Hospital Hotels

When I had an earache last year and decided to see a doctor, I was recommended one of the most well-known hospital hotels in Bangkok. So, I popped along to the Bumrungrad International Hospital and had a completely surreal experience.

The Bumrungrad is much more like a hotel than a hospital. It has reception areas that wouldn’t look out of place in the Hilton and all the customer services that you wouldn’t expect from a busy, working hospital. Usually when I go into a hospital the nurses are harried and impatient, there is an atmosphere of unspecified urgency and people bark directions at you.

But at the Bumrungrad you enter a calm, efficient and oddly pleasant space. There is even a Starbucks and McDonald’s in the building. I do have issues actually with a hospital having a McDonald’s but I guess they aren’t forcing you to binge on the unhealthy food on their premises.

I was directed to a particular floor to see a doctor, registered at reception and reclined in comfortable seating for only ten minutes before my name was called. The doctor diagnosed my problem, prescribed a particular medicine and waved me out the door in under five minutes. That did seem a little cold I have to admit. I expect a good natter with my doctor, bringing up two or three other niggling concerns I might have and just wanting to feel completely reassured that I am going to survive another year. But as this hospital is run more like a well-oiled business machine, I guess it should be no surprise that the doctors are more interested in their next appointment than in you.

However, Bumrungrad International is actually a private company, not a government initiative, so of course their main aims are profit driven. And as long as they make the experience along the way as comfortable and pleasant as possible, I won’t complain too much. The muted lighting, carefully chosen furnishings and luxurious amount of space does at least calm my nerves before going into the consultation.

A friend of mine actually had to have an operation there, and he stayed in the hospital for nearly a week. He not only ended up dating one of the nurses but raved about the standard of care. He had a private room with all mod-cons and access to wireless internet as well as a computerized personal nurse call system, which he obviously used to good effect. However, he did have full private health insurance which covered most of the costs of the operation, as it wasn’t a voluntary procedure but a necessary, emergency.

If you go on the Bumrungrad website you will see exactly what I mean with the analogy to a hotel. It has a section detailing the types of rooms you can have and the services and facilities in each, as well as room rates. There are 360º virtual tours, testimonial videos and a section for packages and promotions. Of course Thailand is a very popular destination for elective surgery, especially the plastic variety so offering such services for people who are on a type of ‘improvement holiday’ makes sense.

A short consultation with a doctor is actually quite affordable, and the pharmacy which doles out the medicines prescribed is also reasonable. For larger-scale visits however, including elective surgery and overnight stays, the price does tend to mount up, particularly for residents in Thailand. Of course, the price compares very favourably to stays in hospitals in the U.S or Europe.

So if you are looking for a corporate, wonderfully efficient environment in which to have health check-ups, operations and consultations, Bumrungrad is for you. Do be prepared to be whisked in and out of the doctor’s room in speed-of-light fashion however, and don’t expect to settle down for a good chin-wag about every twinge you have experienced over the last six months. This is business after all.