Published on December 6, 2007
A combination of factors in Thailand's health and medical services has led to the formation of what is claimed to be the country's first medical-specialist centre: Bangkok Mediplex.
First of all, the Public Health Ministry announced it would promote Thailand as the medical hub of Asia. Then there was a general trend in society towards better health and an improved quality of life.
These were the first things that tempted Niwat Kittichaiwong to believe there was room in this country for a new style of medical business.
Niwat, who has been in the medical and health business for six years, says he is convinced that both doctors and patients in Thailand want an alternative to the general medical system. Doctors want to have their own practices and the freedom that comes with running their own businesses, while patients need more convenient services and more time in contact with their doctors. In many countries, such as the US and Singapore, medical centres offering these opportunities have been running for years.
"Working in hospitals may have some restrictions. Many doctors I know feel their time with patients is too severely limited by the massive number of patients. For patients, the problem is one of wasted time in hospitals and a failure to receive more convenient services. So I saw the chance to do business, and I'm very confident it will go well," Niwat says.
Niwat is now managing director of Bangkok Mediplex, which will hold its grand opening next March.
He says Bangkok Mediplex will offer an alternative for patients not only seeking a cure for their ills, but also wanting to buy healthy products. The complex will bring together experienced medical specialists to operate outpatient clinics. The doctors will be able to handle minor surgical cases and will refer more complex surgical cases and emergencies to hospitals.
Bangkok Mediplex will occupy four floors of the 33-storey Nusasiri Grand Condo Sukhumvit-Ekamai. The complex will cover 7,000 square metres, with 65 per cent of its floor space occupied by medical services and supplies and the rest general retail. Commercial services will begin with the clinics but include medical-equipment shops, general retail stores, banks, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, a spa and an organic supermarket.
Nusasiri is a partner in Bangkok Mediplex, with a 50-per-cent share in the project, which has cost about Bt1 billion.
At present, about 70 per cent of the commercial area has been taken, and Niwat expects the rest to go before the end of this year.
Niwat says many doctors are interested in the project. Krung Thai Bank is the main financial institute involved in providing low-interest loans for businesses occupying the commercial areas. He believes Bangkok Mediplex will break even within five years of opening its doors.
Niwat already owns two health and medical businesses. Foremost is the Holistic Medical Centre (HMC), which is involved in offering alternative medicines. When it opened four years ago, HMC was located in All Seasons Place on Wireless Road, with a floor area of only 100 square metres. Later, to serve more customers it moved to its present location in the 253 Asoke Building, where it receives more than 60 customers a day.
Niwat also runs The Bodhi, which specialises in energising the body.
He will expand both HMC and The Bodhi to operate at Bangkok Mediplex in rooms covering 2,200 square metres. He expects HMC's customers to increase to about 150 a day, allowing the businesses to recoup the costs of shifting and expanding within five years.
Niwat says he decided to open HMC because he believes patients should have access to alternatives to medicines offered by the Thai hospital system.
Another powerful motive for opening HMC was his mother, who was ill with cancer. He says his mother was treated by conventional medicine and told she was cured. However, she felt no better, so having learned about alternative medicines from abroad, he undertook his mother's treatment with alternatives. She has since recovered.
"Conventional medicine approaches treatments according to symptoms, and I believe this is not always right. In fact, we should be protecting ourselves by balancing our bodies before illness occurs. Then our bodies can cure themselves. Alternative medicine goes directly down this path," he says.
However, he points out that HMC is not against hospital-centred healthcare. Doctors who work at HMC still use conventional medicine but believe HMC offers an alternative in its own concepts for treatment.
For instance, Niwat says HMC provides a medical technology called molecular resonance imaging technology (MRIT), which is a non-invasive and time-saving means of health testing. It provides more than 50 clinical results from bodily organs. This is appropriate for health testing when patients feel no manifestation of disease, he says. MRIT is estimated to be 85-per-cent accurate without invasive analysis or harmful radiation.
"I believe MRIT should be regarded as an advanced medical technology. Most Thai hospitals should adopt this technology for pre-illness testing," he says.
Niwat explains that HMC's present clients include celebrities, politicians, actors, models and athletes. Its customers' ages range from 2-90.
Niwat has future plans to expand the Bangkok Mediplex concept for medical-specialist centres into towns like Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya. Foreign clients are also persuading him to open clinics based on HMC in Asia - including the Middle East - and Europe.
"When I see success in Thailand, I'll expand my businesses abroad. That may be in two or three years," he says.