Published On: Wed, Jun 19th, 2013

Colombia consolidates itself as a health destination in Latin America

BogotaThe country is pioneer in creating its own accreditation systems. There are 16 national Colombian institutions accredited nationally  and two accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI).

BOGOTA, (PXP) Service and infrastructure quality, leading technology, medical staff preparation and international certifications are but some of the strengths that are making Colombia become one of the main health destinations in Latin America.

“Colombian medicine is acknowledged not only in Latin America but worldwide, and this is why Colombia has been positioning itself as a destination for medical treatment”, explained Proexport president, María Claudia Lacouture; this body is working together with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism and the Productive Transformation Program on growing this sector.

The country is pioneer in creating its own accreditation systems. There are 16 national Colombian institutions accredited nationaly, and two accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI).

In 2012 alone, 20 Colombian institutions have participated in international events such as the Chicago, Miami and Costa Rica World Health Congress, on the hand of Proexport, in order to publicize the advantages of the country for the undertaking of medical treatments.

A ranked listing from the America Economía magazine, and after having analyzed 190 clinics and hospitals in Latin America, included 16 institutions in four cities (Bogotá, Medellín, Bucaramanga and Cali) within the top 40 listing.

“The Colombia case is the clearest because four cities distribute the presence of 16 hospitals, the greatest national subset within the ranking. the fact is, the Colombian market is strongly decentralized, multiplying its competencies for each health pole found distributed by its territory”, the magazine said.

As part of the promotional work Proexport does for the country, it also makes familiarization trips, to which it invites insurers and facilitators to show them the technology, the infrastructure a the Colombian clinics. This year 13 international potential buyers have visited the country, between intermediaries, insurers and employers from the United States.

But Proexport has also identified opportunities for growth in markets such as the Central American, European ad Caribbean, where they require specialty and highly complex health services, mainly in cardiology, cancer treatments, ophthalmology, orthopedics and dental medicine.

In one of such visits, the medical team was praised by Jacqueline Madrigal from American Apparel, “their educational level and the way they treat their patients. There is the certainty that if they operate you they are fully capable of providing the full medical treatment”.

Kenneth W. Bleakley, Fonemed president, noted that Colombia is “an ideal country to com with the family if a person is to undergo a medical treatment. While you’re here you may rest assured that you are receiving a quality service in excellent locations like the ones we have seen and with the security that a conscientious monitoring will be made once you return home”.

Besides the good performance, it’s a plus that the country has construed into the annual host of prestigious academic events, congress, seminars and health update seminars, and the fact it’s a pioneer at the Latin American level in creating its own systems on health accreditation.

Nowadays, there are 16 institutions accredited nationally, and two with international accreditation, as is the Joint Commission International (JCI).

What patients say

On the other hand, the foreign patients now acknowledge Colombia as an ideal health destination, not only due to the quality of services, but because the prices are more competitive, the attention is better and they can find highly complex procedures.

“I came to have an eye surgery and the treatment was the best. Besides, not only did I like the clinic, but the places to visit, the businesses, everything was very good in Bucaramanga. We lack a medical specialist in Aruba to do the procedure I needed for my ieyes. That’s why I came to Colombia”, explained Margarita Koolman, from Aruba.

Verhonda Eggleston, from United States, declared she was “impressed with the service I found. At the beginning I was very nervous but the procedure proved easier than what I had thought and the medical treatment has no comparison at all. They were concerned on always explaining me every single thing”.

The positive testimonies match the number of visits. According to a study performed by the National Association of Industrials, ANDI, 11 Health Provider Institutions (IPS, for their Spanish initials) from Colombia reported having catered to 4,864 international patients during 2011, which produced an income of US$ 18.43 million (Col$ 33,190 millions).

In 2009, there were 2,833 and in 2010 the number grew to 3,041 foreign patients. 65.5% of patients reported during 2011 came from Netherland Antilles, followed by Ecuador (9.8%), United States (4%), Venezuela (3.3%), Panama (2.5%) and Honduras (1.9%).

As regards services required, the greatest demand was for cardiology (41.7%), hemodynamics (15.7%), hospitalization (4.6%), surgery (3.5%) and neurosurgery (3.4%).

In order to strengthen promotion, Proexport looks to make the country known as a health destination via the strategy ‘Choose Colombia’ (Elija Colombia) via a series of special programs to be aired in the Discovery Channel Home and Health channel.

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