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 almost eight billion U.S. dollars in 2019, and it is expected to surpass the ten billion mark by 2021. Among the countries with the highest number of medical tourists in the region, Costa Rica was one of the main destinations in 2017, having hosted almost 19 thousand health tourists. Chile and Colombia were also among the most visited nations for this reason, both with around 18,000 travelers that same year.

Cost savings is the most important reason for seeking healthcare abroad among U.S. tourists. For example, it was estimated that U.S. nationals could save more than half the cost of medical expenditures in their home country by travelling to Mexico for treatment, or up to 25 percent going to Brazil for the same purpose.

Surgical procedures, especially, 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 medical procedure with the highest price difference between the United States and selected Latin American countries, with a price difference reaching almost 160 thousand U.S. dollars if we compare it to Colombia, or 140 thousand U.S. dollars in the case of Costa Rica.

However, 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, Colombia was the leading Latin American destination for medical tourism, with an overall score of 69.48. Panama came in second place, with a score of 67.93, followed by Cost Rica, with 67.67.

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Medical tourism in Latin America

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