Looks like Panama may bite off more than they can chew..


In a recently published story, the government of Panama is now offering medical  insurance for all tourists to Panama for free.  This insurance is not  ‘Complication Insurance’ which is offered by private surgeons in Colombia and other countries for patients traveling specifically for medical tourism.  Complication insurance covers all possible medical complications resulting from medical procedures at the designated clinic or destination..

No – Panama is taking the European and socialized medicine approach and is offering general medical coverage for ALL short-term travelers to Panama.  (The long-term exclusion is a wise move given the numbers of Americans and other overseas residents who make Panama their retirement home.)  This insurance resembles typical travel policies in that it covers injuries, accidents and other medical situations that may occur while on vacation..  I just hope the Panamanian government hasn’t underestimated its tourists and their injury/ illness potential.

Now readers – don’t get any wild ideas.. This is not the time to stress that ‘trick knee’ while hiking to visit the Naso-Teribes..

Meanwhile, Costa Rica is making a pitch for more corporate clients such as Pepsi-Cola.  These multi-national corporations can potentially bring hundreds of millions of healthcare dollars by diverting their employees to medical tourism destination such as Costa Rica.  (Like Colombia – Costa Rica is an ideal destination for North Americans due to proximity, quality and diversity of services available.)

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The future of medical tourism: the glass ceiling


The International Medical Travel Journal has a new article that questions the notions that ‘the sky is the limit’ in the medical tourism industry.  This article discusses the belief that many investors have that as long as there is a new shiny facility, medical tourists will flock..  In reality, the market for medical tourism is fairly narrow, particularly for American medical tourists – who are the ones most likely to open their wallets and pay cold hard cash for surgical procedures overseas.  (That’s because medical care in many other countries is less expensive for residents – so why travel and pay cash for something you can get at home for relatively little expense (even if it requires waiting.) Many of these Americans are uncomfortable or unwilling to travel to more exotic locations – as Dubai has found out first hand.

Of course, plastic surgery and other elective procedures are a little different.)  But most Europeans, Canadians etc.  aren’t going to have to fork over 100,000 for heart surgery (or be uninsured) so the pool is limited.

The other class of medical tourist – the wealthy residents of countries that may not have elite services is also a mixed bag,  Many of these patients are going to elect to go to ‘big name’ American facilities despite the cost – for a specific level of care.  They may seek out specialized procedures that are unavailable or even illegal in their home countries – but that market is smaller than most of us realize.

It’s a good article that brings a dose of reality to the concept of medical tourism as a ‘cash cow’ route to easy and limitless cash.  Medical tourism is not for everyone, as investors are finding out.

HIPEC: the latest research results


If you remember, previous New York Times articles questioned the efficacy of hyperthermic chemotherapy given during cytoreductive surgery.  We promised to investigate, and return with more results to this question.

Recently several articles have been published on the topic, including this one – in the journal of Clinical Oncology.  This narrative by Maurie Markman talks about the quick dismissal of HIPEC by many oncologists, particularly for larger tumors – and he questions the wisdom of this approach in light of recent research results.

In fact, several large new American studies – including one at Case Western are examining the use of HIPEC, particularly in gynecological cancers like ovarian and uterine cancers which carry a dismal prognosis.

American Hospitals are finally jumping on the HIPEC bandwagon…

Detroit hospital offering HIPEC

Atlanta docs, robots and HIPEC

This last link isn’t really news – it’s a press release, but since it’s on a surgical oncologist (Dr. Wilbur Bowne) who was an early American adopter of HIPEC, I thought readers might be interested.

Previous Bogota Surgery posts on HIPEC

HIPEC: The basics

Bogota Surgeons stay ahead of the curve

The Future is Now: HIPEC

Looks like it’s about time to check in with our favorite surgical oncologist, and HIPEC expert, Dr. Fernando Arias..

Check back soon for more..

Colombian life: an outsider looking in..


There’s a great blog here on WordPress that I wanted to recommend to anyone interested in Bogota – and all things Colombian.  The blog is called The Wanderlust Chronicles and it follows the life, and adventures of Kate – a young teacher / translator (who reminds me a bit of myself).  I do have to say – that as I ‘cruised’ around the site, reading her posts – tears almost came to my eyes, and I became wistful for all the things I loved and enjoyed about my time in Colombia.

For everyone else –

It’s a great reference for all of you who want a bit of a different vantage point (nonmedical) on the beauty of Colombia and Colombian culture.  I hope you enjoy!

Medical Tourism Forecast for 2012


Where is Medical Tourism & Travel headed for 2012?   Predictions vary according to sources, but all sources expect the medical travel phenomenon to continue, unabated.

Maria Lenhart at the Medical Travel Report (a private travel company blog) estimates 35% growth over the next year, based on Deloitte statistics.

Where are they going?  According to Depak Datta of the Medical Tourism Corporation – for the most part, people are staying fairly close to home..  Meaning that people from the United States and Canada favor locations in the Western Hemisphere over Thailand, India and other destinations popular with Europeans, Africans and Asians..

Domestic medical tourism remains a popular option with American corporations who are sending their employees to large, well-known facilities within the United States.

In fact, large American healthcare institutions often have the most to gain from medical tourism via international affiliations with institutions in South America, India,  and Asia.  John Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, Duke, Harvard and several other well-known top-tier American medical giants have branding agreements and other lesser affiliations with hospitals and clinics across the globe.

In the midst of this growth, concerns over patient safety and quality of care should remain at the forefront (in all facilities – domestic and international.) But until more potential customers demand (or even display any interest) in quality, and safety issues – the industry is not going to go out of its way to provide this information.

Colombian government steps up..


In a surprising but admirable move, the Colombian government has announced that it will pay for the removal of PIP implants.    As we discussed at our sister site, Cartagena Surgery, recent disclosures that the French company knew their breast implants were defective as far back as 2005 has sent shock waves of outrage through the medical community.  Further disclosures that the implants contained substandard construction grade materials (not medical grade) and fuel additives which contributed to the exceedingly high rupture rate (7% versus an average rate of 1% for all other implants) has important health implications for women world-wide.

In the wake of this scandal, hundreds of thousands of women across the globe, particularly women in Latin America where the implants were heavily marketed, have been panicking and storming physicians’ offices for answers.

(In a related post at our sister site – we reassured readers who received implants in 2011 by some if the surgeons profiled here..

With the French government advising over 30,000 french recipients of these implants to have them removed promptly, this goodwill gesture by the Colombian government should go far to reassure and calm Colombian women.

Update: 14 Jan 2012

Medpage Today just published a nice comprehensive article on the Poly-Implant Prostheses (PIP) implant controversy.  It’s a good story for people playing catch up on this story – and wondering if they may be affected by this news.