Q & A with healthcare giant Aster DM Healthcare

You can tell a lot about a company based on the people who represent it. That’s why after healthcare conglomerate Aster DM Healthcare announced that it’s taken interest in the Philippines, I took the opportunity to ask Director Alisha Moopen and Country Manager Joyce Socao-Alumno a few questions.

Aster DM HealthcareRepresentatives of healthcare conglomerate Aster DM Healthcare answer questions about what they will do – and what they can do – for the Philippines.

I mentioned how Aster DM Healthcare plans to collaborate – not to compete – with pre-existing hospitals and medical institutions. Is this just a euphemism of the truth?

Alumno, Manager of Aster DM Healthcare in the Philippines, says it isn’t. “There are several underserved communities that we need to attend to. An ambulatory clinic cannot do much [for them]. They need to be sent to hospitals and that's where the collaboration comes. We will also partner with the HMOs.

“Competition only exists when there is a low demand for something. But here in the Philippines, the demand is high.”


Aside from ambulatory clinics, what does Aster DM Healthcare plan to bring to the Philippines?

Alumno mentions the use of more efficient technology in the form of electronic medical records (EMR). “EMR is paperless. There will be no need for the patient to tell [one doctor after another] about what happened to him in the past. No need to try to remember what was done and what [was taken].”

med techAster DM Healthcare promises to bring in better technology and better services.

The goal of EMR: A seamless delivery of care if the patient comes from within Aster DM Healthcare’s network, courtesy of a centralized database.

But we already have EMRs in the Philippines, you might say. That’s not the case for many institutions, including the flagship hospitals of the country. Aster DM Healthcare just might set an example worth emulating.

Samie Lim of Casam Holdings, Inc., owning 10 percent of Aster DM Healthcare’s clinic network in the metro, mentions something every patient can relate to: shorter waiting times.

“Queuing in other places is so terrible,” Lim says. “We don't know when we will be called. There are best practices to be observed.”


What are these “best practices”?

Moopen elaborates. “There are three things that we focus on. One is clinical outcome. There are no compromises made when it comes to quality.

“Second is service excellence. There are many places you can go for medical expertise, but comfort is also important. Handholding you through that journey is very important. Everyone is handpicked to deliver that degree of care.

“Third is cost outcome. We need to make sure that [each service] is at the right price point. We start very modestly. We want to be able to extend care, not only to those who have deep pockets, but to everyone, which is why we did segmentation.” Put simply, segmentation allows people of different incomes to choose which facilities they can go to, depending on what they can afford. We adopt the promise, ‘We’ll treat you well,’ not only for patients but also for our staff and experts.

As for where Aster DM Healthcare is headed in the Philippines, Moopen has this to say: “We begin with a small center but we can quickly and rapidly grow. We start with one unit, expanding to five or six units in the first year. We can build more ambulatory clinics and a hospital as well.”

Aster DM Healthcare PH

Visit Aster Medical & Diagnostic Clinic:
G/F St. Francis Square (behind Megamall)
Dona Julia Vargas Avenue corner Bank Drive
(02) 53-ASTER
0918 88-ASTER

Aster DM Healthcare Brings “Compassionate Care” To PH

When one of the biggest medical companies in the world takes interest in our country and decides to set up shop here, what choice do we get except to say, “Hey, why not?” That’s why a month ago, I sat down and listened as Aster DM Healthcare shared with me and other members of the [traditional and new] media how they’re bringing “compassionate care” to the country, starting with Metro Manila.

Aster DM Healthcare – you’ve probably never heard of it before. I don’t blame you. It is surprising, however, that they’ve escaped our collective radars, given how they’re not exactly the kind of healthcare network merely staying in the fringes. After all, they are a conglomerate to contend with in the Middle East and also in India.

Aster DM Healthcare PHYep, ladies and gents, Goliath has come to visit David’s backyard.

Dear hospitals and medical institutions, are you feeling scared? Please have the emotional wherewithal to read this first before you suffer a panic attack. Wait until I tell you what Aster DM Healthcare has in store for everyone.


Aster DM Healthcare: Do we need them here?

On November 11, 2015, Aster DM Healthcare opened its first clinic in the Philippines. For me to explain to you what makes it a milestone, I need your undivided.

Aster DM Healthcare has its own little community – called the Aster Medical City – which happens to occupy a fort-acre island.

Okay, fine, it’s not at all “little”. They practically have their own island.

But here’s what takes the biscuit: their medical city is a quaternary care facility.

Yes, you read that right, quaternary. Here in the Philippines, we have hospitals that provide only up to the tertiary level of care.

Considering the quality of care Aster Medical City provides plus the size of the island they occupy, you now probably have a better gauge of what Aster DM Healthcare is capable of.

But why is Aster DM Healthcare’s subtle entrance into our healthcare landscape significant? Let’s take a quick look at something that happened just recently.


A peek at our own healthcare system

Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada publicly berated a doctor at the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center (OMMC) after the MD told a mother to take her child to another hospital.

Estrada said the doctor’s “indifference to patients” may be considered an “act of sabotage”, given his explicit instructions to provide complete services to patients for free.

Well, what a heartless doctor, you might think. But then again, as is the case with many interesting stories, it’s not that simple. You see, the alleged reason behind the doctor’s request was the lack of functional laboratory equipment at OMMC.

doctorsWhen the hospital doesn’t have the resources to provide quality care for patients, is it the doctors’ fault? Whose fault is it? What can be done?

In a nutshell: The government fails to provide for the hospital; ergo, the hospital fails to meet public’s needs. Doctor and patient take the fall – they both fall flat on their faces, in fact – possibly resenting each other when they should be working together to overcome the hurdles brought about by a healthcare system that has too much room for improvement.

