Destination Spotlight

Pana-Health ~ Bridging Overseas Health and Medical Care

Destination Spotlight

The data about Medical Tourism shows it is already taking off, with projections that it will skyrocket even more in the next decade.  As with any trend, many competitors will jump on board in an attempt to ride the wave to the top.  In fact, over 50 countries have already identified medical tourism as a national industry.  

But who will come out a winner?  What countries and what providers will be the front-runners in this incredibly delicate and personal field, one that weaves together well-being and enjoyment?

When any business plays the odds for any proposition, it has to look at all the factors in play.  In medical tourism, the obvious key elements are quality, cost of services and attraction of the destination itself.  Countries competing in this field are competent in many of the categories.  

But what the winning bets are really looking for is staying power, impeccable medical reputations, quality of care, hidden talent in a team, or some other factor that nobody else is paying attention to, which helps hedge the odds.  One advantage which brings success for Panama over its competitors is location and accessibility, along with other key factors.

American Standards

Many countries are working out their logistical and operational kinks and projecting that they can “live up to U.S. standards”.   While the footprint of America still exists in Panama today, this influence has remained in healthcare as well.  Excellent medical care, gauged by U.S. standards, is ever present in today’s Panama.  What’s the advantage of this small nation?  They have had a head start of about 100 years over the rest of the world when it comes to providing services to American patients.  

In many aspects, it is Panama’s second nature to operate like another state of the Union.  The similarities in health care are just one aspect attracting a growing population of northerners to settle “on the Isthmus” between Central and South America.  English-speaking doctors with degrees from U.S. Universities on the walls of their practice are just the tip of the iceberg.  The whole experience feels like home.

The founding U.S. board certified physicians and health insurance executives from the United States and Latin America behind Pana-Health, Panama’s first medical concierge company, knew the potential that their nation had when they founded the company in 2003.  This was just a few short years after the nation’s claim to fame, the Panama Canal, had been returned to the Panamanian government by the United States.   The exit from the country on January 31, 1999 was the conclusion and the final step of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties of 1977.

It was just nine years ago that the Republic of Panama shifted gears from a nation, which provided international banking and the largest shipping center in the Americas to resident Americans, to become a nation with one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.  Panama now provides services to people from all over the world, given its strategic global location and long-instilled US standards.  

Today Panama is called “the Dubai of Latin America”, with a skyline comparable to Miami’s and a mindset compared to that of New Yorkers and a warm, caring bedside manner characteristic of hospitable Latin American culture.

High End Medical Care

Hospital Punta Pacifica is a new facility in an upscale Panama City neighborhood with standards second to none.  It is the only facility in Latin American and Caribbean affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medical International.  The facility offers 52 private rooms and 12 suites.  Procedures are a fraction of the cost of what they would be elsewhere in the world.  Patients comment frequently that the care and service provided to them at Panama’s flagship hospital is often above and beyond in quality of services they have received in their home countries.

This is not the only hospital with respectable U.S. affiliation in Panama.  There are several other facilities in the capital city, the mountain communities as well as  the beaches, where the medical standards are just as good as one would expect them to be back home.  Clinica San Fernando, located in Panama City, is affiliated with Tulane University, Miami Children’s Hospital and Baptist Health International Miami.  Also located in the capital, Centro Medico Paitilla is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

In the western province of Chiriquí, close to the Costa Rican border, the foreign residents of the spring-like mountain communities find first-rate health care at Hospital Centro Medico Mae Lewis and Hospital Chiriquí.  At the epicenter of Panama’s beach communities, Clinica San Fernando has a branch facility in Coronado offering 24-hour attention, general medical services including CAT scans, ultrasound, a dental clinic and an eye clinic.

Hidden Gem ~ New Infrastructure

Panama’s natural head start on capturing much of the medical tourism market has gone somewhat unnoticed because the high-quality, low-cost services available in the country remained a well-kept secret.  A few years ago the nation began its international projection.  A sharp increase in foreign population is usually a precursor for a takeoff into the medical tourism industry.  It’s simply supply and demand.  

The nation is just rounding out a building boom in the city, from beach to mountains.  Over 10,000 new residences are coming onto the market.  Already, management companies are offering timeshare options, short-term rental solutions, corporate lodging and furnishing many of the units for post-operation patients in recovery.

