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Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

Misconceptions About Medical Tourism

People often question the legitimacy of doctors and hospitals in other countries. This is, in fact, a good thing. You should be interested in the qualifications of the doctors who treat you and the type of equipment they use. Both can have a tremendous impact on your health.

There is an endless amount of information on the Internet about medical tourism. Appropriately, there are a great deal of misconceptions regarding medical tourism. The following are some of the most common.

The first misconception is that foreign doctors are less qualified than doctors in the U.S. or Canada. In some parts of the world, this may be true—the doctors, for example, in rural Africa are no doubt less qualified than doctors in the U.S. However, in places like Asia and Central America, this is simply not the case. Many physicians, dentists and doctors in developing nations are educated in American or western European medical schools. They undergo the same rigorous training as native citizens and must be fully accredited by their home country’s governing medical body. It’s common for these doctors to be part of a government program that requires them to return home and practice.

The second most common misconception is that foreign hospitals or clinics do not have proper medical facilities or equipment. International standards require these facilities to be safe and secure and many hospitals decide to become accredited by an international organization, such as the Joint Commission International (JCI) or the American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International (AAAASFI), to gain the confidence of foreign patients. Due to this, many of these hospitals/clinics have state-of-the-art equipment (much of which is imported from the U.S.) and offer the most up-to-date procedures. Most dentists in Costa Rica, for example, import their equipment from the U.S. and use the same products for crowns, implants and veneers that a dentist in the U.S. would use.

Many people assume that foreign doctors do not speak English. In most cases, this is not true. As previously stated, many foreign doctors train at universities in the U.S. or Europe where English is required. English is also often compulsory in some primary and secondary schools in Costa Rica. Because of this, these doctors speak excellent English and can communicate confidently and precisely.

A final misconception is that the cost of travel will more than account for the savings incurred from an affordable medical procedure. Although the amount you save depends on the type of procedure and the duration of your stay, most medical tourists end up saving money. As you will see in the next few pages, treatment abroad is significantly more economical—so much so that the savings more than cover the amount of money you will spend on airfare, hotels, and food along the way.

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

Rising healthcare costs in the 1980s and 1990s lead patients to look overseas for more affordable options. The close proximity and high standard of care in Costa Rica began to attract medical tourists, especially for dental work. During this period, Americans began traveling to Central America to get dental work that was not covered by their insurance or that they could not afford.

Costa Rica’s medical tourism industry continued to grow. Today, Costa Rica is one of the most reliable, affordable and efficient countries for medical procedures. In 2011, San José, the capital of Costa Rica, registered 46,474 foreign patients. The number of medical tourists in Costa Rica is expected to continue rising. Nearly one-quarter of Americans now have passports and flights to Central America are more affordable than ever.

Costa Rica has high-quality doctors and dentists, many of whom were trained in the U.S. and are fluent in English. Although there are dentists and doctors throughout Costa Rica, the majority of procedures are carried out in San José. San José has the country’s best clinics and hospitals, including the CIMA, Católica and Bíblica hospitals.

Types of Procedures

From dental work to cosmetic surgery, there is a wide range of medical procedures offered in Costa Rica. We’ve boiled down some of the most common and listed them here.

The specialties most sought by medical tourists include dentistry (42%), gynecology (22%), preventive medicine (16%), plastic surgery (10%), orthopedics, and bariatrics. Other specialties include general surgery and dermatology.

For in-depth information on any individual procedure, please visit HuliHealth’s website. The waiting time, cost, and recovery for each procedure is different. If you are thinking of traveling to Costa Rica for a medical procedure, research the specifics of what is involved.

The following list compiles the most common specialties and procedures.

  • Dentists: implants, crowns, veneers, bridges, dentures
  • Plastic surgeons: plastic surgery, reconstructive surgery
  • General surgeons: gastric bypass, gastric sleeve
  • Orthopedic surgeons: hip, knee, and shoulder replacements
  • Dermatologists: laser removals, Botox