Medellín: An Important Destination For Medical Tourism
One economic sector that has grown rapidly in Medellín in the last fifteen years is the so-called medical and aesthetic tourism. There are health centers specialized in the management of highly complex surgeries, such as transplants, cardiology, and oncology. For the non-life threatening, there are ample different cosmetic and reconstructive hospitals. According to official figures each year, more than 15,000 international patients arrive in Medellín seeking to improve their health.
This article will take an in-depth look at what these patients come for, how services provided locally might be compare to your country of origin, and how to access these services.
For more than ten years, the city has been the headquarters of the Medellín Health City Cluster, which is an alliance between the Mayor’s Office, the Chamber of Commerce and private health institutions and that has positioned Medellín as an ideal destination for various medical and dental treatments. The network of providers is wide and competitive, with a total of 43 public and private institutions with the capacity to attend various levels of hospital complexity.
International Acclaim for Colombian Health Care
Readers might be surprised to learn that, out of a World Health Organization (WHO) ranking of the 191 health care systems in the world, Colombia is impressively ranked at #22. This puts it ahead of Canada (#30), the United States (#37) as well as nearly every country in Latin America. .
In conferring the impressive ranking on Colombia, the WHO highlighted its wide network of specialists, careful quality of service, as well as important advances in terms of technology and robust medical infrastructure. Medellin is a leader in organ transplants and all kinds of surgeries for medical and / or aesthetic purposes. Thus, various institutions in the hospital and health care sector and in the pharmaceutical, nutrition, and biotechnology industries provide a wide range of services in a very competitive environment that allows for quality care at bargain prices.
For years, successive city Governments, hand in hand with the business and medical sector, have developed the Medellín Health Cluster.
Originally conceived in 2006, it has been created to provide a number of different fields, such as: general, cardiovascular, aesthetic, orthopedic surgery , ophthalmology, fertility, and dental. Some institutions even offer packages under the modality “all inclusive”, with air tickets from the country of origin, lodging, transfers and medical costs, as well as personalized payment plans.
How Can You Get a Medical Visa in Colombia?
In general, citizens of countries in North America, Europe, the Caribbean Islands and South America do not require a tourist visa to enter Colombia. Instead, they just receive a 90 day “stamp” upon entry, and can extend for another 90 days. For more information consult the website of the Foreign Ministry: https://www.cancilleria.gov .co / tramites_servicios / visa / requirements. However, these lenient entry requirements are not for everyone, and if your nationality requires a visa (or your medical treatment plan will keep you here for more than 6 months), one possible option is the medical visa.
A medical visa may be issued for anywhere from 90 days to two years, depending on the particular case. The cost of this type of visa is $ 225 US dollars, which may be higher if you use a visa agency or lawyer for the process.
Requirements to Process a Medical Visa
The documents that you must present to obtain a medical visa in Colombia are the following:
1). Fill out the Visa Application Form: Form DP-FO-67 “Visa Application” It must be completely filled out and signed by the foreign applicant.
2). Present a copy of a valid passport with general information.
3). Air tickets from the place of origin and return to the country of residence.
4). Demonstrate financial solvency through checks, bank statement or other means.
5). Certification of the Colombian health provider where the medical service or treatment to be received is specified.
Medical Tourism Boom Underway in Antioquia
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, in recent years the number of patients who have come to the country to receive medical attention has increased fairly dramatically. Perhaps spurred on by the positive WHO rankings, an estimated 20,021 patients visited Colombian specifically for medical services in 2018, which represents a 264% growth compared to just six years earlier , when 5,501 patients came in 2012.
This growth places Colombia as one of the main destinations for medical tourism in Latin America, with an annual growth rate of 44% on average and a overall health tourism expenditures of more than $250 million USD per year. This industry is predicted to continue to grow steadily as post-pandemic air travels resumes.
A Regional Leader in Fighting Cancer
The network of providers in the city of Medellín has first class institutions specialized to treat oncology cases. Whether it is surgery, chemo, radiotherapy, or terminal care, there are a variety of institutions to choose from for support in fighting this deadly disease.
Among the different institutions, a comprehensive approach from the early detection and multidisciplinary treatment of oncological pathologies has been the premise of the city’s health system for more than 20 years, obtaining international recognition in the fight against various types of cancers.
Some of the most prestigious institutions in cancer management are: Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe, Centro de Oncología de Antioquia, Instituto de Cancer Las Americas, Hospital San Vicente Fundacion, Clinica Medellin, Clinica del Rosario, among others. They have been involved in the research and treatment of cancer – saving and improving the quality of life of thousands of patients.
