Why Colombia for medical tourism/ surgical tourism?
Here are several of the reasons I have decided to focus on Colombia as one the emerging destinations for medical tourism:
1. It’s close to the United States (and North America): direct flights to several cities in Colombia are only 2 – 3 hours from Miami, Orlando and many other southern US cities.
This should be first and foremost in people’s minds – for more than just consumer comfort. Those coach-class seats can kill.
The risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), a potentially fatal complication of air travel (and other stationary conditions) is very real; and this risk increases dramatically with flight duration. Flights to Asia can be anywhere from 16 to 20 hours – which is an endurance test for even the healthiest and heartiest of individuals.
This risk for DVT/ VTE which can lead to pulmonary embolism, and death is enhanced in elderly people, people with chronic diseases (diabetes, lung diseases, etc.), obesity and people who have recently had surgery. Some data suggests this enhanced post-surgical risk may persist for up to 12 months. While there are treatments to prevent thromboembolism or blood clots, none of these strategies are fool-proof. (Some of these safety strategies for air travel are mentioned in the above attached links).
- Proximity - Close to the USA/ North America:
-Cheaper flights (all the flights to Asia are in the thousands – and you shouldn’t be travelling alone)
- Shorter flight duration (safer, more comfortable)
This includes medical travel costs as briefly mentioned above. Most cities in Colombia are relatively affordable for other travel accommodations (though this is sometimes included if medical tourism packages/ planning are used.) This is in addition to the known cost-savings of medical care outside of the United States, which is the main reason behind the popularity of medical tourism. For example, a recent CT scan at a local hospital cost around $250.00, versus several thousand.
For actual surgical procedures, the savings are much greater. Heart surgery in the USA ranges from $80,000 – 180,000.. of course, if you have good insurance – your costs are much lower.. If, of course, you have good insurance – and insurance doesn’t cover everything!
In Colombia, heart surgery costs around $12,000 – and most cardiac programs (and other surgeons/ hospitals) here accept American insurance – so your 20% co-pay is going to be a lot more reasonable..
3. Similar culture, similar values, similar ideals – yes, the language is different (but many people and providers speak English) but the underlying primary core values, and core medical values are the same. This means, that while the US medical system is plagued with problems – some of these problems are related to our values such as the sanctity of life, and the preciousness of life.. That value is shared here – which is important – since that is not the case in many places – even western europe where medicine, surgery and expensive treatments are rationed, and sometimes denied – particularly to people over the age of 65.
Medical providers, nurses, and staff here care about their patients the same way, we do at home.. And arguably, in most cases, the doctor- patient relationship is a lot closer, and more personal here. Doctors want and expect patients to contact them – they give patients their email and cell phone numbers on their business cards, for just that reason, and they aren’t put out or annoyed if you use it.. (I know, I’ve been with doctors when patients call.)
4. Surgical proficiency, medical education, and available resources - this is the primarily reason I am currently here in Bogota, Colombia; the high level of skill and training among surgeons in Colombia. These doctors are professionals in the highest sense of the word, and have attended well-known, well-respected and accredited institutions. In many cases, these surgeons are at the forefront of emerging technologies, that are just now becoming popular in the USA.
As far as medical technology goes – many of the doctors, and hospitals I visited have the latest technology, which rivals if not beats what I’ve seen in the US. (Now, for those of you who have never stepped inside a rural hospital in the United States – you would be surprised at what resources they do and DON’T have.) Americans in general, and American medical professionals tend to view the world from this little bubble, thinking that we always have the latest and greatest – even when we know it’s not always true. It may have been true twenty years ago, but sadly, it’s not always true now.
* Antibiotic resistant infections of any sort (MRSA, VRE) are still fairly rare in Colombia.
Superbug Hits UK from Medical Tourism from India
Of course, to be fair, our own food supply contributes to this problem too..