8,200 international persons received inpatient or outpatient care at St. Mary´s in 2009. About 14 percent of them came from the United States. In 2010, about 20 to 30 percent of international patients came from the United States. Many of those patients were Korean–Americans. Hong attributed this increase to the amendment of the Korean Medical Act regarding attracting international patients that went into effect in 2009, to the JCI accreditation, and to the lower cost of care at St. Mary´s compared with care in the United States. He quoted the following price

comparisons:

    • Coronary by–pass–US$33,000~45,000, St. Mary´s; US$144,000, United States
    • Hip replacement–US$10,000~13,500, St. Mary´s; US$43,000, United States
    • Knee replacement–US$8,000~10,000, St. Mary´s; US$50,000 United States

Hong also mentioned that the hospital is preparing rooms on the 21st floor for the increased number of international patients, especially Americans, expected in the near future. "Staff for that floor is being trained in terms of language and manners. This training extends from doctors, nurses, and administrative staff to the cleaning persons."

Patients from the United States will be astounded by the amount of medical technology at St. Mary´s. For example, the hospital has six Siemens Avanto 1.5 Ts for MRIs, two Siemens Somatom Definition 64 Channel Dual Chambers for CT scans, and several Siemens Mammomat Inspirations for mammograms. In addition, equipment made by Phillips includes IU–22s for ultrasounds and Pagewriter Touchs for EKGs.

St. Mary´s electronic medical record system is also state–of–the–art. From check–in to explanation of results, the procedure is completely paperless. This is especially valuable for U.S. patients coming for the VIP exam. They return home with a CD containing test results and copies of all X–rays and scans.

The VIP Health Checkup

The VIP checkup includes height, weight, and body–mass index measurements, EKG, urine test, various blood tests, chest X–ray, complete eye examination, hearing test, pulmonary function tests, echocardiogram, abdominal ultrasound, UBT Heliocobacter test that screens for risk of cancer and ulcers, brain MRI, ultrasounds of carotid artery and thyroid, coronary artery CT, and colonoscopy. The women´s VIP exam also includes breast ultrasound, mammogram, bone–density scan, thoracolumbar spine X–ray, and Pap smear. The men´s VIP exam includes the prostate exam.

The cost of a complete VIP exam ranges between US$3,000 and US$20,000, but patients may tailor the exam to their own needs. With fewer tests and scans, the cost could range from US$1,500 to US$2,000. Some patients choose to stay overnight in one of the VIP rooms. This could cost an additional US$1,000. Others often stay at the nearby JW Marriott, which offers discounted rates to international patients.

In 2010, about 85 patients from the United States had the St. Mary´s VIP exam. Almost half of them were sent by their company for the exam; the rest came on their own.

Outlook for U.S. Patients

So, why should Americans consider going to Seoul St. Mary´s for care? Hong summed up, "The level of medical service is the highest in Korea; the quality of care is on par with the United States; the cost of care is lower than in the United States; this is a brand new hospital; and we´re in the best part of Seoul–close to hotels, shopping, cultural attractions, and three subway lines."

EAST–WEST NEO MEDICAL CENTER

(In November 2010, East–West Neo Medical Center was renamed Kyunghee University Hospital at Gang–dong.)

East of St. Mary´s and south of the Han River, East–West Neo Medical Center is located in a natural setting in the Gang–dong district. In contrast to St. Mary´s emphasis on high technology, the integration of Western medical practices with traditional Oriental medical techniques makes the East–West Neo Medical Center stand out among Seoul´s medical facilities. Part of Kyunghee University, East–West Neo Medical Center was established in 2006.

International Medical Services

International patients at East–West are cared for through the Kyunghee University International Medical Service (KUIMS). When international patients decide to receive medical treatment at East–West, KUIMS issues them an "Appointment Confirmation Letter," which enables them to apply for a Medical Visa at the nearest Korean Consulate. KUIMS also assists international patients in making airline reservations, hotel or apartment accommodations, and transportation to and from the airport.

When they arrive at East–West for care, patients coordinate their care through KUIMS´s International Health Care Center. The center is staffed with nurses and medical coordinators who are fluent in English, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. East–West also has a separate area with rooms for international patients requiring inpatient care.

