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From air ambulances to AI ‘Watson’--Gachon University Gil Medical Center provides everything
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.09.19 06:30
  • Updated 2017.09.19 11:41
  • comments 0

This is the second of a four-part series on Korean hospitals designated by the government as suitable for attracting foreign patients. – Ed.

Founded by Dr. Lee Gil Ya, Gachon University Gil Medical Center in Incheon started off as a small obstetrics and gynecology clinic in 1958. Half a century later, it is now ranked as the top three among 10 research-driven hospitals in Korea with 20 specialized medical centers, 48 clinical departments and three research institutes sprawled across its campus.

Gil Medical Center prides itself in several of their centers receiving various awards. Its Emergency Medical Center, for one, earned the top grade for 14 consecutive years from the Ministry of Health and Welfare보건복지부 (MOHW) ever since the ministry began its yearly evaluations.

An aerial view of Gachon University Gil Medical Center's campus.

The Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service건강보험심사평가원 (HIRA) also bestowed the top grade for Gil’s Cancer Center in 2013, which was designated as a regional cancer center for the first time among private university hospitals.

Gil’s Cancer Center was the nation’s first hospital to introduce an artificial intelligence (AI) called “Watson for Oncology Clinic” in 2016. The AI has extensive medical knowledge and database that develops itself through time and experience with each patient.

Watson’s ability to quickly assess treatment options for an individual patient based on medical evidence and clinical guidelines will expedite the process of cancer diagnosis and treatment by understanding patient’s conditions and formulating treatment options to select personalized treatment plans. When the AI offers any solutions, one of the specialized doctors inside the room can take up on its advice into their analysis for the patient.

Watson's consulting room

Gil’s Cancer Center also introduced “Novalis Tx”—a super-precision radiation cancer treatment device for the first time in Asia-- that performs customized treatments according to the condition of the patient and the characteristics of the tumor.

Gil’s Regional Trauma Center has treated emergency patients in the west coast of the peninsula for the past 15 years and established many emergency medical services such as air ambulance, or “Doctor Helicopter,” in 2011. Many also call the service “a flying emergency room” that transfers emergency patients who live in remote areas such as islands and mountains where vehicles cannot reach.

Gil Center's air ambulance.

This unique service provides rapid emergency treatment inside the helicopter where a doctor and a medical technologist are stationed to treat patients immediately. Gil’s telemedicine center also cooperates with the Coast Guard for hospital ships.

Last year, Gil Medical Center began to set up telemedicine systems for remote medical checkups in Peru between the Cayetona Heredia Hospital and three local maternity health centers located on the outskirts of Lima.

International Healthcare Center

Gil’s International Healthcare Center opened its doors in 2008 to serve international patients, from online consultation to safely returning them home after providing necessary treatments. The center has medical coordinators who can speak fluently in English, Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese for one-on-one customized services. They also assist in hotel reservation, cell phone rental, doctor’s appointment, operation schedule, and recovery.

Gil Center's International Healthcare Center

Not only does the International Healthcare Center provides a broad range of customized check-up programs, such as basic health check-up or cancer screening packages, but also programs for women such as endometrial cancer screenings and infertility tests.

Dr. Kim Woo-kyung김우경 is the vice-president of external affairs, who firmly believes that Gil Medical Center has secured a robust infrastructure for foreign patients to provide convenient and safe treatments.

“On top of this, we carry out various activities to increase overall service quality to patient care, which includes in-hospital education for our staff, and medical charity work in impoverished countries which made us believe that the health-welfare ministry trusted us to designate our hospital for foreign patients,” Kim told Korea Biomedical Review.

Kim worked in Gil’s International Healthcare Center since it opened and had been treating a minimum of 10-15 patients a day, mostly Russians, Kazakhs, and Ukrainians.

Dr. Kim Woo-Kyung, vice-president of external affairs.

“We have not had a lot of Chinese patients, to begin with because their focus is mainly on plastic surgery in local clinics, whereas university hospitals such as this one are for reconstructive surgery,” he said. “We had a lot of Mongolian patients, but since their economic recession last year, their number has decreased.”

Kim added although there have been ups and downs, many patients felt satisfied and loved the sincere attention when medical coordinators stay in touch with them after returning to their home country

Asked if there was an increase of patients since the designation by the government, Kim replied that since their accreditation began last month, it’s still too early to say about any positive effects taking place. “It will certainly take some time to see any beneficial effects because the awareness of this accreditation is still small.”

He added that he hopes to see the government promote the accreditation more aggressively to attract an increasing number of foreign patients. “Right now, I think that each institution has its duty to advertise itself to play a bigger role.”


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