A new tourism trend
PANAMA. Tourism is the industry of pleasure. Health is the industry of well-being. Medical tourism is when patients from the first wo...
PANAMA. Tourism is the industry of pleasure. Health is the industry of well-being. Medical tourism is when patients from the first world travel to developing countries looking both for cheaper ways to care for their health and a beautiful location to convalesce.
Combined in this way, both industries bring high revenues for developing countries.
Cosmetic surgery has always been the primary cause of medical travel abroad.
But now with 100 million North Americans going into retirement, other types of procedures are taking first place.
Knee and hip replacements, transplants, dental treatments and reproductive assistance are a few options that have for some time been available in countries like Costa Rica, Colombia, and Argentina, among others.
Panama is now joining the trend, offering a wide selection of good hospitals. For most procedures, Panama offers savings of more than 50% compared to the US and Europe, with the added appeal of payment being made directly in dollars.
Punta Pacifica hospital is probably the best example of medical tourism here.
Affiliated to the John Hopkins Medicine international, it promotes itself as a leading choice in Panama for same day surgeries with a 350-plus team of doctors.
At the invitation of Punta Pacifica Hospital, the Panamanian Department of Tourism, and Ageless Wonders, a Panama-based medical tourism facilitator, Alex Piper, President of One World Global Healthcare Solutions, traveled to Panama to introduce Medical Tourism as a growing industry.
Piper was quoted as saying: “2009 has been a great year for medical tourism because we are seeing destinations positioning themselves, and a growing interest from American companies, insurance companies and government. One World specializes in providing a variety of services to both the destinations and the US market which consists of US companies, insurance companies and government, and we look forward to future opportunities as we see more countries entering the market.”
Traveling with members from the Medical Tourism Association, the objective was to co-host a conference designed to present Panama with information about the industry.
However, legal and quality issues are at hand.
The Joint Commission International (JCI) is a not-for-profit corporation based in the US whose mission is to improve the quality and safety of overseas health care services.
Getting their certification is a challenge for hospitals abroad and a key factor in gaining patient/customer trust.
Ironically, despite not having JCI accreditation (and regardless of political differences with their northern neighbors), for the last 40 years, Cuba has been a favorite destination for patients seeking surgery.
Cuba boasts excellent doctors and beaches - but the hospitals have been described as less than great.
Which is where Panama has the regional upper hand! Besides being the hub of the Americas for traditional tourism, in Panama many excellent hospitals popular with medical tourists are strategically located along the coast and patients can choose to convalesce on beaches on the Pacific or the Caribbean coast!
Not to mention our high class hotels, casinos, shopping, fine dining, beautiful scenery and famous landmarks like the Panama Canal.