Although East–West is a multi–specialty hospital that opened in a new building in 2006 with state–of–the–art Western diagnostic, surgical, and therapeutic equipment, it also offers traditional Oriental diagnoses techniques and holistic treatments. Herbal medicines, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and music therapy are among the holistic treatments offered. Meridian analysis, pulse analysis, and constitution analysis are major traditional diagnostic techniques that are available. In consultation with their doctors, international patients may choose Western–style diagnoses and care, traditional Oriental medical treatments, or treatment that integrates the two types of care. East–West is unique in offering these choices.

Music Therapy

Dr. Seun Hyun Lee, director of Oriental medicine music therapy and clinical associate professor at East–West, leads individuals and small groups through 50–minute music therapy sessions. The sessions begin with several minutes of breathing exercises, taking in full breaths and expelling them. Patients then repeat a chant while hitting a janggu (a large hour–glass shaped drum) with the palms of their hands. Continuing the chant, they use a sogo (a small drum with a handle) to hit themselves and each other on the head, shoulders, arms, and legs.

Lee explained that the breathing and drum exercises expel negative energy and emotions and relieve depression and stress. She said that the energy of Qi is thus brought into balance. This type of therapy makes people calmer and more relaxed, helps blood circulation, and can lower blood pressure. Cost for the session is about US$200.

Traditional Diagnoses Techniques

Constitution–voice analysis is a major component of traditional Oriental medicine. Dr. Sun Heyung Kim conducts constitution–voice analysis at East–West. She received her degree from Sangi University Oriental Medical School. Through an interpreter, Kim said, "By analyzing the voice, a person´s character–their physical body type, attitude, and personality–can be determined." This is known as the Sasang Constitution Analysis, which categorizes people into four groups. In Oriental medicine, the body is compared to a bell and the voice to the ringing of the bell. Thus, the pitch, octave, tone, and other voice qualities, can be used to diagnose medical symptoms and pinpoint diseases.

The voice analysis system used at East–West is the Phonetic System for Sasang Constitution (PSSC). During the analysis, patients are asked to produce a few sustained sounds, such as "ah" and "ee," and to speak a few words into a microphone connected to a computer. At the end of a patient´s session, Kim gives the patient a printout with the results of the voice analysis and explains the results. The printout includes the wave forms created by the various sounds, an analysis of the wave forms, and a description of the patent´s character according to the Sasang Constitution Analysis. From the constitution analysis, doctors make recommendations for diet–foods to avoid and foods to eat–and which exercise is best for the patient´s constitution type–walking, swimming, etc.

East–West also offers the pulse check as part of its traditional Oriental medical practices. The pulse check helps monitor a patient´s health by analyzing the blood flow. In traditional medicine, practitioners diagnose illnesses and monitor the efficacy of treatments through blood–flow analysis. In the past, pulse checks were done through touch by the practitioner. Today, East–West is the first facility in Korea to conduct pulse checks by using a specially designed sensory computer system, which is made by Daeyo Medi.

Another traditional technique that now employs a computerized system is meridian examination. Traditional practitioners believe that a patient´s condition can be monitored by checking the meridians in the hands and feet, pathways through which energy flows. After the patient´s meridians have been checked via a wand connected to a computer, practitioners can perform acupuncture or moxibustion on particular pathways that are blocked. Opening blocked pathways using traditional techniques is believed to prevent diseases or to resolve health problems. The cost for three traditional Oriental treatments, such as pulse analysis, meridian analysis, and constitution analysis, including a consult with a doctor, is about US$150.

Outlook for U.S. Patients

According to a KUIMS spokesperson, marketing to potential U.S. patients is about two years out. Currently, most of East–West´s American patients are expatriates living in Korea and Korean–Americans visiting their families in Korea. During 2010, most of East–West´s international patients came from eastern Russia, China, Japan, and Canada.

SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY DENTAL HOSPITAL

Across the Han in the hilly eastern section of the Jongno district stands Seoul National University Dental Hospital (SNUDH). The hospital traces its origins to the Kyeongseong School of Dentistry (KSSD) and the KSSD dental hospital, established respectively in 1922 and 1924. These two institutions marked the beginning of modern dentistry in Korea. From 1978 to 2003, the dentistry school and hospital were part of Seoul National University Hospital. In 2003, the National Assembly passed legislation that established SNUDH as a separate entity.

