Looks like Panama may bite off more than they can chew..

In a recently published story, the government of Panama is now offering medical  insurance for all tourists to Panama for free.  This insurance is not  ‘Complication Insurance’ which is offered by private surgeons in Colombia and other countries for patients traveling specifically for medical tourism.  Complication insurance covers all possible medical complications resulting from medical procedures at the designated clinic or destination..

No – Panama is taking the European and socialized medicine approach and is offering general medical coverage for ALL short-term travelers to Panama.  (The long-term exclusion is a wise move given the numbers of Americans and other overseas residents who make Panama their retirement home.)  This insurance resembles typical travel policies in that it covers injuries, accidents and other medical situations that may occur while on vacation..  I just hope the Panamanian government hasn’t underestimated its tourists and their injury/ illness potential.

Now readers – don’t get any wild ideas.. This is not the time to stress that ‘trick knee’ while hiking to visit the Naso-Teribes..

Meanwhile, Costa Rica is making a pitch for more corporate clients such as Pepsi-Cola.  These multi-national corporations can potentially bring hundreds of millions of healthcare dollars by diverting their employees to medical tourism destination such as Costa Rica.  (Like Colombia – Costa Rica is an ideal destination for North Americans due to proximity, quality and diversity of services available.)

“Exceeded Expectations!”

is how I would rate my entire trip to Mexicali.  After making several previous trips to different parts of Mexico over the years – I had a lot of preconceived notions about Mexicali.  But despite being a large border city; I encountered few, if any of the tourist stereotypes that I expected (from visits to Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, and other tourist towns).  Instead of being treated like a ‘mark’ or a rich gringo, everyone I encountered went out of their way to be helpful, friendly and polite.  Strangers on the street offered directions – hotel staff gave friendly advice, and all of the medical receptionists I spoke with were exceedingly kind (which is not always the case.)  Much of the time, people on the street, in restaurants, and other locations assisted us in English.  Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise – that my husband commented on several times.

Of course, some of the stereotypes about border towns were true; such as the occasional whiff of open sewer, poorly maintained sidewalks and pedestrian walkways but there were crosswalks at many corners and drivers did seem to yield to pedestrians.  Traffic was fairly smooth and uncongested in Zona Central.  Stoplights were present and functional, but the streets were not particularly well-lit at night, so I would advise taking the usual ‘big-city’ precautions.

The border crossings were easy (took about fifteen minutes to come back across to Calexico), and it seemed like even the American border patrol were more pleasant than usual.  (Unfortunately, I found in the past that they do look at you a bit sideways in Orlando after several months in Colombia).

I don’t usually recommend hotels and such (since I’m not ‘Trip Advisor’, after all) but in this case – I would like to recommend the Hotel del Norte for several reasons.  It’s a modest but attractive establishment, reasonably priced with friendly staff but more importantly, it’s one of few appropriate hotels in Zona Central, where most of the medical offices and hospitals are located.

There are quite a few gorgeous, and luxurious properties in Mexicali but most of them are located farther across town.  The Hotel del Norte is literally just steps away from the border on Francisco Maduro, which was very convenient for my needs. (I prefer to be in walking distance of the areas I am touring/ interviewing in.)  So – over time – as I move across town in my interviewing process, I get to see and know more parts of the city I am writing about.  I stayed in four different hotels while writing the first Cartagena book, for example.

I’ll bring you more news on my next visit..

More mobile applications

As you know, I am a nurse practitioner and medical writer  – not a programmer, but I am still working on expanding our mobile applications to include Apple, Kindle, Blackberry and other mobile products.

The latest version of “The Bogotá Companion” is a bit more limited than previous Android Market versions.  (The new application doesn’t allow for some of the features such as interactive maps.)  However, it does have video clips, some links to helpful travel information and feeds to our blog.

Here’s a browser app version..

Medical tourism library

Recent Articles about Medical Tourism

This page will be frequently updated and contains stories from a variety of sources.  It’s a mix between media articles, patient and industry blogs and ‘scientific’ and medical journals.

Note: ‘Medical’ articles are often heavily weighted against medical tourism (but consider the source – as the majority are written by UK and USA physicians.)  However, many of these articles bring up important points to consider prior to considering medical travel, such as quality control , patient safety and objective measurements (and other issues that we have discussed here before).

For more on patient safety issues – see my sister site, Cartagena Surgery.

I have also omitted patient perspective/ ‘testimonial’ type stories for the most part – as we’ve discussed here and on Cartagena Surgery – first-person narratives are not helpful in that patients themselves often do not have all of the necessary components to provide recommendations.

Medical Tourism: the element of cost – Healthnews.com

Crime, drug wars threatens Mexico’s medical tourism – opinion article

A portable medical health record – for medical tourists and other travelers.  A paper talking about a new free application to assist travelers in maintaining portable health records, and how this may change the face of health care, and consumer expectations/ safety.

An excellent overview of the issues involved in medical tourism – including quality of care, cultural issues and informed consent.  (this is a British article and focuses primarily on medical tourism to Thailand, India).  However, all of the issues raised in this article are addressed in the Bogotá book.

A review of the literature surrounding ‘the patient experience’ of medical tourism’

A nice article talking about the availability and quality of medical tourism information available on the internet (something we’ve talked about many, many times.) Of course the name of the article, “Nip, Tuck and Click” does give a hint of the writers bias against medical tourism.