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“Our focus will always be the patient.”: Ken Ikeda

For CEO Ken Ikeda, the innovative healthcare clinics of NextVentures International deliver more than quality healthcare services, they also create patient empowerment.

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Greatness, it’s said, is a lot of small things done well every day, and this sums up NextVentures International (NVI) perfectly. Except this company doesn’t just stop at ‘small’. Under the leadership, experience and passion of CEO Ken Ikeda, NVI is smashing health care out of the ballpark in the Philippines.

And the reason for this? Ken and his wife and business partner, Therese Pangilinan-Ikeda, believe deeply in patient advocacy. Their shared mission is empowering patients to recognise the role they play in their own health. It is Ken’s passion and belief in the patient that has created a foundation of success for NVI.

Health care in the Philippines

Health care in the Philippines is variable and ranges in quality depending on location, with most private hospitals in cities providing a complete, up-to-date standard of care compared with services in rural areas.

However, private healthcare services are growing rapidly in the country, with private facilities generally better equipped and typically offering faster treatment times.

Furthermore, due to the relative affordability of private health care, particularly by international standards, the Philippines is being increasingly seen as a medical tourism destination.

Patient first

Established in 2018, NVI is leveraging this growth and opportunity in private health by providing quality health care and hospitality.

Like the best innovative ideas, it started as a simple question – how do we encourage people to take responsibility for their own health? This required a change of mindset and a change in approach, and led to a concept that challenges the traditional conventions of health care.

With a unique organisational structure and a foundation of healthcare self-management and patientcentric service, MD Plus Clinic and Diagnostic Center (MD Plus) was established.

The company’s leadership team has been formed from practising healthcare professionals with the same belief and commitment to patient care.

Patient-centred care is a widely adopted approach that focuses on treating a person receiving health care with dignity and respect, as well as involving them in all decisions about their health.

It’s said with this approach that "Every patient is the only patient" and "Nothing about me without me" should be discussed or decided. Even though patient care is always changing as a result of advances in technology and knowledge, patient expectations and their need for comfort and reassurance remain the same.

A patient-centred approach bridges this gap, providing the highest level of care with the greatest level of patient comfort, empathy and control.

Visionary foundations

"Bringing care closer" is the vision for MD Plus, which is the primary treatment facility for NVI. Developed in partnership with Health Portal International Inc (HPII), this medical facility is more than just a typical medical clinic and provides personalised outpatient health care.

Multiple services are provided in one clinic, including specialist consultation, laboratory, specialised diagnostics and imaging tests. MD Plus reflects the company’s focus on delivering higher standards of patient care.

I believe NVI represents the future of outpatient care in Asia.

To ensure medical outpatient care is available for more people and with closer proximity, currently two MD Plus clinics are operating. The most recent clinic opened in early 2020 in Park West to cater for one of Metro Manila’s busiest districts.

"Our company believes in bringing care closer to more people," Ken says. "NVI is a brand of health care and hospitality that is client-centred, and continuously evolving to provide the best service for our clients.

"Our goal is to build a comfortable place to professionally provide health care while engaging with and educating patients about their health. I believe NVI represents the future of outpatient care in Asia."

Even at this early stage in its development, NVI’s vision is to be recognised locally and internationally as a benchmark for patient care and a company that provides the highest standard of outpatient care to patients.

"MD Plus continues to expand," Ken states. "We have exciting plans to build and operate outpatient medical and diagnostic clinics in major cities throughout the Philippines.

"Together with our partners, we’re also exploring growth in other business sectors. We’re currently in the process of planning the construction and operation of outpatient medical and diagnostic clinics and medical resorts in other South-East Asian countries. We are ready to share our brand with other countries."

Experience counts

As a cardiologist specialising in diseases of the heart, Ken has seen many sides of the healthcare industry. "During my years of training, I witnessed the physical, emotional and financial toll of medical care on patients and their families," Ken reflects.

"I’ve always believed that quality health care need not be expensive, or seen as a burden. "I started NVI with the goal of making health care appealing and a personal priority to more people. This can be achieved in part by making diagnostic tests and other medical care services convenient and understandable. I believe that changing the way people view health care and their role in it will lead to better outcomes."

Partnering with wife Therese, a fellow cardiologist, the pair acquired business skills and knowledge in marketing, management and other important aspects of the business.

"We began to conceptualise our own brand for the healthcare industry," Ken explains. "We wanted to create a platform for sharing our vision and values."

Patient empowerment

When asked what the inspiration is for the business, Ken replies easily: "We want to create an environment that puts patients at ease. It’s important to provide the time and space to explain procedures and treatments thoroughly and patiently.

Each individual should understand their own health and how they can manage it. Patients should be empowered to look after their own health, and we should provide them with the confidence to do this.

"By building this connection and trust, patients will be more inclined to return, and will refer others on to us, which is a value-added benefit of this approach," Ken says.

"But more importantly, our priority is patients understanding and recognising their own role in managing their health." The mission of MD Plus is to provide a quality and affordable service with a positive and supportive relationship between the doctor and the patient.

"Effective health care need not be confined within hospital walls. Our clinics can provide this through continuous, convenient and affordable care for our patients," Ken states.