Medellin is a Pioneer in Highly Complex Heart Diseases
In 1985, the first heart transplant in the entire country was performed at the Medellín Cardiovid Clinic, so there is a storied history of high level scientific, medical and technical treatment in the region. Some of the services available in this field are:
-Open heart surgery
-Minimally invasive heart surgery
-Surgery for the management of cardiac arrhythmias
-Surgery to correct congenital and peripheral vascular heart disease
-Electrophysiology, pacemaker implantation and coronary revascularization
Organ Transplants On The Rise
In 2004, the Government of Colombia created the Red Nacional de Donación y Trasplante de Órganos y Tejidos (National network of Donation and Transplant of Organs and Tissues). The purpose was to regulate and encourage the donation of organs to save lives. According to figures from the National Institute of Health of Colombia, the number of transplants of anatomical parts of the human body in the country has increased steadily in recent years in an annual percentage of 21%, going from 1,068 transplants in 2016 to 1,287 at the end of 2018. Medellín is at the forefront in this type of procedure, thanks to the Universidad de Antioquia and the Fundacion Universitaria San Vicente de Paul, and Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe. Additionally, Antioquia has been recognized within Colombia for these types of procedures.
Could I get an Organ Transplant as a Foreigner?
Law 1806 of 2016 regulates organ transplantation in Colombia. It establishes a presumption that all citizens, once deceased, are organ donors, unless they have made a written statement during life of their desire not to be an organ donor, and this document is authenticated in a notary. The goal of the law is to increase the number of organs available for the thousands on waiting lists. The law also established limitations for the recipients of organs, in order to avoid the indiscriminate trafficking of human organs and tissues. Thus, if you want to undergo an organ transplant you must have some legal or parental link with the donor OR reside legally in the country. But the law does not prohibit foreigners from receiving these transplants in any way, so if you have established your stay here properly, you may receive an organ transplant.
Rehab in Medellin - What are the Available Options?
One area with a high level of demand amongst international patients are rehabilitation treatments and therapies of all types. There is a wide range of services and qualified personnel in physiatry, physiotherapy, speech therapy, and psychology, among others fields. Additionally, the city’s Medical Centers have the latest technological advances to guarantee the effectiveness and speedy recovery of patients. One physiotherapist I can personally recommend is Alejandra (+57) 312-834-2670 who has successfully aided in my shoulder recovery.
Plastic Surgery Extremely Common in Medellin
Medellín has become one of the preferred destinations for international patients in terms of plastic surgeries, aesthetic and reconstructive medical treatments. Many clinics across Antioquia offer high quality procedures at affordable prices. According to official figures from the International Society of Plastic Surgery, Colombia performs the fourth most surgeries worldwide, with more than 346,140 procedures of this type at the end of 2017. Liposuction, breast augmentation with breast prostheses, blepharoplasty, rhinoplasty and abdominoplasty are the procedures most frequently requested in specialized medical centers in the city.
Every year thousands of international patients, mostly from countries such as Germany, Brazil, Japan, Italy, Mexico and the United States, among others, choose Medellín to perform cosmetic surgeries and rejuvenation to improve their physical appearance. Some health institutions offer aesthetic medical tourism packages that even include airport pick-up, food, accommodation and transportation. Expenditures in this industry exceed $USD 140 million a year.
The table below shows some approximate costs of cosmetic surgeries in specialized health centers in Medellín. The prices of these types of procedure are usually up to 40% lower than North American and European countries. Payment for these services can be made in Colombian pesos which is the local currency in Colombia.
If you are in your country of origin, you should know that normally plastic surgery professionals require one or more virtual sessions with international patients, so it will be normal for them to ask you to send clear photographs with the area of the body in which you want to operate. Once you arrive in the country, you’ll go to a face-to-face appointment where the surgeon will carry out a thorough evaluation of the case and confirm the required treatment plan. You must also give your written consent to the doctor and sign a series of documents, do not worry, all medical information is absolutely confidential and secret and if your language is different from Spanish, no hay problema! There is no shortage of medics that cater specifically to the medical tourism population by having an excellent command of English.
¡Que Sonrisa Tan Bonita! Dental Options in Medellín
There are many options for oral health in Medellin. The city has a wide network of dental providers specialized in whitening, endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, restoration and implants, among other procedures. Therefore, obtaining a splendid and healthy smile is possible here at rates that are significantly lower than North America or Europe.
We’ve written extensively about why Medellín is a great city in the world to live in – add affordable and high quality health care to the list.
If you want more information or advice about life as an expat in this charming city, don’t hesitate to contact us.