May 25, 2021

Three days in a Korean hospital

This last week has been unusual for me. Over the weekend, I underwent surgery on my hip which meant I was hospitalized for three days.

The care I received in the healthcare system in Korea was extraordinary. What could have been a stressful experience proved to be quite the opposite. I am already home and working from my bed. Yes, I am taking it slower than normal for the next few days, so I will reply to e-mails a little slower than usual, but I am well on the road to recovery.

World-class physicians

Korea currently has insufficient hospital-based physicians to meet demand. Despite this, the overall standard of South Korean healthcare has been ranked as among the world's best.

For my operation, I went through the standard national health system used by local patients, and I can really vouch for that. Every physician and nurse I engaged with was not only very skilled, but also able to explain procedures in detail. This was particularly notable around the general level of understanding of technological innovation being used in the hospital. There was no question to which I didn't get a comprehensive answer. I should flag that language would have been a barrier, but a friend came to translate.

Healthcare is not-for-profit

In Korea, all hospitals are, by law, not-for-profit. Everybody in the country has equal access to healthcare. In 2018, there was a hospital on Jeju Island, which was granted approval to be for profit, however two years later, the license was revoked to protect the principle of equitable access to healthcare.

Interestingly, in spite of this principle, the major hospitals in Korea are not owned by the state. They are either owned by schools or by private companies like Samsung and Hyundai through their non-profit divisions. This point reveals an interesting aspect to Korean conglomerates; while they are known for their smartphones, TV panels or cars, their business interests extend to real estate to hospitals to almost anything you might imagine.

Looking at their investments through our search engine, they are interested across every industry

Amount invested by Samsung, Hyundai and LG in chosen industries

Innovation is surging

With an incredibly well educated workforce, significant technological breakthroughs are coming out of Korean universities. The feedback loop with hospitals, which provide informed feedback about how technologies are working in practice, is fostering a surge in healthcare innovations with practical use cases. The use of data is also critical to the innovations which are emerging, and it is no surprise that we are seeing the emergence of companies at the intersection of healthcare and digital technologies such as AI.

Here is a map of start-ups from our search engine showing AI, Healthcare and those at the interface of the two:

Of the 1,170 start-ups shown here, 62% were established in the last 5 years and have raised US$ 2 Bn since 2017.

Looking through the start-ups the search engine is finding, it's self-evident that Korea is fostering world-class start-ups not just in healthcare but beyond. My own experience this week of the healthcare system in Korea has only strengthened that conviction.

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