The 8–story building that houses SNUDH was completed in 1993 and underwent a renovation in 2009. The hospital´s treatment facilities include 10 clinical departments (oral medicine, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, periodontics, conservative dentistry, prosthodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral pathology, and dental anesthesiology), 6 specialized centers and clinics (comprehensive faculty center, dental implant center, pre–doctoral practice center for junior and senior dental students, maxillofacial deformity clinic, phonetic treatment clinic, and clinic for persons with disabilities), and 5 operating rooms.

About 300,000 patients are treated annually through SNUDH´s wide range of services. For patients requiring overnight or extended care after surgery or cancer treatments, the hospital provides 39 beds. In addition, SNUDH boasts Korea´s only 24/7 dental emergency room.

International Dental Care Service

SNUDH´s International Dental Care Service (IDS) makes all areas of the hospital´s care and treatment available to an increasing number of international patients. According to Bo Kyung Kim, registered dental hygienist and spokesperson from the IDS, "In 2009, about 400 patients from 16 nations came to SNUDH, although most of them were living in Korea."

As of October 2010, about 340 international patients sought treatment at SNUDH–again people already living in Seoul. The most frequent types of care sought by those patients were for wisdom tooth extractions, temporomandibular disorders (TMD), and fillings for cavities.

The hygienists and other staff at the IDS speak Chinese, Japanese, English, and German. Patients are paired with hygienists who speak their language. For example, an American patient would be taken care of by an English–speaking dental hygienist. In addition, many of SNUDH´s doctors were trained in the United States and speak English.

Outlook for U.S. Patients

Medical tourism is just starting in the area of dental care. Currently, SNUDH´s closest contacts for international patients are with China and Japan. Kim stated, "SNUDH is just starting to promote dental services to Americans and other international people who are living in Korea."

Kim said, "People from the United States will not come here only for dental treatment. If they are here for medical treatment, they could have dental care and treatment at SNUDH." She continued that the quality of dentistry is on a par with the United States but the costs are much lower. For example, the cost of a routine dental exam at SNUDH is about US$38; X–rays, about US$57; an average filling, about US$l75; wisdom tooth extraction, from US$400 to US$1147.

ARUMDAUN NARA DERMATOLOGY AND PLASTIC SURGERY CLINIC

In a high–rise amid the hustle and bustle of the eastern Gangnam district, patients receive a wide range of medical skincare at Arumdaun Nara Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Clinic. Dr. Sang Jun Lee, president and owner of Arumdaun Nara, explained that Arumdaun Nara means "Beautiful Nation." One patient at a time, he and his staff attempt to make Korea more beautiful.

Lee received his medical degree from Kyunghee University in Seoul and is board certified in dermatology and plastic surgery. He is known for his noninvasive and minimally invasive skincare treatments. Besides the main facility in Gangnam, Arumdaun Nara has five other offices: four in and near Seoul and two in Beijing, China. Twenty doctors are on staff at Arumdaun Nara, with eight of them practicing in the main office. About 100 registered nurses, technicians, and support staff assist throughout all the branches–with 10 RNs and 40 other personnel at the main office.

According to Lee´s interpreter, "The facility is the most famous in the field of skincare treatment in Korea." Each year, more than 100 male and female celebrities from Korea and other Asian countries visit the clinic. Among Arumdaun Nara´s other accolades is that the clinic was the first in Korea to use laser treatment to diminish wrinkles. Lee and his staff also use laser treatments to even out pigmentation and for hair removal. Other treatments include face lifts, eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty, Botox injections, and liposuction. In addition to liposuction, Arumdaun Nara also offers other treatments to remove unwanted fat–ultrasound and freezing. Through freezing, fat cells are targeted and frozen. During several months, the frozen cells break down and are eventually eliminated from the body. A similar procedure was recently approved by the FDA for use in the United States.

The clinic also manufactures its own line of skincare products. Cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and sunscreens under the Anacli brand are available for various skin types. Smooth to the touch and with a light fragrance, the products come in attractive, easy–to–use containers.

International Services

Arumdaun Nara has become well–known in medical tourism. Lee explained, "There have always been many international patients from Japan and China. Now Chinese–Americans and Caucasians from the United States and other parts of the English–speaking world, such as Canada, are starting to come to the clinic. About 2,000 international patients are taken care of each year."

