Buenos Aires for your health
Argentina, a country with wide experience in providing quality and competitive medical services, together with the Chamber of Argentine Institutions for the Promotion of Health (Ciapsa, as per the Spanish acronym) and the Argentine Tourism Chamber (Camtur, as per the Spanish acronym), aims at offering superior health care services in the region and thus becomes a referent for Uruguayans who wish or need to seek health care abroad.
Author: María Noel Durán
According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), this “comprises the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.” “Other purposes” may include a large number of activities, including medical tourism.
Although tourism and medicine may seem distant concepts, medical tourism has been gaining popularity for years throughout the world, and Argentina seeks to be at the forefront in Latin America.
What is it about? Quality health care is not readily available in many countries of the southern region, or worse, it is extremely expensive and cost prohibitive for most citizens. In the case of Uruguay, the National Comprehensive Health System allows citizens to be covered by the mutual health insurance plan or the public health system, which is not the case in countries such as the United States, where health care, although of superior quality, is very expensive and not affordable for everyone.
Argentina, and especially Buenos Aires, provide a particularly appealing offer for anyone wishing or requiring to travel abroad to undergo a specific procedure or treatment.
Alejandro Muñiz, Commercial Manager of the Bazterrica clinic and Vice President of CIAPSA, explained to Empresas & Negocios the medical tourism vision planned for the country, and the potential that Argentina has to offer as a medical tourism destination.
“Medical tourism is basically the export of health care services. Based on statistics, it is estimated that the patient travels with at least one companion”, said the executive.
Patients who seek medical care abroad do so to get curative medicine, plastic surgery (37% of all treatments), with the presence of patients seeking preventive medicine becoming more and more common.
“There are many countries where medical insurance is not as widespread as in Argentina, such as the United States. Another example is Europe, which has an efficient health care system but with very long waiting lists”, explained Muñiz.
Canada features a similar situation, where, due to very long waiting lists, Latin American countries are proposed for patients in order to balance the health care system and supply “clients” to institutions which provide quality care and are open to medical tourism.
Buenos Aires, in addition to being a very cosmopolitan city, offers unprecedented advantages in terms of medical tourism, a wide range of medical sub-specialties and certified quality medical facilities. In addition, it is very close (for example, for Uruguayan patients). In addition, there is no language barrier, prices are extremely competitive and, thanks to the Internet, prior medical appointments may be carried out in most cases through Skype and test results may be submitted by e-mail, which entails a significant saving in terms of time and money.
According to Muñiz, the first aspect visitors analyze when leaving their country for a medical intervention or treatment is quality, followed by complexity and, in the third place, price.
By the end of 2012, Argentina was receiving 11,000 health-driven tourists a year. This figure is expected to multiply, not only due to the competitiveness the country has to offer in terms of service cost and quality, but also as a result of the Medical Tourism Congress which will be held in August and will put the country in the international limelight on this issue.
To get a concrete idea regarding cost competitiveness, Muñiz showed a comparative chart in US dollars to Empresas & Negocios illustrating the price differences for the same treatment in the United States or in the Argentine capital.
“A cardiac bypass in the United States costs 194,000 dollars, while in Argentina, it costs 16,000; an angioplasty, 57,000 dollars, versus 6,500 dollars in Argentina. These are more than significant differences, which are difficult to justify”, said the expert.
Where to go?
Buenos Aires provides a wide offer of medical facilities. Ciapsa recommends going to those related to the Chamber, in order to guarantee quality in each area and sub-area of expertise.
The private clinics in the city offer high complexity services and facilities; the Austral University Hospital, Hospital Alemán and Hospital Británico are clear examples of the development of these practices.
“It is not the same to have operated on one patient than on 500”, explained Dr. Pablo Bonelli to Empresas & Negocios while touring the Instituto Cardiovascular de Buenos Aires (ICBA), of which he is the Technical Director. This phrase comes up repeatedly when talking with specialists at other medical facilities.
The large population and the increasingly common treatment of foreign patients have driven health care players to enhance their expertise in high complexity services.
“We are currently operating babies inside the womb. There is a condition characterized because there is no separation between the respiratory and the digestive tracts. Before, when this happened, 100% of the patients died”, explained Dr. Enrique Pérez Gras, from Hospital Austral.
Science and technology go beyond what one can imagine. The physicians at Hospital Austral can inflate a kind of balloon inside the fetus’ chest to create a space where the lungs are to grow. Following birth and with the help of last generation costly respiratory assistance machines, babies can not only survive but they can also do so independently. This is just an example of what might be called a scientific miracle, a daily objective for Argentine doctors.
This is how technology started to go hand in hand with the specialists to make a major contribution which has positioned Buenos Aires as a referent in health care in the world.
Personalized care is essential when choosing a country where to receive medical care abroad.
All the institutions encompassed by CIAPSA are open to consultations and communication with foreign patients who wish to consider their services. In addition, they all provide a large amount of information on-line to establish a better rapport with the user.
In turn, the hospitals in the region, such as Hospital Alemán and Hospital Británico, are fully devoted to their patients, whether pediatric or adult. These institutions are in central locations in the city, and are well known for the exclusive care they provide and their state-of-the-art technology.
The Instituto Cardiovascular de Buenos Aires has become a leading heart health care institution, which provides 78,000 consultations a year and also performs over 500 central heart surgeries, 800 coronary angioplasties and 10,000 ER consultations a year.
The Austral University Hospital is renowned for its size (40,000 square meters built along eight wings), its quality academic research and care. In fact, it was the first Argentine hospital in obtaining the top world accreditation for health care centers, awarded by the Joint Commission International, and according to the magazine América Economía, it is ranked among the top 10 hospitals in Latin America.
Clínica Zabala, one of the new establishments of Swiss Medical Group, has the advantage of integrating the group responsible for creating the Maternidad Suizo Argentina clinic, one of the most renowned in the country. It allows patients to request an appointment on-line or through a mobile application, and offers the most advanced technical facilities while at the same time, quality human care.
For international patients, it also offers a Well Test service, which includes a general physical check-up performed in three hours which comprises lung and heart exams, ultrasound and lab tests for just 200 dollars, a quite appealing offer for tourists who wish to get their health checked while on vacation.
The Bazterrica Clinic, specialized in high complexity care, includes a section on its web site which is especially dedicated to foreign patients, offering a wide range of surgical procedures and treatments for highly complex conditions.
“The quality and expertise of our medical professionals, together with the recent opening of the new building and the modern technology of all care areas, position the clinic in a privileged spot for deciding where to get high complexity care abroad”, explained Alejandro Muñiz, Vice President of the facility, to Empresas & Negocios.
When talking about vision care, Clínica Nano is one of the most prestigious in the country. The very creators of the clinic, who are referents in ophthalmology, are still seeing patients. Such is the case of Dr. Roberto Nano. Also a member of Ciapsa, it seeks to attract foreign patients seeking a procedure abroad, offering maximum quality and similar or lower costs than in Uruguay.
This clinic has over 170 highly qualified professionals and technicians in each area of ophthalmology and is equipped with all the necessary state-of-the-art technology to perform tests and procedures in over 20 sub-areas of specialty.
One million persons a year leave their country seeking medical care abroad.
“Experts estimate that the volume of patients and companions traveling for health care purposes has grown from 25% to 30% a year, while revenues have grown from 37% to 40% each year.”
Thanks to the expansion of the Internet, all prior consultations and tests can be made in the country of origin, thus saving time and money.
Source Crónicas Semanario – Uruguay