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Let the cyber knife take away your pain

In 1983, the World Health Organization put cancer as a leading cause of death in South Korea. It has an immense impact with 64,000 people dying every year in Korea due to the disease. Luckily, the latest development in cancer treatment is available in Korea: Cyber Knife Radio Surgery. There are currently some hundred cyber knife systems installed in only few countries in the world. Korea was among the first to implement it and today, it has one of the most numbers of installed systems. Compared to UK and US, a cyber knife treatment costs less in Korea.

Cyber knife systems have been used to treat tumors in upper spine, head and neck since 1999 and in the rest of the body since 2001. John Adler invented the system for cancer treatment. It is made to deliver radiotherapy for malign and benign cancer tumors at all stages in specific parts of the body in a non-invasive way. It uses a real-time image guide to find tumors even if the patient is moving, and to deliver radiation with highest accuracy. It eliminates the need for invasive surgeries.

There are various benefits of the technique, e.g. faster procedures in comparison to other radiation methods, no requirement for hospitalization, no need for anesthesia and almost no post-operative care. Cyber knife surgery can even be used for tumors that have already received the maximum dose of radiation. There are no incisions or cuts, and recovery time is not needed. It can even be used for tumors in the spine, which are hard to treat because they are moving while the patient is breathing. The cyber knife can pinpoint the exact location of the tumor and beam into it without damaging other surrounding tissues. That leads to a shorter treatment period and a quick recovery. Treatment can be finished in less than five days on an outpatient basis, without spending a single night at the hospital.

One hospital in Korea is specialized in treating spine cancer. The oncology experts in Korea are highly trained and have years of experience in radiology and cyber knife cancer treatment. Medical staff in Korean hospitals are English speaking and communication will not be a problem when getting medical treatment there.

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Cyber knife surgery abroad:
http://www.medicaltourismco.com/oncology/cyber knife-cancer-radiotherapy-overseas.php

Cyber knife Treatment for Spine Cancer
http://www.medicaltourismco.com/south-korea-hospitals/cyber knife-surgery-korea.php

And tomorrow WALL-E is taking care of you

Nowadays, a lot of research is conducted in the area of healthcare robotics, which has the potential to increase the quality of life for our silver population. Imagine!

I would like to tell you about the examples of New Zealand and South Korea – two countries that are combining their knowledge in order to build and develop something groundbreaking. Here, South Korea contributes from the hardware-side, while New Zealand is busy developing the latest software (check out: HealthBots Project, launched in 2008).

Healthcare robots that can take grandma’s heart rate or blood pressure are the outcome of the research. But besides simple medical jobs, robots can also play a tremendous role in monitoring, as they are able to store and manage the patient’s relevant medical data. All this can make elderly care much more cost-effective.

Another idea is that robots can enhance old people’s quality of live by offering entertainment, e.g. through music, films, games and the use of social media as Skype.

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All this sounds futuristic, but the question is if it is a concept that will be feasible: Will decision-makers be willing to invest in healthcare robotics? And will our grandparents (our parents? we? our kids?) enjoy interaction with robots? A lot more studies have to be carried out in order to find out more about cost-effectiveness, but particularly about interaction between human beings and machines – and thus, about the increase (or not) of people’s quality of life.

Healthcare robots could change lives: http://www.msi.govt.nz/update-me/success-stories/research/healthcare-robots-could-change-lives/ (December 2011)

U-health in Korea

Our teacher once accused us: “You’re incredible! What you guys don’t find on Wikipedia does not exist in your world – or what?”

Trying to find out more about “u-health”, I remembered that and it made me smile. U-health or u-health care cannot be found on Wikipedia (yet) and on the first sight it does not seem to be on many peoples’ minds in today’s world, but dig a little deeper!

U-health stands for ubiquitous health – omnipresent, universal, ever-present health. Sounds big! And there you go with your online-search… [Small note: I found so many interesting aspects that I don’t know where to start now – so let me just give you a basic idea with this blog post and let’s explore the topic further within the following ones.]

On the Congress on Nursing Informatics 2006 in Korea, u-health did cause lively discussions. The Korean Government had started a project on u-health services for the provision of health care services in the country’s rural areas using the advanced broadband infrastructure (NI 2006).

U-health care is a developing area of technology to monitor and improve a patient’s health status. It uses different environmental and patient sensors to gather data on almost any physiological characteristic to diagnose health problems (Brown et al. 2007). U-health should stand out through availability, transparency, seamlessness, awareness and trustworthiness – anytime and anywhere (Cha 2008).