The stage is set for success.  Panama’s international airport offers direct daily service to and from major world cities like New York, Atlanta, Amsterdam, Miami, Toronto, Dallas and Houston.  The nation has surpassed Costa Rica in tourism growth with medical care that feels like home.  Panama is a big favorite for taking a big share of this growing market.  

As far reaching as Thailand and India, some medical procedures are less expensive but when you compare the difference in airfare prices and long travel times to distant locations, one has to weigh the complete package which makes Panama much more desirable.

Pana-Health ~ Bridging the Gap

Pana-Health, along with their strategically developed relationships within their network of providers continue to bring local talent and knowledgeable staff together as they bridge the gap and meet the needs of the medical traveler.

Noemy de Sanchez, the company’s administrative assistant, is a valuable part of the Pana-Health family.  The staff and patients alike appreciate her warm and willing attitude.   Noemy is bi-lingual and will most likely play a part in your medical journey with Pana-Health.

Pana-Health recently awarded Jill Maurer, a resident of the United States, an independent consulting contract with their company.  “It is the perfect combination for us,” contends one of the Pana-Health owners.  “Pana-Health has an influx of clients from the U.S. and Jill has first hand knowledge of just how medical travel abroad can benefit those in need.   Jill’s business acumen coupled with her personal experience from the consumer standpoint is the perfect combination and is a huge asset to us here at Pana-Health.”

With Jill came an extreme amount of energy and foresight.  The board members were excited to welcome her.  “The way we see it, it is certainly refreshing to have someone with Jill’s experience and drive at the reins,” adds one board member.  That firsthand experience already has Pana-Health looking years into the future and she is setting the groundwork now.  “It is like she instinctively knows what to do and it all makes sense.   She has the advantage of personally experiencing medical care abroad while living in the US,” they added.

“I will continue to seek alternate destination choices for my medical care and I have wonderful options outside of the U.S,” says Jill.  “I did not always feel this way.  It took that first experience in a medical emergency situation while traveling abroad, to have my eyes opened.  My first instinct was to figure our how to get home, back to the US.  It was not rational thinking and under the circumstances, I needed prompt medical attention.  

I received care equal to that of the U.S,” she added.  “Certain aspects of the experience were better than home.  Compared to the U.S. experience, the hospital staff and personal attention far exceeded my expectations.  This was just the beginning of my exploration into medicine abroad.”

Catering to the Uninsured

Whether a person is traveling abroad for medically necessary treatment or for procedures of elective nature, Jill understands that this journey is not to be taken lightly.  “Frequently, people think they can combine tourism and recreation with medical procedures when that simply is not always realistic,” comments Jill.  “This is not a game of chance.  While cheaper medical prices are not the only reason for medical travel behind the boom they do play a large part in the choice for medicine abroad.”

“In many cases, it is the ONLY choice that some uninsured people have and for those that need medical attention tended to quickly, the challenge is great.  It is the wise traveler that explores all options available to them, all the while making their own informed decisions themselves,” explains Jill.

Helping to build more strategic relationships within this already very well known company is only one of Jill’s goals.   While Pana-Health’s concierge services continue on track, Jill is not wasting any time. Her knowledge and business background, combined with her personal interest in wellness, preventative medicine and anti-aging, along with the fact that she is an American outsourcing her own medical needs, launches her eagerness to dig in deeper and look closely at the risks and benefits.

Looking at the situations with the uninsured Americans seeking alternate choices for medically necessary procedures, having alternative choices can sometimes make the difference.  A life might just be enhanced or extended because of the cost savings associated with global medical travel choices.  Where once a procedure was cost prohibitive, there remains favorable global options with huge savings to the consumer in need.  Quality of life and having options is valuable.

Organizations are trying to create transparency in the industry.  Some quality, top-notch medical professionals are in abundance globally and here in Panama.   Just like the US and other countries, there are always bad apples mixed in the batch.   The consumer has to be on the lookout for compromised unskilled doctors in every country.  It is part of the process.

Doctors realize the valuable asset they possess and without staying on the top in their respective fields they would not have the excellent outcomes.  Doctors in Panama even provide their cellular numbers to patients at times.  It is not the exception – it is commonplace.   It is a win-win situation for some, where the doctors are appreciative and the patients are appreciative.  It is a slower paced environment in a doctor’s office in Panama… where time IS allocated to care, where the love of profession and love of life still exists.

