Traveling for medical care is becoming more and more common as an alternative for treatment. The growth of the industry is happening rapidly in today’s society, with the development of the Medical Tourism Association. This has helped to take the idea of going to another country for treatment, from being a far out and sometimes scary thought to making a lot of sense to patients insured and uninsured.
With hospitals becoming accredited and some insurance companies offering this to clients, it has become a very reputable and smart way to get the care you need. This industry has already grown exponentially in the last few years; imagine what is to come in the future. By 2012 it is estimated that 1.6 million Americans will be traveling abroad for healthcare, the industry is growing by 35%.
Costa Rica has become a large part in the development of medical tourism. Brad Cook, Director, International Department, for Hospital Clínica Bíblica, a JCI accredited hospital in Costa Rica, shares his thoughts on the growth of the industry.
Q: Why has Costa Rica been such a huge attraction to buyers?
A: Because of factors such as lower cost for medical procedures, positive country image, perception of a high quality public healthcare system, three JCI accredited hospitals, close proximity to the U.S., and an organization such as PROMED that is promoting the country’s healthcare.
Q: Tell us about the buyers of healthcare visiting your hospital?
A: We are mostly seeing representatives from large self funded companies, brokers, and representatives from government run institutions in large U.S. cities, averaging about 10-15 per month.
Q: Why do you think it’s continuing to grow?
A: Business leaders have expressed to us that their organization’s healthcare costs are increasing, so they are looking for innovative ways to lower costs. Also growth is due to increasing awareness of medical tourism thanks to the MTA, facilitators and PROMED.
Q: What does the future look like?
A: The future is very bright for us as we are one of the most successful hospitals in Latin America. Both private and public sectors have worked hard to position Costa Rica as the top destination in the region and one of the most attractive medical tourism destinations globally. With the healthcare crises in the U.S., and Canadians looking for quick availability, we feel the future for medical tourism in Costa Rica is bright, especially as medical tourism awareness grows.
A way proven to be effective in the growth of medical tourism has been to develop a healthcare cluster consisting of an independent organization of hospitals, clinics, medical professionals and the government in a specific city, state, or region. Costa Rica has done this effectively with PROMED a Council for the International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine. Their goal is to bring together health service providers, tourism service providers and other marketers of goods and services related to health and tourism. They ensure the quality of services provided by the private health industry in Costa Rica and their international promotion, with the intention of consolidating the country as a center for global medicine and a major destination for medical tourism.
“Some destinations or hospitals don’t understand why they aren’t having the success that hospitals like Clinica Biblica have. It’s because they aren’t launching the right initiatives and they just think if they open their doors to medical tourists they will come. You have to work for it, brand yourself and get out there more.”
During 2010, it is estimated that Costa Rica received between 20,000 and 30,000 medical tourists. Dr. Jorge Cortés, President of PROMED states, “The positive growth of the industry within the last few years allows us to set a goal to attract 100,000 medical tourists within the next five years.”