Many industrialized countries are sitting on a demographic time bomb – facing problems in health care that are related to the growing number of elderly. Their limited resources in health need to be used more efficiently and effectively. So especially these societies could benefit from u-health care and its innovations to reach better diagnosis and treatment. It also has a lot of potential in improving hospital administration and patient management with reduction of medical errors, and in enhancing service quality, communication and collaboration. (Chang) However, at the same time, u-health care confronts ethical issues, e.g. when it comes to trust, privacy and liability, or in combining computer and information ethics with medical ethics (Brown 2007).

Hence, the bottom line is that yes, u-health is and will increasingly be on peoples’ minds (and it will probably soon appear on Wikipedia).

Societies as well as individuals will have to make difficult choices in the future.

1 Korea IT Times offers a variety of more interesting articles by Cha Joo-hak on the topic: http://www.koreaittimes.com/source/cha-joo-hak
2 Brown I and Adams A A 2007. The ethical challenges of ubiquitous healthcare. International Review of Information Ethics Vol. 8. www.i-r-i-e.net/inhalt/008/008_9.pdf
3 Cha J-H (2008). Defining the Perfect Ubiquitous Healthcare Information System. Korea IT Times. http://www.koreaittimes.com/story/56/defining-perfect-ubiquitous-healthcare-information-system
4 Cha J-H (2010)Who Shall Live Better? – Health Care and Socioeconomic Choice. Korea IT Times. http://www.koreaittimes.com/story/8559/who-shall-live-better-health-care-and-socioeconomic-choice
5 Chang B-C ().Ubiquitous-Healthcare Changed paradigm after introduction of EHR. Yonsei University. www.health-informatics.kk.usm.my/resources/2_Chang.pdf
6 NI 2006. The 9th International Congress on Nursing Informatics. Seoul, Korea June 2006. http://differance-engine.net/ni2006blog/?p=22

Migration of Korean Nurses like Mama

“Yes, I’m also half Korean. My Mama is also a nurse!” My name is Olivia Biermann. I’m a half Korean German living and studying in Sweden. My Korean-German classmate was not the first person that I met during the past years having the same roots as I do. There are people in my generation whose mothers are nurses from South Korea who found work and love in Germany.

I always considered Mama a brave and curious person – coming to Germany when she was just 20 years old. Her older sister had already been working there as a nurse and Mama started nursing school once she had picked up enough of the German language. Then she met Papa. Mama worked in a hospital until she founded her own elderly care service a few years later. A few more years later she and Papa, who is a civil engineer, initiated a small nursing home, which has become a popular shared flat for 12 lucky seniors in our hometown.

I have always looked at it from Mama’s perspective and understood why she decided to take the leap and come to Germany. I have, however, never thought it through from the system perspective including her decision’s consequence for the Korean and the German health care systems and their silver generations.

The transnational migration of female nurses has long been a reality in South Korea and started with the dispatch of nurses to Western Germany in the 1960’s. This movement expanded as globalization proliferated. However, the reasons for migration of Korean nurses changed over time, and the inside story is not that unpretentious: Within the transforming Korean society, the only accessible profession and specialization area for women was nursing. After the Korean War (1950-53), the country’s government borrowed a development loan from the German government, and as a consequence, Korean nurses and mine workers went to Germany to serve that purpose. Nowadays, Korean nurses are leaving their country due to different reasons, e.g. excessive expectations from the Korean society, dissatisfaction through unemployment, stress, gender discrimination, poor working conditions and low recognition within the hospital.

This worldwide movement is leading to “brain drain” in countries like e.g. South Korea, which can be understood as an emerging social problem. However, there is actually a scarcity of job opportunities for nurses in South Korea, and their migration can also be seen as a phenomenon of the opening medical market, a solution to reduce unemployment and to acquire foreign funds to overcome the foreign exchange crisis. Finally, it gives those migrating nurses the chance to live in better conditions, earn a fair wage and fully express their capacities.

Advantageous brain drain or not – the wave of migrating South Korean nurses is getting bigger. Therefore, the meaning of today’s labor migration for the respective health systems should be studied in more depth. It is about finding out more through quantitative and qualitative studies about the releasing and absorbing countries, the migration systems, and of course the migrating individuals with their own personal history and identity.

As medical sciences advance and people get older, and thinking about Mama: Clearly, Mama is doing good for the demographic changes in our hometown, but how about her South Korean home which is facing similar challenges? How can the migration of nurses be in favor (or not) of the demographic change and health care?

Literature: Ga young Chung (2006). Transnational Migration of Korean Nurses: Labor, Gender, Global Migration – Case study of Korean Female Nurses, Working in Australia. Asian
Culture Camp: “Doing cultural spaces in Asia”. Session 15: “Global Contestation over Ecuation and Labour Market”. Yonsei University, Korea.