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International patients seek HanGil Eye Hospital for a clearer future
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.09.26 06:30
  • Updated 2017.09.19 15:51
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This is the third of a four-part series on Korean hospitals designated by the government as suitable for attracting foreign patients. – Ed.

Under the bright autumn sunshine, the Healthcare Organization Accreditation award gleams like a golden mirror where it’s placed in front of HanGil Eye Hospital in Incheon.

HanGil is a “specialty eye hospital,” referring to the institution designated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to provide the best quality of medical services for highly complex conditions.

Established in March 1985, as a small eye clinic, the institution rapidly refined itself as one of the best eye hospitals in the nation with 200,000 patients last year, ranking above Samsung Medical Center and Asan Medical Center in Seoul.

Hangil Eye Hospital in Incheon.

HanGil is the first eye hospital in the nation to receive the “Healthcare Organization Accreditation” and “Eye Hospital Designation” simultaneously by the ministry in June 2011. The Health Organization Accreditations is a system where the ministry evaluates services provided by medical organizations that satisfy strict criteria.

Their facilities contain five specialized centers—Cataract and primary eye care, Retina, Glaucoma, Cornea and Refractive surgery, Oculoplastic and Orbital surgery—and two clinics for Amblyopia (lazy eye) and dry eyes.

Senile cataracts- a clouding of the lens in the eye from old age which leads to a decrease in vision- is the most sought out surgery in HanGil, which performed 5,411 operations last year alone. The Retina Center is also a popular department that requires experienced surgeons for specialized operations that differs in each patient.

HanGil has state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, but its crown jewel is the 1.3 billion won ($1.5 million) instrument called the real-time intraoperative Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), the only machine in Korea. The device allows the surgeon to see the surgical field in both a planar view and a cross-sectional view simultaneously in real time, by allowing doctors to take videos, snapshots, and 3-D OCT images without looking up or stopping the surgery.

“The institution manages multiple eye disorders on the same day, making it very convenient for patients to have all of their ophthalmic disorders treated in quick conditions,” said Dr. Lee Sang-Eun, the medical treatment chief of HanGil, who has conducted over 4,900 surgeries.

HanGil's International Healthcare Center is currently renovating to provide waiting rooms on every floor.

Although HanGil’s International Healthcare Center has no specific doctors, 24 specialized ophthalmologists are available at the whim of international patients. The hospital is also renovating the international center to provide waiting rooms for foreigners on every floor of the hospital.

Lee describes his routine with international clients where he checks their medical records before scheduling the surgeries as soon as possible. “HanGil does not depend on travel agencies or brokers to connect our patients; we advertise ourselves on the Internet or the local newspaper. We also receive patients through our international branches.”

HanGil’s international patients mostly come from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries such as Tajikistan, Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan where specialized doctors are hard to find. Out of 30-40 patients a month, three or four patients are from native English-speaking countries who reside in Korea.

“Patients stay in Korea for a week or up till a month to recover, receive a final check-up, before leaving for their home country completely satisfied,” Lee said. “We provide a ‘total care system’ where we pick our patients up from the airport, provide accommodations in several hotels to let them choose, and, if needed, send our Russian or English translator for any assistance.”

Other special services include a foreign patient-exclusive counter for the reception, payment, and issuance of documents that are immediately processed without any waiting, rental services for laptops, and international television channels.

Dr. Lee Sang-eun, an ophthalmologist in HanGil Eye Hospital.

“We believe that communication in our services is important because there are frequent cases of our patients coming back to Korea again after their surgeries,” Lee added. “For example, it’s common for patients who received tear duct surgery to come back after a year or two because tissue grows back, blocking the drainage system.”

Asked about the hospital’s future goals, Lee expressed his wishes in helping more patients from America, Southeast Asia, and Arab countries. “One of our aims is signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a local eye clinic in Kazakhstan. With their help, HanGil can aid more international patients,” he said.


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