Asia’s diverse cultural tapestry, combined with its rapid technological advancements, presents a unique landscape for patient experience in healthcare. Unifying the region’s distinct cultures is a shared value system centred on patient-focused service, compassion, hospitality and the paramount role of the family, all of which significantly shape the healthcare journey.
By: Joyce Nazario, CPXP, Patient Experience Excellence Head, Metro Pacific Health
The rise of Patient Experience tracks in Summits and Conferences, and even Patient Experience-specific professional groups and societies are a very clear sign we in the SE Asian region want better healthcare for our patients. This has caused substantial strides in enhancing patient experience. Advanced technologies, improved healthcare infrastructure, and an increased focus on patient-centred care have transformed the landscape. But this transformation has not occurred in a cultural vacuum. Instead, it is firmly rooted in traditional Asian values that continue to guide the region’s approach to healthcare.
Asian cultures in guiding patient experience
The cultures of Southeast Asia, while diverse, share a fundamental emphasis on service, compassion and hospitality. These values permeate all sectors, including healthcare. A patient in Asia is often treated with the same meticulous care as a guest in one’s home. This culture of service is embodied in the careful attention to detail, the dedication to creating a comfortable environment for patients, the compassion for the feelings and wellbeing of patients and their families, and respect accorded to each individual’s unique needs and preferences.
In the Philippines, the concept of family and heart is very firmly and unabashedly embedded in healthcare delivery, evidenced by prominently featuring in healthcare institution taglines. Metro Pacific Health (MPH), the largest private hospital group in the Philippines, for one, claims to be synonymous to the Heart of Filipino Healthcare, the epitome of compassionate care. In MPH we say “To the scared, we bring hope. To the confused, we provide clarity. To the anxious, we bring calm. Kindness is where we start, Filipino service that comes from the heart.”
Similarly, in Thailand, the concept of ‘Nam Jai’, or ‘water from the heart’, emphasises generosity and empathy, impacting the manner in which healthcare providers interact with patients.
Many hospitals in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam already offer hotel-like or home-like amenities – choice of pillows, special local cuisine, mood lighting, comfortable lounge beds etc for enhanced patient and family comfort. These are designed to create an environment of healing and a feeling of lightness to an otherwise stressful situation.
The role of family in healthcare decision-making
The family unit’s pivotal role in Asian societies cannot be understated, and this extends into the healthcare system. In most Asian cultures, illness is seen not just as an individual experience, but a familial one.
Healthcare decisions are often made collectively, with each family member contributing to the process – in the daily logistics of caregiving, doing research on the most optimal healthcare methods/treatments or technologies, searching for the best doctors, taking care of finances as well as providing spiritual support through prayer.
As such, healthcare providers in Asia often find themselves communicating and coordinating not just with individual patients, but with entire families.
Family-centric healthcare is becoming institutionalised, with several Asian hospitals establishing family support programs and integrating family members into care teams. Some hospitals like Cardinal Santos Medical Center in the Philippines have institutionalised Family Conferences to inform families of the patient’s progress, medical options, financial updates and next steps. This is not just a reflection of cultural norms, but also a strategic decision. Research has shown that family involvement in healthcare can improve patient outcomes and patient experience satisfaction levels.
In the Western Hemisphere, hospital visitation is strictly monitored and on a schedule. Conversely in the Philippines, except in isolation or critical care, the expectation is to have a family member available 24/7. We consider the companion or ‘bantay’ as a member of the care team.
About Joyce K. Nazario
Joyce is the first Certified Patient Experience Professional in Asia. She has been working in the Patient Experience field for 13 years, with a strong background in Patient Relations Management, PX Analytics, Operations and Strategy. She is currently the Patient Experience Excellence Head at Metro Pacific Health, the largest private hospital network in the Philippines.
She is passionate about the growing movement of Patient Experience and is an advocate and active speaker in Philippine Healthcare. She has given international keynote presentations to PX Leaders in the ASEAN region as well as Philippine Physician and Healthcare Organizations bridging Clinical Care and Patient Experience. She is also a member of the Global Steering Team on Future of Experience Measurement with the Beryl Institute, a leading PX organization in the USA.
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