INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE The New Frontier for Thailand’s Health Tourism
The New Frontier for Thailand’s Health Tourism
by Richard DeAndrea, MD, ND
Date Published: 1 September 2010, www.TATnews.org
Integrative Medicine emphasizes the doctor-patient relationship using the least invasive, least toxic and least costly methods. Responding to feedback from patients, partners and clients, Thailand is leading the way.
Healthcare is a basic human right. However, in many developing and, believe it or not, advanced nations it is a privilege to have world-class medical care.
Many of us feel that good health care is a gamble and a cure, “a miracle.” We feel “lucky” when we find a treatment that works or a doctor with an open mind for alternatives.
More often than not, many healing modalities are brought together by the patient. When people are suffering they will try anything. It is the patient that usually integrates treatments or combines disciplines to find relief.
In fact, more than 60 per cent of the industrialized world and more than 90 per cent of people in developing nations are already using alternative treatments as opposed to conventional or traditional approaches, according the World Health Organization.
Integrative Medicine, a seemingly new medical term, is a philosophy of healing that has existed since the dawn of civilization.
Integrative Medicine involves using the best of both worlds, from the conventional to
the alternative. It is not just a philosophy of East meets West, but the union of nature
and technology to accentuate healing. Dr William Hitt, nominated for a Nobel Prize
in medicine was a devout believer in Integrative Medicine and was quoted saying,
“whatever works best wins.”
Integrative Medicine is open to the use of any treatment to find a solution that has evidence for effectiveness, without causing harm.
Integration involves activating the body's innate healing response, encouraging self-healing or regeneration.
Integrative Medicine emphasizes that each person has a unique healing process and that the caregiver's attention to the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of the individual is fundamental.
Integrative Medicine encourages disease prevention through self-care education, because prevention is the cure.
The key that has stamped the approach of integration into the hearts of the world citizen is the simple fact that the treatments are customized to meet the significant challenges of the individual. We all want to heal, but each of us has a unique path or experience through which we shift awareness from dis-ease to a state of ease.
Access to healthcare has always been a great challenge for people who are financially limited and has not been a concern for most advanced nations, until the advent of the worldwide economic crisis.
State policy-makers around the world are fast waking up to the fact that they will simply not have the resources or the political infrastructure to provide universal healthcare to their citizens.
In the US, it is estimated that it will cost one trillion US dollars to provide universal healthcare and by the year 2020 the United Kingdom, as well, will need to spend one trillion US yearly to keep socialized medicine alive.
This has led to cuts in healthcare, decreases in research funding and a movement away from world-class ideas that could alter the status quo. For example, Stem Cell therapy, the use of cellular functional medicine, autoimmunization and oxygen therapies although not readily instituted in the West have been proven in 19 countries and hundreds of universities worldwide.
In many cases it is the bureaucracy of traditional entrenched government policy that delays access of these therapies, not because they are unproven, but because it takes time to filter down to the average physician, sometimes ten years for a single herbal remedy. In the case of some breakthroughs, patients are forced to seek out proven advances on their own initiative.
Although integration can save money, there is a strong pharmaceutical influence in the West that has driven and continues to drive countries away from the least costly, less toxic, less invasive means of treatment as a solution.
The former Vice-President of Glaxo pharmaceuticals stated, “We now know that more than 60 per cent of the drugs used today are less than 45 per cent effective.” Meaning most chemical approaches or drug treatments are lacking in results.
The investment is made in the drug not the cure. The pharmaceutical industry has dominated and shaped the direction of modern medicine and this has lead to a disappointing escalation of chronic illnesses among the Western economic elite.
Consequently, the people in the West are frustrated and are searching for a place in the world that is affordable and has a philosophy of healing that is open to many points of view. People have resorted to outsourcing healthcare.
THAILAND - THE HEALING CENTRE OF ASIA
In the near future when a person enters, “where is the best place to heal” as a Google search the response will be: Thailand.
People want to find a place to heal that can provide good care, more options and emphasizes the happiness of the patient, rather than the profit for the shareholders of a drug company.
This place would have to be a central hub allowing ease of access and accommodation for many surrounding countries. This place must be open to many cultures, religions, languages and ideologies from around the world.
This place must have a cultural ethic that is aware of compassion as a central component in healing.
Most importantly, it must be affordable!
Thailand has a relatively stable currency and an economy that is strongly tied to the wealth of China. As a result, Thailand has seen a progressive rate of growth that is largely up to scale with the West.
On average you can get more healing for your buck when you come to Thailand. This gives a patient greater access to the best treatments.
Thailand is a nation that lives the philosophy of the Buddha, but you do not have to be Buddhist to feel welcomed. In addition, the primary goal of Buddhism is to be “happy” and it is emphasized in the Thai culture to, not upset the equanimity of another. This awareness encourages people to be at peace, to be tolerant, to be open to others and to have compassion for the suffering.
These practices are so evident in Thailand that, when you arrive at the airport, you are given a sign: “Welcome to Thailand, the Land of Smiles.” This open sense of gratitude is a breath of fresh air that leaves most people feeling they do not want to leave and it has caused many to stay.
A recent study from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) concluded that of all of the visitors who sought medical services in Thailand, 27.6 per cent flew directly from their home country to Thailand to seek integrative care, both conventional and alternative. Thailand is seeing a steady increase in interest in and demand for integrative medical care from patients from countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Europe, the United States and the Middle East.
Tourists account for another 22 per cent and expats living in Thailand account for another 50.2 per cent.
TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL VISITORS
Upon visiting Thailand, sourcing out hospitals and clinics that provide integrative options can be easier than you may think. There are many medical tourism companies and clinics that offer packages that have alternative and conventional treatments, but how does one choose?
1. Choose an integrative medical facility that has access to a hospital and spa that is fully equipped.
2. You can speak to an integrative physician directly. This can be done over the phone.
3. Work with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) or a medical tourism company that will provide you a liaison to navigate your care.
4. Call your embassy to confirm that the facility is in good standing with the Medical Society of Thailand.
5. Get an estimate of cost of care to eliminate any hidden fees and ask for a possible payment plan in the event that you are financially limited.
6. Thailand is a safe place for healing as long as a bit of time and effort goes into making the best choice. Healing has always been a journey and in the near future it will be essential for those that want access to the best of world-class medicine.
Sometimes it is necessary to go out into the world to find the healing that will move you back in the direction of optimum health.
In this new millennium all roads lead to Asia, and Thailand sits at the strategic crossroads and gateway to affordable progressive health care for the world.