Korea is the leading country for clinical trial cases and ranks as Asia’s best in international medical journal publications Image Credit: KHIDI

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Patients visiting Korea can rest assured of benefiting from the treatment and care provided by some of the world’s foremost medical specialists at hospitals that have gained global recognition

Korea is emerging as a new leader on the global healthcare market through quality services, advanced medical technologies, relatively affordable medical costs, fast and efficient diagnostics and therapeutic services, cutting-edge hardware and IT-based infrastructure. Medical Korea stands for Smart Care and has been set up by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), which works through conferences, exhibitions and other promotional activities to promote Korean healthcare facilities including traditional medicine for medical tourists.

Korea’s highly specialised doctors provide top-tier treatment for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, spinal disc injuries, organ transplantation, dentistry, cosmetic surgery, dermatology and more.

Korea is the leading country for clinical trial cases and ranks as Asia’s best in international medical journal publications. Data provided by the US government agency National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals that while Korea ranked sixth globally, Seoul was named the city with the most clinical trials last year.

Most Korean hospitals are non-profit organisations, putting patient safety and satisfaction ahead of profits.

The Korean government has strict regulation over hospitals to ensure optimum medical services. Patients opting for treatment in Korea can rest assured of receiving optimum medical care.

Organ transplants

Korea is the top player in the world in the field of living donor liver transplantation (LDLT). According to the International Registry in Organ Donation and Liver Transplantation, in 2014, 18 patients out of a million citizens in Korea received LDLT, the largest number in the world.

The figure is over three times bigger than that of Japan and Hong Kong, where liver transplantation is more generally carried out than in any other Asian country. One Korean transplantation centre has performed 1,750 adult LDLTs with 0 per cent mortality rate of donors since 2002, which is more adult LDLTs than any other single centre in the world.

The success rate of liver transplants is at 92 per cent, which is considerably high compared to the US rate of 85 per cent. According to Korean Network for Organ Sharing, Korea has the highest 5-year survival rate of transplant patients at 87.07 per cent, higher compared to the rates in advanced countries.

The number of transplants is 3,879 in total for 2014, comprising 1,783 counts of surgery for kidney transplant, 1,259 counts for liver transplant and 55 counts for pancreas transplant.

The facilities are sanitary and follow-up treatments are convenient compared to leading nations such as China and India. In fact as per Medical Korea figures, Korea has the highest number of living donor transplantation operations per million people in the Asia Pacific region.

One of the bone marrow transplantation (BMT) centres in Korea has been recognised as the world’s best BMT centre for treating leukaemia with all efforts put in to be the best in care, treatment and transplantation.

Cancer treatment

The 5-year survival rate of cancer patients in Korea is the highest compared to other advanced countries such as the US, Canada and Japan. Medical treatment includes services such as fast cure and surgery, as well as customised health programmes for patients.

Korean medical institutions possess medical techniques equivalent to those of other advanced countries in the fields of stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and uterus cancer.

The five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer in Korea is 100 per cent, and 93.3 per cent for prostate cancer. Besides, Korean medical personnel have the most clinical trial experience in breast cancer, bronchial cancer and lung cancer among medically advanced nations.

Cardiac and coronary treatment and care

The death rate for all cardiac related surgery is only 0.6 per cent with inherent heart disease at 1.6 per cent, acquired valve disease at 3.1 per cent, coronary artery disease at 0.2 per cent, and arrhythmia at 0 per cent. The death rate for coronary artery diseases in Korea is the second lowest, closely following Japan among the OECD countries.

Spinal diseases

Spinal diseases are common, with 80 per cent of the world’s population being diagnosed at least once in their lives.

Spine surgery in Korea costs less and has shown a lower recurrence compared to other advanced countries. Korea has the most studies on minimally invasive spinal surgery and scoliosis, among degenerative spinal diseases in the world.

Infertility

Korean hospitals possess unrivalled techniques in infertility treatment. Medical skills regarding infertility, medication for men, drug treatment for sexual dysfunction and hysterectomy are close or on par with advanced countries.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) are essential in the treatment of infertility globally. In Korea, the first IVF baby was reported in 1985 by Professor Chang Yoon Seok at Seoul National University Hospital.

