Going overseas to find affordable medical treatments seems to be a growing industry, and is ideal for self-pay patients who otherwise struggle to pay for needed care. A lot of attention has been given to destinations in Asia, particularly India and Thailand.
But there are medical tourism destinations closer to home, and given the large immigrant community in the U.S. hailing from South of the border these might be particularly appealing options. Last week I featured a medical tourism operator in Costa Rica, Exquisite Medical Tours.
This week I ran across an article on NPR (formerly National Public Radio) that described Colombia’s medical tourism industry and a large new hospital built there.
International medical tourism is big business worldwide. Countries like India and Thailand lead the way as top destinations for people looking for high quality care at a fraction of the cost back home…
Not long ago, when the global economy was booming, analysts were saying Americans were pouring out of the country for medical procedures. One projection said the number would reach almost 11 million annually by 2013.
Colombia, which was seeing huge improvements in safety and tourism, decided they wanted in on the action. Since then, they’ve been building facilities specifically designed for medical tourists.
San Vicente de Rionegro is a new hospital… only a few minutes drive from the city’s international airport — perfect for international patients.
The facility is massive, but San Vicente only focuses on six surgical specialties ranging from organ transplants to cosmetic procedures, all of which are popular with medical tourists…
…Dr. Sergio Franco, the head of cardiovascular surgery at San Vicente…says foreign patients come here to get the same quality services that they’d find in the U.S., but with a more caring approach and at a fraction of the cost.
One patient said a heart surgery he needed would have cost as much as $286,000 in Houston. In Colombia, it was only $26,000.
…New hospitals and clinics are popping up all over the country, usually with affiliations to big-name hospitals in the U.S.
Having travelled internationally a bit to Europe and Africa, I know that the time zone changes can be physical exhausting traveling halfway around the world. Among other advantages (like a shorter flight), I’d imagine that only traveling one or two time zones might also be beneficial (Colombia is in the Eastern time zone).
As I mentioned in my last post on medical tourism, it’s best to look into the hospital and the doctor that will be performing the procedure. The Joint Commission International can be one source of information on the medical credentials of facilities (Columbia currently has three accredited hospitals), and while some have told me that there’s no real problem with patients arranging their own medical tourist visits, I suspect that most people would prefer to work with an experienced and reputable medical tourism company. I list a few on my Self-Pay Healthcare Market page including Planet Hospital, MedToGo, MedRetreat, and All Medical Tourism, but I’d strongly recommend looking at several different companies and checking their reputations online.
Traveling overseas for health care can be a great deal for self-pay patients, but only if they get the high quality care they need. Fortunately the level of care provided overseas at medical tourism destinations generally seems to be pretty good, but as with just about everything else when shopping for health care, you need to check things out for yourself well before you make your plans.
*This post has been corrected to account for my ignorance regarding the correct spelling of the nation of Colombia.