Medical Tourism to Panama

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Panama has earned the title as the "Hong Kong" or "Dubai" of the Americas. This has mainly been due to its significantly lower cost of living and fully "Americanized" culture. Panama is slowly becoming one of the top medical tourism destinations, attracting US and Canadian health travelers. The reasons for this are: its proximity, excellent healthcare services, US trained and certified medical staff and its attractive natural beauty.

The Healthcare System in Panama

Panama's long association with the United States has left a distinct American footprint in its culture, giving it more than a hundred years advantage over other countries in providing healthcare to American patients using US standards of quality and service. This can be seen in the similarities in facilities, medical procedures and practices, as well as the abundance of US trained and board certified doctors and medical staff.

There is currently one hospital in Panama that is fully certified by the Joint Commissions International. However, all of the other top hospitals, most of which are privately owned, are fully certified by local medical accreditation bodies set by the Panamanian government as well as other non-government accreditation bodies.

In addition, most of the top hospitals have affiliations and are duly recognized by international medical organizations such as the Johns Hopkins International, Baptist Health International of Miami, Cleveland Clinic, Tulane Health Science Center, Miami Children's Hospital, University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Harvard Medical Faculty, the Kendall Medical Center and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center among others.

Top Hospitals in Panama for Medical Tourism

Major hospitals in Panama have affiliations with prominent international medical institutions. This enables them to maintain a high quality level, not only in their facilities, but also in their procedures, methodology and technology as well. The most prominent among these Panamanian hospitals include:
  • Hospital Punta Pacifica
    This is the only Central American medical facility that is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Medicine International and maintains the same high-end standards in facilities, services and staff.
  • Hospital Nacional
    An 80-bed private healthcare facility with over a hundred specialists and ultra-modern facilities.
  • Clinica Hospital San Fernando
    A private hospital affiliated with the Tulane University, Miami Children's Hospital and the Baptist Health International Miami. The Hospital San Fernando is one of Panama's largest hospitals, with 24-hour medical services and facilities that are fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipments.
  • Centro Medico Paitilla
    Located in Panama City, this 160-bed medical facility is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and has been in existence since 1975. It is also a certified training facility for the American Heart Association and was one of only two hospitals that provided healthcare services to US military personnel.

Common Treatments done by Medical Tourists in Panama

Hospitals and healthcare facilities in Panama offer a wide array of procedures and services for medical travelers, which include but are not limited to the following:

Cost of Medical Treatment in Panama

The following are cost comparisons between Medical procedures in Panama and equivalent procedures in the United States: [ sources 1 2 3 ]
Medical Procedures
Procedure US Hospitals Panama Average Savings
Angioplasty with stent $19,000 - $21,000 $10,000 - $15,000 25% - 47%
Pace Maker $4,000 - $6,000 $1,500 - $2,300 50% - 60%
Laparoscopic Hernia $6,000 - $8,000 $3,500 - $4,500 40% - 50%
Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass $24,000 - $26,000 $14,000 - $16,000 35% - 40%
Hip Replacement $19,000 - $21,000 $11,000 - $13,000 35% - 40%
Arthroscopy $9,000 - $11,000 $4,000 - $6,000 45% - 55%
Herniated Disc $19,000 - $21,000 $6,000 - $7,000 65% - 70%
Carpal Tunnel Release $6,000 - $8,000 $2,500 - $3,500 55% - 60%
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Procedure US Hospitals Panama Average Savings
Neck Lift $10,000 - $12,000 $2,000 - $3,000 75% - 80%
Face Lift (rhytidectomy) $10,000 - $12,000 $2,000 - $3,000 75% - 80%
Breast Augmentation/Reduction (Mammoplasty) $5,500 - $8,000 $3,100 - $4,500 40% - 45%
Breast Lift $5,000 - $6,000 $3,000 - $4,000 35% - 40%
Liposuction (Lipoplasty) $4,000 - $6,500 $2,500 - $4,400 30% - 35%
Nose Surgery (Rhinoplasty) $4,000 - $6,000 $1,500 - $2,500 55% - 65%
Buttocks Augmentation $5,000 - $6,000 $3,500 - $4,500 25% - 30%
Chemical Peel $900 - $1,100 $450 - $550 45% - 55%
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Procedure US Hospitals Panama Average Savings
Intrauterine Insemination $1,000 - $2,000 $800 - $900 20% - 55%
In Vitro Fertilization $9,000 - $18,000 $4,000 - $6,000 55% - 70%
In Vitro Fertilization with donated egg $16,000 - $20,000 $7,000 - $9,000 50% - 55%
Eye / Ophthalmology
Procedure US Hospitals Panama Average Savings
Cataract surgery $5,500 - $6,500 $2,000 - $3,000 50% - 60%
Refractive surgery (Eximer Laser) $4,500 - $5,500 $1,500 - $2,500 55% - 60%
Glaucoma surgery $5,500 - $6,500 $1,500 - $2,500 60% - 75%
Refractive surgery with intraocular lens implant $5,500 - $6,500 $2,000 - $3,000 50% - 60%
Eyelid Surgery (Blepharoplasty) $4,000 - $5,500 $1,500 - $2,500 60% - 65%
General and Cosmetic Dentistry
Procedure US Hospitals Panama Average Savings
Root Canal $900 - $1100 $250 - $350 70% - 75%
Porcelain Crown $1,000 - $2,000 $450 - $550 55% - 75%
Porcelain Veneers $1,000 - $2,000 $450 - $550 55% - 75%
Composite Veneers $600 - $750 $150 - $250 45% - 70%
Dental Implant $2,000 - $2,500 $900 - $1100 55% - 60%
Periodontal Surgery $1,000 - $2,000 $450 - $550 55% - 75%
Periodontal Plastic Surgery $1,000 - $2,000 $450 - $550 55% - 75%
Periodontal Regenerative Procedures $1,200 - $1,600 $500 - $600 55% - 65%

