The setting within a hospital is everything. It can help to make international patients feel relaxed as they are at home, especially if they have travelled a long way. Dr Chatchai Arthur Yachantha, Division Director for Patient Experience & Engagement Services at Bumrungrad International Hospital, shares how the hospital “shapes better experiences” for patients, depending on their geographical and cultural origins.
“Most of the time, patients usually feel welcomed as they feel they are at a hotel that has an expert medical team and it is our mission to create such an experience and maintain them with comfort,” says Dr Yachantha. Bumrungrad is renowned in Thailand as being a key medical tourism player and the first hospital to be accredited by Global Healthcare Accreditation outside of the United States.
For instance, apart on the focus on regional patients in CLMV, Thailand welcomes tens of thousands of medical tourists from the United Arab Emirates. At Bumrungrad, trained medical interpreters who have previously lived in Arabic countries are on hand 24/7 to assist them. The hospital creates an environment based on Arabic patients’ preferences; there are interpreters on hand; and they are served Arabic beverages, Dr Yachantha explains.
“Anything around the patient’s ecosystems – we take care of their relatives, the scenery, specific wards, anything that applies to their cultures. This is to comfort them as they have travelled along the way from distance,” he says. “Our thought is simple: we understand how their journey begins, and we support the best way to make them feel better while receiving treatment and aid them in the fastest recovery possible before returning home.”
“Remote cultural support” is important for them too, Dr Yachantha stresses. For medical tourists, it is key to have constant communication even before they set foot in Thailand. This means that “the feeling of service provision has to last for several days”. Physicians and care teams work with remote medical interpreters to communicate with the patient to ensure good understanding, and this is provided free-of-charge to ensure the continuum of care, he continues.
The little thoughtful touches add to the entire experience, according to Dr Yachantha. The hospital also keeps touch over Customer Satisfaction Surveys, mobile apps such as WhatsApp, and telemedicine, ensuring a seamless experience. Each patient is assigned “personal helpers” who support them and their families on a daily basis; and they are greeted with welcome cards and health gifts when they get to their wards.
One way that the hospital keeps innovating is to learn from other global and regional medical tourism players, such as Mayo Clinic, Vinmec Group, Parkway Pantai, and Raffles Medical Centre, he goes on to say. At the same time, Bumrungrad conducts service design workshops with multidisciplinary experts who works with patients “to understand how they currently deploy the service, what are their basic background, what will happen to the patient, what have been communicated to patient, and what experience they expect”, Dr Yachantha remarks.
Exercises like these are useful for identifying pain points of the patient’s journey from their home countries to the hospital. Hospital staff work in teams, roleplaying as patients and problem solvers, to determine how best to serve international patients’ needs.
These various elements are woven together to shape how the patient interacts with the hospital at every step, ensuring that they feel supported when they are most vulnerable. Ultimately, it is crucial to engage patients as much as possible, Dr Yachantha concludes.