Medical tourism in Latin America - Statistics & Facts
Latin America is one of the world's most renowned regions for its touristic attractions. Destinations such as Mexico, Cuba or the Dominican Republic lead the interest of millions of travelers every year. Medical treatment has emerged as one of the main reasons for visiting this region over the past decade, mainly due to the affordable price of health procedures in comparison to other latitudes around the globe, but also because of the good quality of health services offered by hospitals and clinics in many Latin American countries.
The medical tourism market in Latin America was estimated at over seven billion U.S. dollars in 2022, and it was expected to surpass the 17 billion mark by 2027. As one of the leading destinations for medical tourism in the region, Costa Rica hosted nearly 20 thousand health tourists in 2019, a figure that dropped to 6.5 thousand in 2021 resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Colombia was also among the leading destinations in this category, with nearly 21 thousand health visitors recorded prior to the outbreak.
Cost savings is the most important reason for seeking health care abroad among U.S. tourists. Particularily surgeries tend to be offered at a lower price in Latin America, making this type of medical procedure one of the most sought-after by foreign medical tourists. Recent data shows that undergoing a heart valve replacement was the operation with the highest price difference between the United States and selected Latin American countries, with differences in cost reaching 150 thousand U.S. dollars if we compare it to Colombia, or 147.5 thousand U.S. dollars in the case of Mexico.
Medical Tourism Index
There are more aspects to consider when looking for a travel destination to receive healthcare. In this regard, the Medical Tourism Association offers an index that contemplates three main features in order to evaluate different medical destinations, including its environment, the medical tourism industry, and the quality of facilities and services. Based on this index, Costa Rica was the leading Latin American destination for medical tourism in 2020, with an overall score of 71.73. The Dominican Republic came in second place, with a score of 66.32, followed by Argentina, with 66.26.
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