$132 won’t go far in a U.S. emergency room, but in Vietnam, it gets you first class treatment, a highly-trained and empathetic French doctor, and cheap prescriptions, as well. You could call it Presidential treatment, as a certificate from the White House was proudly displayed in the lobby waiting area sent in appreciation of great care received by President George W. Bush.

After arriving in Hanoi two nights ago, following three airline flights over nearly 24 hours, our daughter developed a rough cough that gave her chest pains. We gave the condition one day to improve and then spoke with our hotel’s general manager, who took this situation very seriously and contacted a nearby private health center, the SOS International Clinic. The attending physician was fully booked, but they called in another doctor who wasn’t scheduled to work today, and she came in to work.

“Ah,” she said when entering the exam room, “you must be the American 15 year old who is sick. I was called in to see you,” she introduced herself.

After that, symptoms and personal information was shared: Anna talked about her trip to Vietnam, when we left the U.S and when we arrived in Hanoi; two bloody noses on the plane; a migraine managed; and this nasty cough.

“What brought you to Vietnam?” Dr. L. asked us. We explained that Anna was born in the rural northeast of the country and we were doing a pilgrimage to her village, and later visiting the beaches of Da Nang for a holiday. “A very emotional trip,” Dr. L. observed. She then shared her own story of being an adoptive mother to three sons…a point of convergence.

We shared our respective adoption family journeys, as Dr. L. carefully examined Anna and sorted out her physical symptoms. We spent nearly 30 minutes in that exam room, weaving the clinical with the personal.

At the end of the exam, Dr. L. said, “I understand that I was meant to be called today, to meet you, Anna.” My response to to Dr. L. was one word, spoken with my rough French accent: “Providence.”

We left with a detailed diagnosis (nothing too serious), instructions and three prescriptions (one of which is the Asian branding of GSK’s Advair), all for the humble health price of US$132.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
The prescription drugs alone would have cost the Family Kahn nearly $132 at full retail pharmacy prices, not including the physician visit. The visit was that which would have occurred in a high-performing health system, as defined by The Commonwealth Fund: patient-centered, featuring shared decision making, whole health, with a physician using their highest- and best-use of time: communication, listening, and diagnostic capabilities.

Beyond the medicine, we made a new friend in Dr. L.