Puerto Rico launches medical tourism strategy

The Economic Development and Commerce department of Puerto Rico has presented its strategy for promoting itself as a medical tourism destination, especially among the Hispanic population of the Caribbean and the U.S. East Coast, the main target for medical care including dental treatment, liposuction and weight-loss surgery at prices far lower than in the USA.

The Puerto Rican administration commissioned a market study from which it deduces that medical costs on the island are between 40 % and 60 % lower than in the USA. An Advantage Business Consulting study commissioned by the government identified a wealth of opportunities in a variety of specialties including: dental, cardiology, orthopedics, bariatric surgery, cancer treatment, neurosurgery, gynaecology and infertility, pediatrics, ophthalmology and certain cosmetic procedures.

Alberto Baco of Economic Development and Commerce explains, “This has been talked about for a decade. Now we are taking action. Puerto Rico has a privileged situation in this market. 3,000 jobs can be created linked to the industry, which is expected to serve 30,000 patients over the next three years. It is a new sector in Puerto Rico, which is going to create business, and will require more hotels. We more expensive than Latin America, but as a U.S. jurisdiction, offer more security and guarantees. When going to have surgery, your main concern is the training of the doctor. The majority of our doctors have studied in the USA and our hospitals are accredited, and certified by Medicare, just like those in the USA.”

The ambitious target of 10,000 medical tourists a year would produce $200 million revenue over a three-year period, and to do that Puerto Rico must make itself known as a healthcare destination that is able to attract Americans and compete with established markets in Central and Latin America.

Ingrid Rivera of the Puerto Rico Tourism Agency comments, “Whoever travels to have surgery does not do it alone. They always go accompanied by one or two people, at a minimum, and often they remain for some additional days for the patient’s rehabilitation.”

The Puerto Rico government has created Medical Tourism Corporation, an entity overseen by a board that includes the Puerto Rico Trade & Export Co., Puerto Rico Tourism Co., Health Department, and members of the medical community.

Medical Tourism Corporation will co-ordinate the establishment of legal, administrative and operational guidelines for services ranging across all parts of the medical tourism industry: transportation, hotels, hospitals, medical professionals and tour operators.

Rather than setting up a government body, the government wants to outsource medical tourism and will soon seek a private, for-profit entity that will manage the flow of patients and providers and market Puerto Rico as a leading medical tourism destination. The logic is that government should work to stimulate a self-sufficient private sector, not do what the private sector may do better and cheaper. The government will provide seed money for the first couple years with the aim of having the operational and logistics entity achieve profitability after then through fees for concierge and other services.

As a U.S. territory, no passport is required for U.S. citizens to travel to Puerto Rico, which is within easy air access to major stateside cities, including those up and down the East Coast.