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COVER STORY: Tianjin’s Healthcare Elite: Business Tianjin meets the Tianjin United Family Hospital’s Executive Team
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altFrom the very second one steps foot into the United Family Hospital in the city’s Hexi district, the distinctive sense of comfort and professionalism is striking. Anybody who has sought healthcare in China before will undoubtedly appreciate the need for a world class hospital which operates in accordance with international standards of medical practice and customer service. Fortunately for both the expatriate and local Chinese population, the United Family Hospital provides unparalleled international healthcare right here in Tianjin. In fact, the UFH is one of three hospitals in Tianjin which the Chinese government has designated as a centre of excellence for treating foreigners. Leading this elite medical centre is General Manager Daniel Liu, Patient Service and Marketing Director Judith Cunningham, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Wang. The Editors at Business Tianjin have recently been given the opportunity to visit the United Family Hospital and meet this dynamic team of incredibly professional and hardworking staff.
 
Firstly, could you please tell us a little bit about your professional backgrounds and how you came to work for the United Family Hospital here in Tianjin?
Daniel Liu: I was born here in China and as a student I studied at Henan Medical University where I completed my degree in medicine. After graduating I was assigned a job in Beijing. I eventually moved from the hands on aspects of the medical sector, to the business side. I worked at Aventis, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, as a sales representative. Eventually I did my MBA in the United States, and since returning to China, I have worked for the Phoenix Health Group and I am now the GM of the United Family Hospital in Tianjin. It is very challenging but it is a great job and coming here was a wonderful career opportunity.
 
Judith Cunningham: I was born and raised in Scotland. I completed my BA degree in Business and Hospitality Management, then following that I worked in the Hotel Industry for many years. At one point I was a Quality Assurance Consultant and I travelled around the world performing quality evaluations for top class venues. My husband was offered a job in China and we have lived in various places around the country before ending up in Tianjin. I previously worked for the United Family Hospital group in Beijing and after a while of being here I was offered this job with TJU as the Patient Service and Marketing Director.
 
Dr. Robert Wang: Originally I am from Taiwan, but after college I moved to the US where I got my PhD and my medical qualifications. I then spent several years working in the OB/GYN (Obstetrics & Gynaecology) field of medicine. When my father moved back to Taiwan I wanted to be a bit closer to him, so I starting looking for jobs and this position came up. So far it has been great; we have fantastic leadership and a superb team!
 
In brief, can you tell our readers what the United Family Hospital does here in Tianjin?
Judith Cunningham: Well, just in general terms, we provide the highest level of healthcare that the city has to offer. At the moment we are the only international hospital here in Tianjin, but the main thing to say is that anyone can come to us- expatriates or Chinese (in fact our current patient base is about 50/50). We are one of three hospitals in Tianjin that has been approved by the local government as a treatment centre for foreigners. In terms of services, we currently offer our patients a very broad range of treatment in different areas of medicine including: family practice, OB/GYN, paediatrics, dental, general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, dermatology and many others. We are continuously expanding our services in order to bring the best possible ‘all in one’ healthcare facility to Tianjin.
 
What distinguishes your medical centre from others in Tianjin?
Daniel Liu: Our core asset is our team of physicians. We bring in extremely talented medical practitioners from all over the world. In turn, this leads to international standards of healthcare. There are no other healthcare providers in Tianjin that can offer the levels of service quality that patients receive at the United Family Hospital.
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It is also important to mention that although we are of course in competition with other private and state owned health providers, our approach is far more orientated towards collaboration than ‘cut throat, capitalism’. We often work with other healthcare organisations to raise standards across the industry and we have a good working relationship with the local government in Tianjin, who have been very supportive and encouraging.
 
As an organisation which employs such a diverse team of medical professionals from around the world, all with different training backgrounds, how does the UFH ensure the standardisation of service quality?
Dr. Robert Wang: First of all, we are all aiming to provide a service which is friendly, scientific, and passionate. This is our company’s philosophy and everyone on the team adheres to it. We also get the best out of all our staff members by letting individuals and departments do their jobs fairly autonomously. So for example, we don’t have doctors and nurses dealing with the business side of things and vice versa; we let the professionals do what they do best.
 
With regards to the medical side of things, we have around 1,200 quality control indicators which we have adopted from the Joint Commission International Board’s regulations. These are the official standards of quality in medical practice employed in the United States. We have a self disciplined quality control system, which also includes encouraging our staff to continuously educate themselves and work towards developing as a team.
 
For expatriates living in Tianjin who are looking for long term healthcare coverage and solutions, what kind of schemes does UFH offer at the moment?
Judith Cunningham: We provide both corporate and individual membership programs. Those who wish to take part in our membership scheme will receive a 20% discount on general medical procedures and 10% off dental treatment. Additionally, throughout the year we will be having further promotions to make healthcare more affordable for our patients. But it is important to remember that you don’t need to be a member to have access to our services. We always welcome anybody who comes to us for assistance and we will certainly never turn anyone away! There is always a nurse on site 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, who will be available to discuss your medical concerns via telephone.
 
In the future we will be putting together more package deals whereby people can obtain coverage for a specific area of treatment, for instance maternity, paediatric or dental. Our ultimate aim is to create a China-wide network of hospitals, whereby patients can purchase structured insurance schemes.
 
In terms of the healthcare industry more broadly, tell us about some of the major challenges in establishing and operating a company in this sector?
Dr. Robert Wang: I think we would like to expand faster than we are the moment, but there are many challenges for us to deal with which range from administrative to marketing and a whole range of other issues. We always need to find new ways to reach out to our target audience. 
 
Obviously there is also a great deal of regulations for us to follow in our daily work, and there are some medical challenges that are fairly unique to China. One particular problem that we come across is the levels of tolerance certain patients have developed towards antibiotics, this is due to high levels of dosage here. Furthermore, due to the environmental differences between China and the West, there are also different strains of bacteria and other things, that require us to constantly learn, conduct extensive research into potential treatment methods, and adapt our techniques.
 
And finally, tell us what the future holds for the United Family Hospital; both here in Tianjin and elsewhere in China.
Daniel Liu: In Tianjin I will be hiring more international physicians as time goes on. We will always be expanding the team, as well as the range of services we offer. Next year we are considering opening up a satellite centre in the TEDA area, due to the increasing demand for our services in that region. We don’t just want to cover one corner of the city- we want to be a recognised healthcare provider that people can come to at their nearest and most convenient centre.
 
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As a company, the UFH group is currently in 5 cities across China. Our aim is to cover many more in the near future. Plans are already in place to expand our services to Qingdao, Xiamen and various other major locations, and that will eventually allow us to become a well recognised, nationwide elite healthcare provider. 

by Josh Copper 
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