"Our desire to improve the quality of health care accessible to more people drives our organisation. We strive to create a system that not only provides care, diagnosis and treatment but also empowers patients to take care of their own health. Creating warm and inviting clinics that make patients feel special at an affordable price makes the experience more attractive too."

Making its mark

So what impact is NVI making on the healthcare industry in the Philippines? Conceptualised as a contemporary and welcoming facility that provides accurate, efficient and safe diagnostic tests, the healthcare professionals at the MD Plus clinics are committed to the improvement of health care in the Philippines.

Our employees share our belief that our clinic operations should be patient-centred.

Equipped with the latest in medical technology and services, MD Plus has changed the face of outpatient care, moving from the traditional public hospital model into a modern and sophisticated option.

"Our company is built on five core values. These are service above all else, patient care and education, professionalism, competence and continuous improvement, and social responsibility," Ken explains.

"Our leadership team is expected to practise these values at work and, by doing so, act as role models to our other staff. We also ensure we only employ leaders who are driven and creative, and have a good work ethic."

The MD Plus environment and clinics have helped differentiate the company with inviting and comfortable spaces that are intended to break down patient perceptions of sterile clinics.

"Apart from providing quality health care, our clinic interiors are vastly different compared to others. Our objective is to provide an overall pleasant experience," Ken continues.

"A team led by our architect Yoshikuni Ikeda, who is a master in urban development, works together to make our clinic interiors luxurious, beautiful, warm and inviting.
Our patients feel special without breaking the bank and having to pay for this level of comfort."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, MD Plus clinics quickly adapted and developed virtual services to serve as the front line for patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses or needing urgent symptoms. With the continuing goal of "bringing care closer" to non-COVID-19 patients, free online consultations have been offered through video calls with in-house general practitioners and specialists.

A home service is also offered. According to Ken, the goal has been to provide other options apart from going to crowded emergency rooms during the pandemic.

"With the pandemic, our Philippines team is focused on updating our clinic operations and services to be able to provide for the pressing needs of our clients at this time," he says.

Expansion plans

Looking to the future, NVI is continuing to expand its operations while consolidating and strengthening its existing model in the Philippines.

"Our healthcare brand, MD Plus, currently has two operational sites in the Philippines – Alabang and Taguig – and we plan to open another branch at the end of this year," Ken explains.

"For our international projects, we are preparing our integrated system and setting up our pharmaceutical arm. As for our long-term plans, we look forward to realising our vision to be a global provider of health care and hospitality. Our vision for MD Plus is to establish medical hubs in beautiful destinations. Internationally, we have ongoing projects in Papua New Guinea and a resort in Cambodia, with Bali being our next target."

The company has expansion plans to build and operate outpatient medical and diagnostic clinics in other major cities in the Philippines, with a target of 10 clinics by 2025.

NVI is also exploring partnership opportunities with international companies for providing outpatient medical and diagnostic clinics and medical resorts in other South-East Asian countries.

Leadership style

At the heart of the MD Plus clinic operation is the focus on the patient. "Our employees share our belief that our clinic operations should be patient-centred," Ken says.

"They’re special in how they go out of their way to make our patients and clients feel at ease and comfortable at each visit.

"I love the fact that with each patient who visits MD Plus, I have the opportunity to improve their lives and provide comfort and peace of mind regarding their medical conditions. We’re bringing care to the patients and creating a place where everyone feels welcome and can focus on their own health.

"As a leader, I try to identify and hire individuals with the same work ethic and drive that has built this culture. I want everyone to share my long-term vision for the company and be here for the same reasons that I am. Maintaining open communication with everyone is so important, and I take the time to listen to and take into consideration their ideas and suggestions for improvement. We take care of our people, and for this reason I know we have a really solid team."

Successful partnerships

Expanding the NVI operation locally and internationally means cohesive and productive partnerships are required. "I consider our international partnerships and projects as successes for our company," Ken says.

"By building and maintaining strong supply chain partnerships, we can decrease costs, create efficient operations and provide the best service to our patients at a reasonable price. We keep our supply chain partnerships strong and effective by maintaining good communication with our suppliers and being fair in all transactions."

George Gani, Founder of Growinc Technology, reflects on the company’s partnership with Ken and NVI: "Growinc Technology developed the company’s integrated system which, in the future, will allow more efficient utilisation of healthcare services. NVI is making health care easier and more accessible to people. It’s their commitment to patient care and excellence that has created the company’s success."

Jerry Hermawan Lo, Founder of partner company JHL Group, agrees. "NVI is introducing a better approach to health care by combining new medical knowledge and technology with genuine patient care," he says.

"I believe the leadership’s foresight into the role of technology in health care combined with their patient-centred approach has made the company the success it is today."

There is overwhelming support from its partners and the wider industry for NVI’s innovative approach to health care delivered by the MD Plus clinics and operation.

"At the end of the day, my wife and I are doctors so, unlike many investors in the healthcare industry, our focus will always be the patient," Ken says.

"For me, supporting patients and empowering them with the correct knowledge regarding their medical condition is the most important step in maintaining their health and wellbeing.

"As a doctor and an investor in the healthcare industry, it is very important for me to be able to contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of people. I believe we’ll always be successful and relevant as long as we don’t lose focus on providing the best possible service and care for patients."

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