Business in Brazil is booming. It is one of the main target countries for international investment: infrastructure, communications, transport, pharmaceuticals, tourism, education and healthcare. With a population reaching 200 million and an active internal consumer market of over 110 million (and growing), Brazil has many things going its way: stable and sustained growth of the economy, political stability and ample availability of investment capital.
Another important aspect that allowed this considerable development (in times of world economic crises) was the recognition by Brazilian business leaders and government officials that technologies were transforming and would affect the business world. Thus, they expanded their businesses and objectives beyond the local market, focusing and operating in a global scale. At the same time, they maintained and increased the conservative and controlled approach of the financial aspects of banking and business development, giving big value to internationalization and long-term planning.
This brief summary is intended to introduce the vigorous development of Brazil’s healthcare capabilities and quality.
Up to the end of the ‘90s, many Brazilians would travel abroad for specialized and high-technology medical treatments.
Today, with the high amount of investments dedicated to hospitals, technology, teaching, training, research and personalized patient care, this tendency has completely turned around. São Paulo, South America’s largest city and neuralgic business center, is also its medicine capital. The city is the engine that leads Brazil as a major international medical travel center, offering world-recognized, quality medical procedures with affordable pricing. São Paulo receives about 12 million visitors each year, attracting them to some of the 72,000 yearly events and conferences and to work, study, shop and take care of their health. In 2009, 900,000 people came for some type of health treatment; of these, more than 50,000 were foreigners, mainly from the United States, South America, Europe and Africa.
São Paulo hospitals’ high quality and safety, medical procedures and surgeons are world-known, mainly in cardiology, transplants, oncology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, orthopedics, bariatric surgery, urology, dentistry and human reproduction.
Brazil is well-positioned to become one of main locations for healthcare travel due to its proximity to the U.S. (in terms of time zone, occidental culture, tourism options and people-oriented services), Europe and Africa.
The U.S. will be the major force used to implement the globalization of healthcare travel, mainly because of the American B2B market . We consider that Central America and Brazil are in a privileged position to take the most advantage of this trend.
The only question will be regarding the U.S. healthcare reform plan, but we don’t think that it will be a deterrent to healthcare globalization.
More uninsured Americans will suddenly have coverage, but medical costs will probably increase; the reform plan does not directly deal with the existing causes of the high medical costs such as the pharmaceutical industry (price of products), hospital operational costs and the cost of doctors’ personal insurance (transferred to patients bills).
The onslaught of patients to an already burdened and expensive healthcare system will compromise access to care; forcing people to find providers and services outside U.S. borders, and Brazil will be ready to provide that care.
Globalization and its benefits are everywhere, so why not in healthcare?
About the Author
Alex Lifschitz is the CEO of Sphera International, a health platform specialized in giving solutions to a full-range of health institutions, from governments and health insurance companies to medical providers and patients. It focuses on facilitating services between patients and providers of healthcare, tourism and concierge services. Sphera is a multinational company with offices in Brazil (São Paulo and Fortaleza), Spain (Barcelona) and the U.S. (New Jersey). It’s the only healthcare travel company with operational infrastructure in three continents.