According to statistics from Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT), the country continues to see growth in the medical tourism sector, which includes both medically necessary and elective procedures. According to ministry data, perhaps 50,000 foreign patients visit Colombia for medical procedures, attracted by the combination of low costs and high safety. The country is noted for high quality medical facilities, especially in the private sector.
According to ProColombia, the country’s investment promotion agency, foreign patients can save over 60% of the cost of medical procedures compared to paying for the treatment in their countries of origin.
“The low costs are not due to poor quality of inputs, clinics or professionals,” says neurosurgeon Dr. Jorge Eduardo Guzmán Prenk. (above photo) “On the contrary, Colombian talent and professionalism is highly desired. The Colombian health system is among the best in Latin America and is number 22 worldwide. The price contrast is mainly that health systems and insurance function differently in each country, and if we add high-quality procedures and professionals to this, we get this current medical boom.” Dr. Guzmán is one of 16 neurosurgeons in Colombia performing minimally invasive procedures.
Medical tourism in Colombia has grown by 264% between 2012 and 2018, going from 5,501 patients to 20,021, according to figures from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.
Says Dr. Guzmán: “I have received cases from countries such as India, Panama or Canada, among others. For example, a patient was going to be charged $60,000 USD for an operation to decompress a nerve trapped in the hole through which the nerves of the spine come out. The surgery was going to be traditional, cutting the spine open, with older technology and a longer recovery time. Dr. Guzmán was able to successfully perform the surgery using minimally invasive methods “with fewer complications, better results and less recovery time, for $30,000 USD, 50% less than the cost in the patient’s home country.”
Another professional who frequently receives foreign patients, mainly women, is Dr. Jorge Alberto García, a urogynecologist and vaginal cosmetic surgeon, who frequently receives cases from the United States. “Many times, women, after having children or as time passes, begin to have problems in their relationship, as sexual encounters do not feel the same as 20 years ago due to changes in their pelvic floor and vaginal muscles. This can also cause incontinence and other discomforts.”
Colombia has trained professionals and modern technology such as laser therapy that return muscle tone to the pelvic floor with excellent results and short recovery times. These technologies are widely available, but in Colombia they can cost between 10% and 35% less than in the United States, for example.
According to the most recent study of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 26% of patients electing for international elective aesthetic surgery options choose Colombia,