All ‘medical tourism products’ are monitored by a joint group, comprising health care providers in the private sector, and those representing the public sector, mainly the government. ‘PROMED’, the Council for the International Promotion of Costa Rican Medicine was formed to monitor and direct the industry’s growth and expansion.
The Ministry of Tourism estimates that each ‘medical tourist’ spends between US$6,500- US$7,000 over and average 11 days in Costa Rica. This is four times as much as the amount spent by the average vacationer. During 2011, Costa Rica treated over 48,000 medical tourists, and generated over US338-million in revenue. Patients came from neighboring Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The larger numbers came from Canada, the USA, and Europe. Other countries offering medical tourism, presenting a challenge to Costa Rica’s product, are South America, India, Asia, Mexico, and the Far East.
The most popular group of procedures conducted in Costa Rica are those not specifically covered by health insurance companies in Canada, America, Europe, and other territories. These include elective surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, and dentistry.
The high cost of medical care outside of Costa Rica, without health insurance, is the compelling factor for most patients. When individuals have to pay, out of pocket, for a treatment or procedure, they will shop around for the best deal; without forsaking quality in the process. When insurance coverage is guaranteed at home, there will not be any appreciable savings by travelling to Costa Rica. Without health coverage, patients are, in most cases, better off taking a vacation, undergoing treatment and realizing a savings at the same time.
The total cost to a patient flying to Costa Rica for a procedure, with hospitalization, hotel/ resort and food included (the recuperation expenses), is 50%-80%, less than the cost of the same procedure in Canada or the USA without insurance.
The 2013 the breakdown of Medical Tourism arrivals was:
Orthopedics & Gynecology 22%
Preventive Medicine 16%
Plastic Surgery 10%
San Jose has been the leading destination for those seeking health care in Costa Rica. However as Guanacaste has grown in popularity as a tourist destintion, Liberia clinics are opening. Recently, a US$125 million CIMA Hospital in Liberia opened which is located near the Blue River Resort and Hot Springs. Many resorts act as recovery facilities for outgoing patients from hospital care. Rural hospitals, like the one in Guanacaste, broaden the choice of places available for patient treatments, by providing another location with medical facilities. This reduces the waiting time for both local and overseas patients.
Initially, Costa Rica medial tourism was promoted by PROMED as a destination for providing treatments primarily in the fields of cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and elective surgical procedures. However all physicians, surgeons, and dentists have received training of the highest international standards. Many of them attended the same universities and institutions of learning as their competitors working in the USA, Canada, and Europe. The promotion of medical treatments has now expanded to include optical and orthopedic treatments. New medical labs, Universities, private technologists and researchers are actively seeking new discoveries in bariatric surgery for weight reduction, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Medical Tourism in Costa Rica is a topic extensively covered on the web; prospective patients can view the names and qualifications of attending doctors and surgeons. View pictures and sometimes videos of hospitals, and recovery resorts, on-line before making a reservation. Being a tourist hub means arrivals and departures are made easy for medical tourism, with an international airport located within an hour’s drive from the hospital.