US hos­pi­tal looks to China for more med­i­cal tourists

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG XIN in Beijing zhengxin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ten years ago, Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Los An­ge­les re­ceived its first pa­tient from the Chi­nese main­land, with that child pa­tient who had trav­eled thou­sands of miles seek­ing more ad­vanced med­i­cal treat­ment, gain­ing celebrity sta­tus of sorts. To­day, such travel is com­mon­place.

“It was not a common prac­tice for Chi­nese pa­tients back then, as the cost of med­i­cal treat­ment was beyond the ca­pac­ity of most of them,” said Richard D. Cor­dova, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Los An­ge­les, one of the top five chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals in the United States.

As the mid­dle class in China has rapidly ex­panded and its pur­chas­ing power has greatly surged, many sec­tors over­seas, in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, have turned an eye to that bur­geon­ing mid­dle class. Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Los An­ge­les is one such hos­pi­tal.

Since that first pa­tient from the Chi­nese main­land landed at the hos­pi­tal a decade ago, the hos­pi­tal has steadily seen an in­crease in the num­ber of pa­tients from China, and be­lieves that growth will con­tinue at a rapid rate among, the growth driven by the emerg­ing mid­dle class more fo­cused than ever on health and well-be­ing.

“It will be no more a rare and un­usual prac­tice for Chi­nese to seek med­i­cal ad­vice and treat­ment from abroad in the fu­ture,” said Cor­dova.

From 2011 to 2013, the hos­pi­tal re­ceived some 44 pa­tients from the Chi­nese main­land, and 18 of them in 2014, from among a to­tal of 84 in­ter­na­tional pa­tients.

“The Chi­nese pa­tients oc­cupy some 20 per­cent of the over­seas pa­tients we re­ceived this year, which ac­counts for a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion,” he said.

The hos­pi­tal ex­pects the growth rate of the Chi­nese pa­tients to reach 20 per­cent in the fol­low­ing year.

“Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Los An­ge­les is try­ing to pro­vide bet­ter care for more pa­tients at a lower cost, while re­main­ing true to our mis­sion of cre­at­ing hope and build­ing health­ier fu­tures for in­fants, chil­dren and young adults,” said Cor­dova, in an in­ter­view with China Daily.

The hos­pi­tal has formed a co­op­er­a­tive al­liance with sev­eral lo­cal Chi­nese hos­pi­tals, un­der which the Chi­nese hos­pi­tals will un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances rec­om­mend pa­tients for treat­ment abroad.

“We are look­ing for strate­gic part­ner­ships that will en­sure our fu­ture, while re­vis­ing care mod­els to help pa­tients main­tain their health more ef­fi­ciently,” said Cor­dova.

Last year, the hos­pi­tal opened out­pa­tient cen­ters in South Bay and Santa Mon­ica, adding to their ex­ist­ing satel­lite lo­ca­tions in Ar­ca­dia and Va­len­cia, to meet the in­creas­ing de­mand from over­seas pa­tients.

As part of a 12-day visit to China, South Korea and Ja­pan ear­lier this month, Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in Guangzhou to at­tract more Chi­nese med­i­cal tourists to the Western United States, by pro­mot­ing tourism and in­vest­ment in his city.

Nine Chi­nese and US sig­na­to­ries, in­clud­ing China South­ern Air­lines; the City of Los An­ge­les; the Los An­ge­les Tourism and Con­ven­tion Board; the Los An­ge­les Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion; Cedar Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­ter; City of Hope Hos­pi­tal; Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Los An­ge­les; UCLA, and USC, have agreed to pro­mote health tourism from China to Los An­ge­les.

Ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les mayor’s of­fice, trade last year be­tween Los An­ge­les and China reached $164.38 bil­lion, com­pared to Ja­pan at $43.5 bil­lion, and South Korea at $23.5 bil­lion.

Some 570,000 Chi­nese tourists vis­ited Los An­ge­les and spent $655 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing tothe mayor’s of­fice.

Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Los An­ge­les said it is also seek­ing part­ner­ships with lo­cal in­surance com­pa­nies in China, in­clud­ing Peo­ple’s In­surance Company of China and Ping An In­surance, to see if there’s in­ter­est in pro­vid­ing high-end med­i­cal in­surance.

The de­part­ments of or­tho­pe­dics, oph­thal­mol­ogy, hema­tol­ogy and tu­mor, for which the hos­pi­tal is most highly re­garded na­tion­wide, re­ceives the most young Chi­nese pa­tients.

“While many of the pa­tients are rec­om­mended through lo­cal Chi­nese hos­pi­tals, a lot of them heard of our hos­pi­tals through their friends in China,” said Larry Wang, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Global Health with the hos­pi­tal.

To bet­ter cater to the de­mands of the Chi­nese pa­tients and min­i­mize lan­guage bar­ri­ers or cul­tural shock, the hos­pi­tal has es­tab­lished an on-site trans­la­tion team made up of 25 roundthe-clock trans­la­tors pro­fi­cient in 42 lan­guages, in­clud­ing Chi­nese. It is also work­ing on a Chi­nese-lan­guage web­site to at­tract more Chi­nese pa­tients.

“We need to make sure the pa­tients are com­fort­able while see­ing doc­tors in a for­eign land, to­gether with the finest med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices,” said Cor­dova. “Many pa­tients travel across the con­ti­nent to us for med­i­cal care of bet­ter qual­ity and more con­sid­er­ate ser­vice. The medicine and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ther­apy in the hos­pi­tal also prom­ise the pa­tients a pleas­ant body care.”

Cor­dova added that more ad­vanced medicine, med­i­cal ap­pa­ra­tus and in­stru­ments in the United States are rea­sons given for more over­seas pa­tients.

Con­sid­er­ing the lack of a med­i­cal visa for Chi­nese in­di­vid­u­als who want to travel to the United States for med­i­cal treat­ment, the hos­pi­tal main­tains it will use its good re­la­tion­ship with the U.S. gov­ern­ment to make sure Chi­nese pa­tients com­ing to their hos­pi­tal re­ceive tourist visas with­out too many bar­ri­ers.

“It is also our obli­ga­tion to make sure the Chi­nese pa­tients get here and get back home safely within the per­mit­ted stay, is­sued un­der the doc­tor’s judg­ment,” said Wang.

“Most peo­ple used to come to Los An­ge­les to visit the amuse­ment parks and the beau­ti­ful beaches, but now they can also travel two miles from Hol­ly­wood to Los An­ge­les Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal for a bet­ter body treat­ment,” said Cor­dova.

“We want to en­cour­age more peo­ple from China to visit our city, not just as tourists to go to places like Dis­ney­land,” said Garcetti, in Guangzhou. “We have the finest hos­pi­tals in the world and we want to pro­mote health travel, which can help with the health sec­tor here in China,” he said.

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