Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sophisticated technology is not always costly

ONE day during a game of golf, Alvin Tumiwa suddenly felt that he could hardly breathe. Alvin, who works in the capital market, subsequently underwent a treadmill test and lung checkup in Jakarta and nothing was found to be out of order.

Suspecting that something may really be wrong with his health he decided to fly to Singapore for a thorough checkup. “After a series of tests, including a CT scan of the heart, I was extremely shocked to learn that 65 percent of my main artery is clogged,” he said. This is a serious problem that could result in the 48 year old having a heart attack.

Alvin is not the only Indonesian to rely on health checkups in Singapore, because the city-state has advanced technology in its hospitals. There is a large number of hospitals in Singapore that specialize in heart disease, and this year Alvin is one of the approximately 4,000 patients that have been treated with Singapore’s highly sophisticated technology.

According to Dr Lim, Director of Singapore Heart, Stroke and Cancer Center, medical science has advanced significantly, especially in medical scanning. The Multislice Computed Tomography (MSCT), for example, is highly recommended as a substitute for the invasive angiography. “The MSCT technology has been quickly accepted as an alternative for conventional angiography due to its capability,” explained Dr Lim, who in 1995 performed the first carotid artery stenting in Asia.

One of this new technology’s superior features is that it is able to scan the heart in a few seconds and produce a clear image of the problematic area.

According to Dr Lim, the MSCT produces a three-dimension scan as well as accurate information regarding the location of any blockage, its condition and measurement Based on such data, a heart surgeon can preplan up to a stage that has never been heard of before. “Thanks to MSCT, nowadays in the operation room we know what to look for, what to do and when to do it,” he said.

However, MSCT is more than a tool for surgery planning. One of its greatest advantages is that it is noninvasive. Dr Lim elaborated further that the level of complication for patients having an MSCT is almost zero, which is much lower than the conventional angiogram. “With a conventional angiogram, the doctor inserts a tube into the artery to discover the problem. In 15 percent of cases this procedure causes a passive or silent stroke,” Dr Lim explained. Apart from that the latest CT scanner emits a low level of radiation similar to an angiogram.

Besides being a safer surgery procedure, the S$2 million MSCT plays another important role as it is preventive rather than curative. “Most people that suffer heart attacks do not show any early symptoms for quite some time. So previously when someone had a heart attack, the doctor would attempt to repair the damage while today using MSCT we can take corrective measures before the heart attack occurs,” he said.

And it is not only heart disease that is treated using the latest medical technology as other diseases such as those related to beauty enhancement get similar treatment. The Vein Clinic, for instance, has for quite some time applied the latest technology to treat veins, from diagnosis to removing spider veins using laser and non-surgical treatment for critical varicose veins. The Vein Clinic is known for its service in vein solutions with the revolutionary Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), a procedure that does not involve surgery.

Spider veins and varicose veins are the abnormal swelling of blood vessels. Besides being unattractive, varicose veins can be extremely dangerous because they may be related to one or more of the following developments: inflammation of vein, blood clots and skin ulcers.

At the Vein Clinic, micro-sclerotherapy with vein-lite is available, which is a sophisticated trans-illumination technology to visualize veins. The Vein Clinic uses vein-lite to locate spider veins in order to remove them accurately.

Next to micro-sclerotherapy, the clinic also has duplex ultrasound scanning to accurately detect leg valve disorders; phebectomy mini-ambulatori, which is a method to remove varicose veins in the legs and to remove varicose veins without stitches but using intense pulsed light for safer surgery in the removal of spider veins; vein wave, which is an exclusive method to remove a vein effectively with needles and relatively without pain.

Another medical center in Singapore that attracts international patients is the Singapore Medical Specialists Centre (SMSC). The SMSC provides medical care to busy individuals, in which full health screening with results and diagnostic reports can all be done at the center and completed in a few hours.

In short, hospitals in Singapore are competing with each other to enhance their medical technology and their services. The reason is the 581.5-square-kilometer city-state with its population of less than 4.5 million is doing its very best to attract patients from all over the world, especially Asia.

Malaysia is doing very much the same thing as many of its hospitals are equipped with various sophisticated technology. Some areas like Malacca and Penang are offering medical tours to attract foreign tourists. It is not surprising, therefore, that today Malaysia is considered one of the most attractive destinations for medical tours along with several other Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, India and China.

Indeed, these countries are attractive destinations for medical tours because for patients from Europe, the United States and the Middle East the cost is relatively low and there is easy and convenient access to medical services. The low cost does not mean that the aforementioned countries do not have the latest medical technology. Thailand, for example, is well known for its capability in various complicated surgeries, beauty care as well as alternative medical programs like spas and Eastern traditional medication.

According to Kenneth Mays, marketing director of Bumrungrad International Hospital, the high standard of Thailand’s medical care and service has drawn the attention of numerous foreign tourists. “We offer an ideal combination of medical care and service both at government as well as private hospitals. In view of the cost, Americans certainly prefer to come here because the cost is 60 to 80 percent lower than in the United States.” (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, October 14, 2010

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