On April 29, 2019, Compare Retreats and Miskawaan Health Group hosted a fireside chat on the topic of medical wellness tourism. The panel included Mr David Boehm, Co-Founder and CEO of Miskawaan Health Group; Dr Johannes Wessolly, co-founder and medical director of Miskawaan Health Group; Dr Stephen Chan, Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Clinical Oncology at Chinese University Hong Kong, and was led by television journalist and TicToc Producer at Bloomberg Rosalie e’Silva, known for her work with CNN, Al Jazeera, and NBC News. Covering everything from dealing with stress to the pros of natural medicine, these are some of the things you missed on the night.
Medical Wellness Tourism
As a relatively new term, the panel first discussed what exactly is medical wellness tourism? “Medical wellness tourism is when you take a trip somewhere you want to enjoy a vacation, but at the same time you can find out about your own state of health,” said Mr Boehm. Differing from medical tourism, where a patient travels to have a specific operation, or wellness tourism where a person travels to improve their health through fitness, dieting or spa programmes, medical wellness tourism combines the two: using diagnostic testing, doctors at Miskwaan’s medical health centre can help patients discover markers for serious but preventable diseases, as well as highlight intolerances, allergies or weaknesses in the body that can be improved through small lifestyle changes. “We look at all those different parameters, and if there are any concerns, we can deal with them before it actually happens or becomes a major concern. We say that we don’t just add years to your life, we add life to your years.” The other panellists highlighted environmental factors like pollution and high stress as other factors making prevention of lifestyle diseases necessary.
Modern medicine can learn a thing or two from the more holistic ancient practices, says Dr Chan. “Doctor’s see patients as a diagnosis. It’s good we can define the disease so you can give treatment. But we are a whole body. If you focus on one part only, you may miss other parts of the body.” By treating a patient as a whole rather than a single injury or disease, doctors can give patients overall wellness and perhaps remove the root cause of the illness to prevent it recurring—for example, issues with the immune system can be the cause of many illnesses. Dr Chan also highlighted that rigid treatment protocols removed the personalised aspect that holistic medicine provides, where each treatment is tailored to the individual. Dr Wessolly added, “A good doctor should listen. It’s a big problem. A patient comes with an issue to a doctor, sees him for five minutes, and leaves with a prescription. That’s not medicine. The first talk I have with a patient is at least one, sometimes two hours.” Dr Wessolly went on to explain that modern medicine and natural medicine can collaborate to give patients the best chance of positive results.
DNA testing has been rising in popularity in recent years, and this forms the backbone of Miskawaan’s testing when it comes to medical wellness. “You have to think what does your body need to function. We check genes, the immune system, and hormones. One big issue is hormone therapy: many diseases in woman and men, like high blood pressure, chromatic pain, and depression can be related to a hormone deficiency.” Up until this year, the testing performed by Miskawaan was only found in Germany, but it’s expanding in Thailand and soon Hong Kong. Conversely, when it comes to cancer diagnostics, Dr Chan pointed out that most conventional diagnostics will be unable to identify early-stage cancers: “The reality of most cancers are we cannot diagnose them early.” While there are some tests for specific cancers—such as liver, lung, cervical—there are many that don’t have specialised screening tests, and blood tests will not present signs of most cancers. Dr Chan and Dr Wessolly agree in an attitude of prevention: living a healthier lifestyle to minimise the risks.
Ditch the sugar
If you’re going to take one preventative measure against ill-health, ditch sugar. Dr Wessolly, when working with patients who are fighting cancer, often recommends patients to avoid carbohydrates, specifically sugars, when they’re getting treatments like chemotherapy. “Cancer cells love sugar. We encourage people to eat fewer carbohydrates, to avoid feeding the cancers.” Dr Wessolly’s therapies for cancer treatment are designed to make the medical procedures the patient undergoes more effective. The natural medicine he prescribes usually supplements a modern medical treatment, and can include a variety of tested non-chemical, plant-based ingredients that have been tested against the patient’s specific variety of cancer. The prescription can also include lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to help boost the immune system.
We all know stress is bad for us, but just how bad is it? Dr Chan observed that he typically sees a higher rate of recurrence in cancer patients who have high-stress jobs or lives, while Mr Boehm highlighted that stress monitoring was a potential trend to look for in wellness tech. “I’ve got an Apple Watch on my wrist that tells me my heart beat, my blood pressure, all kinds of indicators to wellness… a big issue in our lives now is stress, and in the future, I’m sure you’re going to be able to measure your stress levels too.” Being able to monitor stress levels would help people notice their stress triggers, and deal with them more immediately through calming techniques like meditation or breathing exercises, rather than allowing the stress to build into something more toxic and potentially damaging.
What’s the future of medical wellness tourism? Education, says Mr Boehm. “Not many people know this kind of thing exists. They know about medical tourism, they know about health spas, but to actually go on a vacation and find out about your body, that’s something new. This is the future of global health care.” Miskawaan is currently developing an app that will help people to store their health records, which can help users to monitor their health and interact more personally with their doctors. “Whatever you can imagine will be the future,” said Mr Boehm “and our goal is to take that journey with you.” Dr Wessolly added, “I don’t know where [medical wellness] is going, but we are going after it.”