Taiwan Business Report 2018

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Discovery Reports

Chang Gung Memorial Hospital heals the world with excellent health care system

  • World-renowned Chang Gung Memorial Hospital is Taiwan’s largest health care provider
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 9:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 9:03am

Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports

Hundreds of thousands flock to Taiwan not to see the Taipei 101 skyscraper or the National Palace Museum, but to seek medical care. For the past years, the country has been at the forefront of the booming medical tourism in Asia, and for good reason.

Many global media groups including CNN, The New York Times, National Geographic and The Economist agree that Taiwan has one of the best health care systems in the world.

Our hospital is for everyone. The patient’s well-being is our top priority, and the quality of our service remains consistent regardless of patient attributes such as financial status or education
Dr Cherng Wen-jin, chairman

Patients worldwide have taken notice, and have come to the country to take advantage of Taiwan’s top-notch doctors, facilities, competitive rates and excellent customer service – all of which have been passionately pursued by the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (CGMH).

“Our hospital is for everyone,” says chairman Dr Cherng Wen-jin. “The patient’s well-being is our top priority, and the quality of our service remains consistent regardless of patient attributes such as financial status or education.”

Founded 42 years ago by philanthropic brothers Wang Yung-ching and Wang Yung-tsai, CGMH has grown from strength to strength to become the largest health care provider in Taiwan today.

Accommodating an average of 8.6 million outpatient visits, and around 370,000 admissions, every year, the hospital is estimated to have served a third of Taiwan’s overall population.

As the world’s largest health facility accredited by the Joint Commission International, CGMH comprises a network of seven hospital branches located in Linkou, Taipei, Taoyuan, Keelung, Yunlin, Chiayi and Kaohsiung.

Such network further expands to include Chang Gung University, Chang Gung University of Science and Technology, Acute Hospitals, Chronic Hospitals, Chang Gung Nursing Home, and Chang Gung Health and Culture Village. The hospital’s presence extends into China through Xiamen CGMH and Beijing Tsinghua CGMH.

“We especially focus on three highly important patient needs – emergency situations, the gravely ill and the rare difficult cases,” Cherng says. “These crucial medical concerns define our role in the health care industry.”

World-leading medical expertise

To address such needs, CGMH integrates treatment across several disciplines. The hospital boasts 69 treatment centres spanning various fields from craniofacial and reconstructive surgery, and kidney and liver transplantation, through to Parkinson’s disease, neurosurgery and cancer treatment.

“We keep medical service, research, education and quality consistently up to global standards and put significant investment and effort into research, and the education of our physicians,” Cherng says.

Every year, CGMH allocates more than NT$4 billion (HK$1.02 billion) for research, and publishes nearly 2,500 articles in world-famous journals. With a special focus on education, the hospital maintains a large pool of educator physicians to train health care professionals across its different departments.

The hospital has adopted the physician researcher system, wherein doctors are paid to spend as much as two-thirds of their hospital time to study or pursue research work.

To give this endeavour solid support, CGMH has set up the Chang Gung Medical Education Research Centre. Led by world-famous journal chief editor Lynn Monrouxe from Great Britain, the institution focuses on topics such as professional practice and learning, particularly the development of patient-centred professionalism among health care students.

The only one of its kind in Taiwan, the centre also aims to improve doctors’ theoretical knowledge and techniques.

All these initiatives are directed to pursue a speciality system among physicians. By allowing doctors to concentrate fully on their respective fields of expertise, the hospital is able to support the rapid growth of its physicians’ technical skills.

Such dedication to excellence has made the hospital stand out globally. As early as 1984, CGMH’s liver transplant team led by Dr Chen Chao-long at the Kaohsiung CGMH in southern Taiwan made world history.

The team performed Asia’s first successful liver transplant, and set a world record in 1997 when it accomplished the first living donor transplant without a blood transfusion.

The CGMH team has completed nearly 2,000 such cases and has achieved among the world’s best one- and five-year survival rates of 96 per cent and 91 per cent respectively.