What. A. Mess.

But I digress. Suffice to say that given how inefficiently our country provides healthcare to those who need it, we sure could use a helping hand from a company who has quaternary tricks up its sleeve.


Problem identified, solution offered

You need solid figures? You got it. “There are 1,824 hospitals for 102 million Filipinos. There’s about one hospital bed for every 1,000 Filipinos,” said Joyce Socao-Alumno, Philippine Manager of Aster DM Healthcare.

“We have a 1.6 percent population growth annually but hospitals haven't grown in the last ten years. The supply is not growing at the same pace as the demand when it comes to healthcare.”

Alumno wasn’t done – it’s not only the patients, but also the healthcare professionals who are taking a hit. “We have a surplus of 400,000 nurses, with many underemployed in the BPO. Some countries, such as the US, UK, and Canada, have stopped hiring professionals from our country due to global recession.”

How ironic. We have too many nurses and too many patients, but not enough doctors or hospitals. It is, as Metallica once sang with such angst, sad but true.

It could all go sideways real quick. However, there’s a silver lining – hey, there always is. “The Philippines has a very young population with a median age of 23 years old.”

Part 2:
How the youth is our (economic) future

Exclusive Interview with Engr Lydia Tansinsin | The Philippine Engineer Magazine

When you meet a woman considered a role model by male engineers, you pay attention. And you take notes.

That’s exactly what I did when I interviewed Engr. Lydia Tansinsin for The Philippine Engineer magazine, published by no less than the Philippine Technological Council (PTC), the umbrella organization of all engineering societies. She’s 81 but when it comes to ideas, she thinks like my 23-year-old brother!

Lydia TansinsinEngr. Lydia Tansinsin, former president of the Philippine Technological Council, was an innovative thinker.


Elevating ethics

To Engr. Tansinsin, excellence was not enough. Excellence was nothing if not achieved with ethics.

“I was president of PIChE and also president of PTC. I didn't want my position in PTC to prejudice my position in PIChE, so I wanted to resign [from the latter].”

Her initial decision to leave was partly spurred by how she and some of her colleagues did not see eye-to-eye. “However, PIChE said no. They asked me to stay, so I did.”

Her emphasis on ethics went beyond the favors of friendship. “Just because someone is my friend doesn’t mean I will favor him. If someone is late, then to me, he is late.”

She kept business relationships and friendships apart, making her capable of saying no to her friends. “My parents taught me that if I didn’t like saying no, then I should get out of the office.”

Guess who's a Bloggys 2015 finalist!

Guess which blog got nominated for the 2015 Philippine Blogging Awards, a.k.a. the Bloggys? I know the answer is so predictable given how it’s this blog that’s asking the question, but yes, it’s this blog!

I didn’t find out until about the third email sent to me by the organizers (fine, fine, I’m that kind of person who gets buried in unread emails) and even after I had found out, I did something particularly horrific.

I absolutely forgot about campaigning for votes until the voting period was already over!

2015 BloggysI was nominated for the 2015 Bloggys! #goals

Edit: I just found out that out of almost 2,700 entries, my blog was chosen as one of the finalists! Ilabas ang lechon!

Bloggys 2015 finalist

Thirty-one nominations and now, six finalists. Happy to be on this list! Congrats to all my fellow bloggers who are also Hall-of-Famers for the #Bloggys2015!

Imagine this:

2,693 entries
1,026 qualifying nominations

~ 100 finalists

6 finalists under health category
(that’s where my blog is!)

I still can’t believe it! There’s a big chance I will be in a state of disbelief until 2016.


My blogging forgetfulness: Amnesia or dementia?

I’m sure you’ve forgotten about many things in the past – where you put your keys, where that 1000-peso bill seems to have gone (even if you know you love ordering overpriced designer coffee) – but I bet your moment of dementia doesn’t beat mine.

I’m so sorry, Philippine Blogging Awards! I’ve been a delinquent 2015 Bloggys Hall-of-Famer!


Bloggys who?

To be honest, I never heard of the Bloggys until this year when I received an email about my nomination. I said to myself, “Bloggys who?”

Stage Zero: Project Pink’s campaign for supportive care in breast cancer

Last month, we talked about Go Pink, an initiative by Festival Mall that helps spread awareness while also forwarding proceeds to three beneficiaries, including Project Pink. It’s time we focused on Project Pink, a breast cancer foundation in the south with a campaign that really piqued my interest: Stage Zero.

Any breast cancer patient knows what stage zero is. It’s the earliest stage in cancer, therefore carrying the best prognosis. If you get diagnosed with breast cancer, you hope it is in this stage. (Trivia: Health professionals also refer to stage zero breast cancer as ductal carcinoma in situ.)

Unfortunately, many women get diagnosed in later stages. Some aren’t aware that the changes they’re seeing in their breasts are red flags for cancer. Others are too scared to go to the doctor – getting diagnosed, after all, will change your life forever.

But that’s just it. We want to catch cancer early, before it spreads and becomes too hard to cure… before it changes your life in a way that leaves you more powerless than you should be.

stage zeroIn a way, this is exactly what Project Pink wants to accomplish: They want to teach women with breast cancer not just to survive, but also to live – to keep the cancer from “spreading” to other areas of their lives.


The value of supportive care

“We don’t want cancer to conquer the other facets of our lives,” says hospice and palliative medicine specialist Dr. Rumalie Corvera of Project Pink. “We want to highlight its definition in terms of psychosocial and spiritual aspects. We want the cancer to stay in stage zero by not ‘metastasizing’ to other aspects of life.”

There are 12 steps to Stage Zero. It actually reminds me of the program espoused by Alcoholics Anonymous.

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