‘Medical butlers’ a growing niche

HOMEGROWN human resources start-up, Medical Tourism Academy Pte Ltd (MTA), wants to train a new breed of service professionals called ‘medical butlers’, in anticipation of the growing number of foreign patients from the region.

Combining medical knowledge with concierge services, these medical butlers are essentially individuals assigned to visiting overseas patients and their families, handholding them from the point of arrival to departure.

‘There is no one vocation in existence that has the ability to meet both the healthcare and lifestyle needs of the medical traveller,’ said MTA director Walter Lee. ‘Medical butlers will be the first true hybrid service provider for the medical tourism industry.’

According to Mr Lee, some industry players may be using marketing staff to receive visiting foreign patients now, but they are usually not well-versed in medical knowledge and, therefore, may be less sensitive to needs arising from their medical conditions.

On the other hand, nurses may not be able to answer questions on where to go for sightseeing or buy a particular luxury brand.

Since its setting up in February, MTA has trained about five medical butlers for medical tourism portal FlyFreeForHealth, its associate firm.

They are equipped with mobile devices that give them access to lists of restaurants, retailers, hotels, airline information, promotional deals, medical information and support hotlines.

Encouraged by the outcome of the pilot project, Mr Lee said there are plans to offer the curriculum to third-party healthcare providers or even help enhance the skills of enrolled nurses so that they can widen their career options.

The existing curriculum ranges from seven to 14 days, depending on the level of medical knowledge the trainee already has.

Potentially, the medical butler training programme may also be customised to serve the needs of an ageing population.

As retirement villages grow in popularity, there could be a demand for medical butlers, who can be both recreational minders and caretakers.

This article was first published in The Business Times on Jun 5, 2008

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