The hospital is also the first in the world to perform endoscopic surgery on the internal structure of the heart. Furthermore, CGMH has one of the biggest training centres for plastic surgery on the globe.

Its head of reconstructive microsurgery, Dr Wei Fu-chan, has been named one of the top 20 plastic surgery innovators in the world by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Proton centre offers cutting-edge cancer treatment

Facilities are up to global standards as well. In 2015, the hospital installed a NT$5 billion cancer radiation therapy instrument in the Linkou CGMH. CGMH inaugurated a similar facility in its Kaohsiung branch this year to address the needs of local patients in southern Taiwan and those from overseas. The centres have treated more than 1,400 cancer patients to date.

The proton and radiation therapy centres are pioneers in top-notch and sophisticated medical equipment. In proton therapy, the proton is first accelerated to become a high-energy beam. Then it is guided into the tumour area with precision, where a massive amount of energy is released to destroy cancer cells.

Due to the proton’s unique physical characteristics, the radiation will not reach the normal tissues beyond the specified tumour and depth. The side effects of proton therapy on normal tissues can thus be minimised.

Each treatment room is equipped with a treatment couch that has robotic arms with six degrees of freedom to correct any positional deviation detected by an image-guided positioning system. Each room also has a rotating gantry to provide a full range of flexibility so that doctors can focus on the tumour area from all directions and angles and treat patients with high precision. Patients with cancer of the brain, head and neck, oesophagus, lungs, breasts, liver, pancreas or prostate may obtain good recovery rates with little side effects by means of radiation therapy or combined with surgery and chemotherapy.

Making excellent health care accessible to everyone

World-class medical care attracts worldwide attention. Last year, the hospital network admitted more than 35,000 patients from overseas. About half of these came from mainland China, 25 per cent from Southeast Asia and the rest from countries such as Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The interest in CGMH from around the globe has been so overwhelming that the hospital established the CGMH International Medical Center dedicated to addressing the needs of foreign patients. The office provides one-on-one assistance and a single point of contact for foreign patients for all their needs from visa application and hotel booking to making appointments with CGMH doctors.

The hospital has specialists in Chinese medicine and has pursued initiatives to integrate this field of medical care with Western medicine. Cost-wise, the rates at CGMH are competitive compared to countries such as the US.

“Cardiac catheterisation may cost around US$10,000 in the US,” says director Chen Hsien-wei. “Here in Taiwan, you will spend around the same at 10,000, but in Taiwan dollars.” This is a significant cost saving.

More people are bound to benefit from CGMH as the hospital has been pursuing initiatives to expand its reach beyond Taiwan. With support from the government, the hospital has adopted a southbound policy, which seeks collaborations with health care providers in countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Malaysia. Through these cooperations, the hospitals learn from each other and create synergy for continuous growth.

Each year, CGMH trains nearly 200 doctors from other countries, giving them an opportunity to stay in CGMH for a couple of years before going back to their home countries to practise what they have learned.

Most of the attendees come from Vietnam, India, Thailand, the US and Spain, in that order. Billed as a “Train the Trainer” programme, the endeavour multiplies CGMH’s limited resources as its participating doctors are in turn able to train their colleagues back home.

“Our government plays a crucial role in our desire to go outbound and reach out to patients elsewhere,” Cherng says. “The Taiwanese government now recognises that the medical service profession is a very important aspect of its relationship with other Asian nations.”

The Taiwanese hospital network similarly welcomes collaborations with universities and research institutions as it pursues research partnerships with Chang Gung University, which is only 10 minutes away. CGMH also nurtures professional relationships with National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan and several American schools, including University of Michigan.

“Our minds are open to cooperation,” Cherng says. “With government support and our long-standing relationships across the industry worldwide, we have on hand a great opportunity to help patients outside Taiwan.”

Founders Wang Yung-ching and Wang Yung-tsai would have been truly proud. What started out as a humble foundation has grown to become an effective medium in ensuring the health of families all over the world.

“I think the key message is about respect,” Cherng says. “We may be the biggest hospital in Taiwan, and a leader in health care education, but all these will not amount to anything if we do not stand by our core corporate philosophy of having respect for everyone.”