Malpractice and Liability Laws in Panama

The Panamanian system has not adopted the US legalities associated with medical practices, particularly in the area of malpractice. Although doctors are responsible for their activities and performance under the law in this country, they are not required to shoulder the damages incurred during a malpractice case. The result is a lower malpractice insurance pre-requisite, which can be translated into lower procedural costs.

Pros

  • US trained physicians

    Hospitals in Panama provide high quality health care through a large staff of US-trained doctors, physicians and other medical specialists
  • US standards

    Techniques, medications, treatments and facilities are based on the same standards used in the USA
  • English proficiency

    Physicians and medical staff can communicate well in English
  • Panama City

    Panama City is considered Central America's safest and most modern city. Even the tap water is safe to drink
  • Proximity to North America

    Panama is relatively near the US and Canada. Flights are cheap and reletively short.
  • Currency

    The currency is the US dollar, so prices can be compared easily.

Cons

  • Lack of accreditation

    There are only two JCI-accredited hospitals in Panama.
  • Costs are not as low as other places

    Costs of medical treatment are higher compared to medical tourism destinations in Asia, although costs are still significantly lower compared to the US and Canada.

Traveling to Panama

Direct flights to Panama City are available from major cities in the US and Canada. This close proximity and shorter travel time, makes Panama a destination choice for medical travelers.
Average estimated travel time in hours
From/To Panama
New York City 5
Los Angeles 7
Miami 2.75
Houston 4
Dallas 4.5
Washington 4.75
Atlanta 4
Toronto 5
Vancouver 8

Entry and Exit Requirements to Panama

USA and Canadian medical travelers with a valid passport that extends at least 6 months beyond the traveler's intended last day of stay, do not need to get a visa to enter Panama. A tourist card can be purchased upon arrival, allowing the recipient to stay for 90 days in the country.
Other requirements include: return tickets, sufficient funds to shoulder the stay, confirmed accommodation and other targeted facilities. Panamanian immigration laws are very strict, so it is advisable to carry your passport with you at all times to show your proof of entry and avoid any complications during your stay.

Statistics of Medical Tourism in Panama

Doctors have estimated that there are only hundreds of medical tourists from the United States visiting Panama per year. Some hospitals have declared that they have received at least 400 to 450 international patients within the last four years seeking various medical procedures.
These figures will continue to grow, as Americans without health insurance continue to seek healthcare in nearby medical tourism destinations such as Panama. More and more baby boomers are contemplating retiring to this Latin American destination, as well as seeking healthcare services and beauty treatments at lower costs.
Hospitals in Panama