Aftercare Solutions

Consumers have many options and making informed decisions is only part of the formula.  Weighing all the possible outcomes after surgeries abroad, to include follow-up care back at home, is nothing to take lightly.  In many cases, the patient’s doctor in their home country will communicate with their doctor in the destination country.  When it comes to choosing destinations, some very important issues should not be overlooked.  

Travel times returning home can involve risk when recovery times are cut short.  Recreation before and/or after surgeries is not always the right combination.  Dental, wellness, anti-aging and less invasive medical procedures are more apt to be combined with recreation and tourism.

Navigating Panama is like navigating any place you are not familiar with.  It always pays to be informed.  Check with any international travel alerts in any country you are visiting prior to leaving home.  It is the informed traveler that can possibly avoid things of chance.

Pana-Health assists in bridging more gaps by planning your journey abroad.   Pana-Health can coordinate your doctor’s appointments and consultations, hospital or clinic services, hotel or apartment arrangements, airport pickup and the vacation segment of the trip.

Over the years, the Pana-Health network has grown to approximately 100 doctors with specialties in 24 different fields of medicine and can manage your medical case in some of the following specialties:  Age Management, Assisted Reproduction, Cardiology, Cosmetic, BHRT, Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Dental Implants, Dermatology, Endocrinology & Diabetes, Extreme Makeovers, Gastroenterology, General and Oncology Surgery, General Dentistry, Internal Medicine, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Periodontics, Plastic Surgery, Smile Makeovers.

The doctors in our network have been screened and approved by a select board made up of their peers in order to guarantee that they are the best in their respective fields. Pana-Health’s affiliated doctors have studied in prestigious Universities in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Many are U.S. board certified and all speak English.

The Fountain of Youth

A new niche industry in Panama’s growing medical tourism market is complete with age management, stem cell and BHRT.  Several health care providers, many of them Americans themselves, have set up practice in Panama, where miracle treatments like Human Growth Hormone Replacement and Stem Cell procedures are available with huge savings.  Compared to the US, Canada and the UK, these medical fields here in Panama are busier than ever.

Non-invasive procedures are other reasons that people flock to Panama for treatments to keep looking great.  Combining tourism and the savings on tooth whitening, micro-dermabrasion, Thermage and Fraxel Laser treatment for wrinkles alone, is reason enough for people to pay a visit to Panama.  

Patients usually add on these services during a vacation visit to Panama.  World-class spa services are available at many of Panama’s wellness clinics that are located in the bustling capital city or tranquil mountain getaways, where visitors relax in the eternal spring-like climate.

The number of Americans without dental insurance is even higher than those without medical coverage but patient surveys point out that a trip to the dentist’s office often causes more anxiety and discomfort than a trip to the doctor or the hospital. Dentals saving are huge in Panama.  One of the founding members of PanaHealth, successfully practices dentistry in Panama and is part of our network of providers.

It’s Still a Foreign Land

While Panama seems familiar to many people, it is still a foreign country.  Having a personal medical concierge at Pana-Health does not just afford patients with a network of pre-approved doctors and specialists, it allows people to feel at home and enjoy insider information on where to go and what to do while visiting.  

Panama is a wonderfully diverse and exciting country with something for everyone.  Pana-Health goes the extra mile, bridging patients with their perfect doctor and enhancing the experience by matching people with very special places throughout the republic.

Jill Maurer is a Florida Native Resident.  Jill licensed and practiced speciality RE in Florida, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, Illinois for 20 years.  Currently involved with multi country Alternate Energy projects outside of the Continental US,  Jill’s company was recently awarded the consulting contract from PanaHealth.  Jill’s current and past business background includes, but not limited to, startup, management, product image and branding, corporate identity, marketing, US exportation.  Her interests are in age management to prevent disease, alternative medicine as a choice.

Jacob Ehrler is the quintessential “expat”.  He left Seattle in 1999 and moved to Costa Rica, from where he explored Central America during his early 20’s .  Jacob also lived in Manhattan for three years and in sold real estate from the Upper East Side flagship office of The Corcoran Group.  In 2007 he relocated to Panama City, Panama, where he is currently the editor of The Visitor / El Visitante, Panama’s weekly bilinugal newspaper.

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