Arumdaun Nara´s marketing staff uses several methods to attract international patients. Of course, there are the clinic´s website and other links on the Internet. Through government sponsorship, Arumdaun Nara has become a designated hospital for medical skincare treatment. When KHIDI markets abroad, it recommends the clinic. Korean travel agencies also market the clinic internationally.

Word of mouth has also helped Arumdaun Nara. In 2007, a group of 20 American patients (both Caucasian and Chinese–American), from Los Angeles visited the clinic and had a good experience. When they went home, they reported how pleased they were with their outcomes. According to Lee, their encouraging reports resulted in more Americans coming for treatments.

Outlook for U.S. Patients

When asked why patients from the U.S. should use Arumdaun Nara´s services, Lee must have had the aging baby–boomer population in mind. He answered, "People from the United States should come to the clinic for anti–aging treatments such as noninvasive laser wrinkle treatment."

Lee continued, "The clinic has experience with U.S. patients and offers safe, simple treatments." The goal of his practice is to provide treatments with minimum risk and aftereffects so patients can return to their regular routine as soon as possible.

He also pointed out that the treatments cost 50 to 75 percent less than similar treatments in the United States. The following Arumdaun Nara treatments, with prices, are among the most popular with American and European patients:
    • A 30–minute ion phoresis process, which encourages Vitamin C to permeate the skin, followed by a facial mask, US$100.
    • Breast reduction/augmentation, about US$7,060.
    • Blepharoplasty with local anesthesia, US$2,500.

A price list for other treatments–including laser treatments for wrinkles, pigmentation, and hair removal–was not available.

Lee also thinks Americans will appreciate the clinic´s personal touch, such as arranging hotel accommodations. In addition, Arumdaun Nara partners with Hyundai Medis to provide transportation to and from the airport, a tour guide, and translation services.

KONJIAM RESORT´S SPA LA SPA

Surrounded by tree–covered mountains, Konjiam Resort is located less than an hour´s drive south of Seoul. Konjiam opened in December 2008 as a premier, year–round resort with 318 rooms and 158 suites. Many rooms feature ondol, the traditional Korean system of under–the–floor heating.

From spring through fall, outdoor sports´ enthusiasts use the driving range, soccer field, and special courts for basketball, volleyball, and badminton. In the winter, expert skiers schuss down the longest runs (1.8 km or 1.1 miles) in the Seoul metropolitan area. Snowboarders and beginning–level and intermediate–level skiers practice on the resort´s eleven double–wide slopes. Hikers and walkers burn calories on the resort´s 1.7–km (1.06–mile) and 3.8–km (2.3–mile) trails. Indoors, fitness buffs work out on state–of–the–art equipment.

Spa La Spa

After hours on the slopes, trails, courts, or exercise machines, guests relax and rejuvenate at the resort´s Spa La Spa. Many guests come only for the spa, which is Korea´s first destination spa. Spa La Spa offers 3–hour, 6–hour, and 12–hour packages of spa activities, which can include yoga, dance, light therapy, sound therapy, water massage, hot–rock massage, sauna therapy, and nutritious and delicious spa cuisine.

Before entering the spa, guests take off their shoes and put on open–heeled, padded slippers. After selecting their spa activities, guests are escorted to separate male and female locker rooms where they change clothes and leave their belongings in a secure locker. The spa provides shorts, shirts, and swimwear if guests have not brought their own.

Each activity or therapy takes place in its own special room. A staff member escorts guests from room to room.

Spa La Spa´s Role in Medical Tourism

After spending several days undergoing medical examinations, dental treatments, and/or skincare treatments, Spa La Spa is the perfect place to end a medical tourism trip in Korea. The soothing treatments administered by the attentive staff heal the body and soul of the medical traveler who has been poked and prodded during various medical exams. The atmosphere of the spa and the natural environment of the resort are in keeping with the age–old traditions of a destination for health and wellness therapies.

Medical tourists from the United States would be familiar with many of the spa´s activities and treatments, such as yoga, water massage, hot–rock massage, and sauna therapy. Two treatments that might be new to Americans are color and light therapy and sound therapy using crystal bowls.

The 30–minute color and light therapy is meant to induce relaxation, reduce stress, and alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Guests lie in narrow, curved, tubular beds with a light tube curved above them. The light changes colors–white, green, red, purple, blue, and lavender. As the light changes colors, guests watch tranquil beach and underwater scenes on individual monitors and listen to music that accompanies the changing scenes.