Since then Korea has been a leader along with the US, Europe and Japan in different aspects of ART.

At present, over 150 clinics nationwide are registered IVF centres in Korea, which has also emerged as a leader in in-vitro maturation (IVM) technology and its success. In fact, in 1989, for the first time in the world, CHA fertility centre in Korea succeeded in pregnancy and delivery after in-vitro maturation and fertilisation of human follicular oocytes collected from non-stimulated cycles.

Korea has continued to work on improving culture conditions for oocyte IVM with a goal of improving IVF outcomes. Consequently, IVM has become a promising option in the field of ART.

Korea has also been a pioneer in reproductive medicine using cryopreservation techniques such as vitrification (rapid freezing) for over 20 years.

Other medical treatments

Korea is known for its export of world-class implant materials. In 2015, Korea was recognised as the third-largest market for plastic surgery in the world, next only to the US and Brazil.

Customised counselling centres, multilingual coordinators, state-of-the-art equipment and one-stop service from arrival to departure have ensured that there is a continuous increase of foreign patients inspired by the “Korean Wave” phenomenon and seeking aesthetic surgery in Korea.

Ophthalmology clinics in Korea do their utmost to increase the success rate using state-of-the art equipment and techniques. Eye correction surgery in Korea is possible on the same day as the examination through systematic and precise examinations.

Comprehensive medical check up

Medical examination in Korea includes MRI, Cl, colonoscopy and endoscopy, fields that are usually not covered in other countries. This enables the patient to receive a thorough and comprehensive check-up of his/her health condition.

Colonoscopy and endoscopy can be done simultaneously through the endoscope. Any discovered polyps can be removed during procedure.

The results of the check-up are revealed the same day with follow-up treatments directly accessible after screening. Korean hospitals have considerable expertise on such medical examinations as the Korean government ensures as part of policy that every Korean citizen should receive an annual medical check-up through their national health insurance system.

Traditional Korean Medicine

Korean Medicine is a branch of medicine practiced in Korea and is today part of a national health system.

The main difference between Korean Medicine and modern medicine is that the former sees the body as an entire organism, not as the sum of separate body parts.

Therefore, Korean therapy focuses on maintaining constancy in the patient’s body. In recent times, Korean Medicine hospitals are not only practicing acupuncture, herbal medicine and other non-medication physical therapies, but also focusing on a Korean-western medicine collaboration system in order to provide more effective treatments. Thus, by integrating traditional and modern approaches, Korean Medicine constitutes an exemplary case of a national health system that encompasses complementary and alternative approaches.

Traditional medicine in Korea has its own set of treatments, hospitals and prescriptions and that are comparable with western medicine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised hanbang, or traditional Korean medicine, as valid medicine. Traditional Korean medicine involves identifying the physical constitution of each patient, and finding the right (customized) care and prescription accordingly.

It also uses more natural treatments such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, and moxibustion over artificial drug regimens of antibiotics and painkillers. Practitioners of traditional medicine are as highly qualified as western medicine practioners.

Korean Medicine doctors, along with doctors and dentists, are important medical practitioners in Korea and share as many of the responsibilities and rights as medical practitioners to provide primary health care.

A person wishing to be a Korean Medicine doctor has to receive education in theory and clinical practice based on traditional Korean Medicine, as well as education related to biomedicine at a university (college) or graduate school, and pass the national licensing examination.

The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare implemented a Korean Medicine specialist system enabling medical practitioners to acquire advanced education and excellent skills in their specialties. It allows Korean Medicine doctors to accumulate more intensive clinical experience in areas requiring a high level of medical care such as acupuncture, a field of medicine that has gained in popularity in the Middle East.

The trend has given impetus to Korean acupuncture clinics to establish their outlets in the GCC and spawned the UAE International Conference of Acupuncture, hosted by Lotus Holistic Institute in collaboration with KHIDI and the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare.