Robert Crone, managing director of the Huron Consulting Group and former president of Harvard Medical International, said the East-West partnerships also are beneficial to U.S. providersa growing number of which are looking to leverage their reputations for high clinical, management and educational standards into financial opportunities on the global healthcare market. Such opportunity is what prompted John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital to partner with Envita Asia Hospital, acknowledged Susan Fuchs, spokeswoman for John C. Lincoln North Mountain. They believe American healthcare is the best, and they were also looking for a partnership where U.S. physicians would be willing to go to Vietnam to train their physicians, she said.
The agreement also includes medical tourism services, so that the Phoenix-based provider will treat Envita patients referred to the hospital for stateside care.
Similar to Dubais medical free zone (Aug. 6, 2007, p. 26), the developers of South Koreas Health Care Town are wooing top U.S. teaching hospitals and medical schools in hopes of getting the providers to create treatment, education and research centers in Jeju. The developers also are looking to attract U.S. providers to set up shop in a comprehensive health-center resort that would provide alternative and elective treatments like dietary, fitness and plastic-surgery services. We are using the Dubai (medical free zone) project to benchmark our project, said Kyung-Taeg Kim, chairman and chief executive officer of the Korean governments Jeju Development Center, through an interpreter.
But while such partnerships may indeed modernize healthcare services in these Asian countries, both Cheng and Crone say it remains to be seen whether they will expand services to the masses. In countries where there is a large infusion of foreign capital what very often happens is investment in the larger healthcare market gets displaced, Cheng said. Governments see modernization as preferable and so they invest their money and energy to build high-tech facilities instead of expanding primary care.
Such scenarios could create two-tiered healthcare systems where wealthy and urban residents have access to a higher standard of care, but the larger populations still lack services, Crone said. Frankly, none of this is going to be widely effective until we have established in these economies insurance products that provide access for all to care, he said.
Crone added that, in light of the current global economy, it also could become increasingly difficult to finance such large-scale partnerships between Eastern and Western providers. Certainly, given the financial challenges of the last few weeks, projects that require a $200 million to $300 million capital investment arent as feasible, he said. But those projects that grow organically, such as additions and upgrades to existing facilities, will likely continue.