The 30–minute color and light therapy is meant to induce relaxation, reduce stress, and alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Guests lie in narrow, curved, tubular beds with a light tube curved above them. The light changes colors–white, green, red, purple, blue, and lavender. As the light changes colors, guests watch tranquil beach and underwater scenes on individual monitors and listen to music that accompanies the changing scenes.

In the dimly lit sound therapy room, several sleeping pads–each with a blanket and pillow–line both sides of the room. Between the two rows of sleeping pads is a line of crystal bowls. Made from natural Korean crystal, the bowls come in various heights, widths, and thicknesses. Thus, each bowl produces its own unique tone. At the beginning of the 30–minute therapy session, a young woman asks guests to lie down, close their eyes, and listen to the singing bowls. During the session, she strikes the bowls with a cowhide stick, which she then rubs around the rim and the inside and outside of the bowls. A variety of soothing sounds are produced. Crystal is thought to be a source of good energy (Qi). By listening to the singing bowls, guests allow good energy to enter their bodies. This energy also helps their minds and souls to relax. Guests sometimes become so relaxed that they almost fall asleep.

At the end of a 3–hour treatment or midway through a 6–hour treatment, guests are taken to the spa´s restaurant for a sumptuous lunch of healthy Korean foods. A sample lunch menu would include a selection of exquisitely prepared appetizers, bibimbap, soup, a variety of vegetables, kimchi, and an arrangement of fresh fruit for dessert. Coffee and teas are available at a self–service bar.

If spa guests are not staying at the resort, they should allow time for a stroll around Konjiam´s grounds–take in the majesty of the mountains, imagine schussing down the ski slopes, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the quiet, broken only by the calls of the magpies.

Outlook for U.S. Visitors

According to Jin–Sung Jang, spokesperson for Spa La Spa, "Since Konjiam is a ski resort, we are mostly marketing to other Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia and to Hong Kong where the winter season does not exist. However, we plan to enlarge our foreign market including western countries like the United States in the near future."

He also stated that about 100 people from the United States have visited Konjiam in the short amount of time that the resort has been open.

A full day of spa activities–yoga, water massage, hot–rock massage, color and light therapy, sound therapy, sauna therapy, and lunch–would cost about US$272; a 3–hour package with lunch, about US$116.

CONCLUSION

Korean medical facilities are gradually preparing for more U.S. travelers to take advantage of their state–of–the–art facilities and equipment, caring staffs, and high–quality, low–cost health care. Some facilities are more prepared for and experienced with American patients than others. Of the facilities covered in this article, Dr. Lee and the staff at Arumdaun Nara have had the most contact with both Caucasian Americans and Asian Americans. This clinic is leading the way in marketing directly to the United States.

The other facilities are at various stages of preparation for American patients. Although Seoul St. Mary´s Hospital has experienced an increase in patients from the United States, most of them are Korean–Americans. To prepare for a more diverse American patient base, St. Mary´s is now training a special segment of the staff with lessons in the English language and about American manners.

At this time, East–West Neo Medical Center is mainly marketing to Americans living in Seoul and to Korean–Americans visiting their families in Seoul. East–West might begin marketing directly to the United States in two years. SNUDH is just starting to market its services to Americans–but again these are Americans living in Seoul. Konjiam Resort and Spa La Spa are not yet targeting the U.S. market, but may in the near future.

Even though some facilities are not currently targeting the market in the United States, these facilities welcome American patients, have staff with English language skills, and do their best to make Americans feel comfortable.

Patricia K. Kummer is a freelance writer from Lisle, Illinois, who accompanied the Body and Seoul Sweepstakes winners to medical facilities in Seoul and to Spa La Spa at Konjiam Resort, where she conducted interviews and was given tours. In addition, at East–West Neo Medical Center, Arumdaun Nara, and Spa La Spa, she took part in some activities and treatments. (patriciakummer@netscape.com)

(A video of the Body and Seoul Sweepstakes trip may be viewed on YouTube at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/medicalkorea#p/c/D2775843897BBCD3/1/zgt5KtDdl_I
http://www.youtube.com/user/medicalkorea#p/c/D2775843897BBCD3/0/–6YfrWNI5ow)

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