The title of today’s post comes from a blogger you are all familiar with by now, Joe Paduda. Joe provided me some feedback the other day on my Lessons post, and while trying to figure out what to call this post, I felt that this was an appropriate title, because I have been consistently far in front of the crowd on the issue of medical tourism and workers’ compensation, and on the subject of today’s post, which is Latin America.
One of my very good publishers, Santhi Nair, in Malaysia, sent me a link to a press release on SBWire.com entitled, “Latin America Becoming Prime Destination for Medical Tourism”. Another article that I found on Travel and Tour World.com, called “Latin America’s Medical Tourism Witnessing Boom”,echoes the SBWire release, but goes a bit more into detail.
Both articles discuss a survey conducted by IPK International that revealed that roughly 3 percent of the world’s population travels for medical treatment to foreign countries, and they both pointed to a Patient Beyond Borders report that stated that the medical tourism industry is a $40 billion a year business. (This has not been confirmed by me, so it would be best to check it out with PBB)
According to the Travel and Tour article, the impetus behind traveling for medical care abroad, as far as the US is concerned, is beyond saving money. The Latino community is attracted to this because it affords them peace of mind in dealing with Spanish-speaking doctors and quality facilities. [Emphasis added]
Various surgeries are now performed in Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, and El Salvador. Patients Beyond Borders reported that Mexico now attracts more than a million patients a year, many of whom come from California, Arizona and Texas, and are mainly Hispanic.
It is Latin America’s proximity to North America that makes medical tourism so attractive, a point I have been making for some time. Other factors include favorable exchange rates, bilingual healthcare personnel, friendly cultures, tropical climates, and as I have mentioned before, lower cultural barriers that will provide a relaxed recovery period, with friends and family in those countries able to visit the patient while recuperating.
Travel and Tour World also listed popular destinations in Latin America such as: Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time will note that I have mentioned these countries before, so it does not come as a surprise to you that these are the most popular medical tourism destinations.
Getting back to the title of this piece, I had a running email conversation with Joe yesterday morning before I had to leave for a memorial service, and the upshot of our conversation was that the workers’ compensation industry does not change unless it is forced to change. My reply to that was that the industry will have to change whether it wants to or not, and whether it likes it or not, not because of me or my writing, but because as you will see in the companion post to this one, the US population, and the workforce is becoming increasingly more Hispanic, and to ignore their desire to seek medical care abroad in their home countries, is not only expensive, given that costs are lower in these facilities, but it is also counter-productive, in that better outcomes and happier employees will result from implementing medical tourism into workers’ compensation.
And as for being far in front of the crowd on this issue, I have to say I am proud to be so far in front of the crowd, if the future workforce of the US is going to be more Hispanic, but I am also disappointed that the workers’ compensation industry is so far behind what the rest of the world is doing. Medical care is not stopping at the water’s edge, and neither should workers’ compensation.
Yes, it is a complex issue, which is something else Joe mentioned to me, but that’s because we have made it so. David DePaolo, who I wrote about the other day, said so a while back, and I think he is right. We have spent more effort on dealing with lawyers, providers, payers, service providers, etc., and have forgotten what workers’ compensation is all about. It’s about the claimant/patient, and shouldn’t we think about what is best for them, and what they would want to do?
Watch out, workers’ comp, change is coming, and you’d better get on board with it.
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