Monthly Archives: June 2011
Thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who notified me that portions of one of my articles “Bogotá hospital offers hope to abdominal cancer patients” (originally published on Colombia Reports.com) was featured in the article, “Agencies promote Central and Southern American medical tourism.”
I’ve asked them to provide a link to the original article so readers can get more information on the topic.
Update: 29 June 2011: Here’s a link to the new article on Treatment Abroad (which is an International Medical Travel Journal sister site) that gives their readers the information they really need. (The name of the doctor, of course!) It’s a summary of the original Colombia Reports.com article. They still haven’t cited the ‘borrowed’ content on the original article, or provided the name of the physician doing the treatment (Dr. Fernando Arias) but I guess it’s an improvement.
Take Bogotá Surgery with you – and stay up to date with all the news and headlines wherever you go! New FREE application for Android now available at the Android Market
RSS feeds for Nokia phones
An apple iPhone application is hopefully in the works..
Another article on the effectiveness of HIPEC (cytoreductive surgery with intraoperative hyperthermic chemotherapy) in the news. This story comes out of India and highlights doctors there and the HIPEC procedure for treatment of abdominal cancers (intestinal and ovarian cancers.)
The Future is Now.. in an article on Medscape, dated December of 2010 and originally published in Future Oncology, Dr. Ze Lu et. al discusses the future of cancer treatment. (The article is several pages in length – so I haven’t re-posted but reference information is provided below). Dr. Ze Lu and his colleagues believe the future of oncology treatment is…. Intraperitoneal Hyperthermic Chemotherapy (HIPEC)..
In August, we’ll check back in with Bogotá’s resident expert on HIPEC, Dr. Fernando Arias.
Lu, Z., Wang, J., Wientjes, G., & Au, J. (2010). Intraperitoneal therapy for peritoneal cancer. Future Oncology. 2010 (6) 10; 1625 -1641
This morning I met with executives from Sanivisit, a new medical tourism company based here in Reston, Virginia. This company is affiliated with the Colsanitas corporation in Bogotá, Colombia.
I met with Mr. Alberto Ospina, a native Bogotano and President of Sanivisit and his colleague, Ms. Monica Wainbarg, Medical Tourism Advisor. Both of them were very gracious and interested in this project.
I was surprised and pleased to see that both of these individuals have certainly done their homework. In this past, I have had mixed experiences with medical tourism companies. Some have been excellent, but others like the LaMontes, (interviewed for Cartagena surgery project) were blatant opportunists with little understanding or caring about the specialized needs of the medical tourist.
This was not the case with Sanivisit. Both of the executives I met with have personally visited and met with all of the physicians involved. They have toured and inspected travel facilities, and have arranged for VIP services for their clients. As Mr. Ospina explained, “I’ve been in every hotel, measured the rooms, talked to the staff. I make sure that rooms are clean, and comfortable. I make sure that there is room for wheelchair accessibility. I talk to everyone. I make sure that everyone involved knows what we are doing.”
This includes arranging for transportation, diagnostic testing, doctors appointments, private nursing care after surgery, and even physician house calls, if needed.
Right now, they are trying to get the Colsanitas hospitals included in some of the medical tourism pilot projects (as alternatives to India) with several health insurance companies. As readers know, several other large health insurance companies already support and encourage medical tourism excursions, and have establish separate divisions to assist medical tourism efforts. (Unfortunately, in many cases these divisions exclusively work with Indian hospitals. As we’ve discussed at Cartagena Surgery on multiple occasions, and published elsewhere on-line - India is a less than ideal location for American patients for several reasons.)
Since the company is in its infancy. the next year will be the trial by fire for Colombian medical tourism, Sanivisit and Colsanitas. They seem like genuine, and caring individuals. I wish them the best of luck.
In the future, I hope to interview some of their returning clients for readers here – to get their perspectives and experiences.
For the sake of absolute transparency and honesty, I would like to disclose that I have offered several of my articles on Medical tourism to Sanivisit for their use (with no compensation or remuneration.)
Update: October 2011
I’ve posted a link to an article talking about patient safety, and facility/ physician oversight in foreign medical facilities for patients seeking medical tourism options.
This is the rationale and purpose behind the both the Cartagena and the upcoming Bogotá books – that as an independent, unbiased reviewer and health care professional; I am able to observe, interview and evaluate facilities, surgeons and procedures for safety issues (and adherence to accepted national and international standards / protocols.)
This eliminates the uncertainty for patients seeking medical tourism; is the facility clean? Are the physicians licensed? Are the procedures performed according to accepted practices?
As a reputable, practicing health care provider with no secondary gain (other than book sales), patients can find a trustworthy source for this information. I don’t work for the surgeons, the medical tourism companies or the governments of the host countries. I don’t make a dime from these medical procedures – and have no vested interest in where patients ultimately seek care.
But, the development of infections, post-operative complications or other problems with medical tourism is bad for business (for the providers and facilities reviewed) so these facilities had a vested interest in letting me into their hospitals and their operating rooms. They wanted me to see what they had to offer – particularly the facilities that are doing everything right..
(The facilities that weren’t following accepted practices invited me in, as well. I think because they assumed that an American nurse wouldn’t know any better.) That’s their oversight, and to your benefit – because I was able to observe and report my findings to you, my readers.
I think this is going to become a more popular and frequent practice – but hopefully the reviewers are going to be people like me; people familiar with the procedures and practices, and the operating room. This is another separate issue – that has already reared its head. There are several medical tourism books out there, including books that have made millions of dollars, written by arm-chair MBAs who looked at published statistics (only) and used this as the basis of their reports.. As everyone knows, published statistics are only part of the story, and can certainly be manipulated.
Physically viewing the facilities, talking to the surgeons and watching the procedures are the real test of how things function on a daily basis, and what care a patient should expect.
Friday, I am heading to Reston, Virginia to interview one of the people involved with the new Colsanitas medical tourism venture that we discussed in a previous post. I’ve already been to the hospitals in Colombia (Clinica Colombia and Reina Sofia) and I’ve interviewed the surgeons involved, so I know the quality and care provided by the facilities involved. But do they? What rigor has this company performed to protect potential patients (and consumers of their services)? In this case, I know that both the hospitals and the surgeons are excellent, but do they? And how do they know this? I’ll try to get answers to all of these questions and post them here for readers.
New agreement with Colsanitas and a company in Northern Virginia is bringing Colombia to the author’s backyard..
Now, for more intimate details of the Bogotá Colsanitas facilities and the surgeons operating there – you’ll have to pick up a copy of Bogotá! The book is being reviewed right now, so we’re getting closer and closer to publication..
First, I would like to give my sincere thanks to Gabriel Amorocho, who sought me out to address my concerns regarding ProExport. He then made a special effort to follow up with me and to get all of my questions answered.
Since I was unable to meet any of the ProExport representatives during my stay in Colombia – I submitted a list of questions for your information. I am posting the questions and the official answers from ProExport here.
Questions and Answers with Erick Forero of ProExport:
1. What do you anticipate for the future of medical tourism in
Thanks to the high quality level of our health services, as well as the efficiency of its administration and management, Colombia has become an international leader in the health services sector, with the United States, the Caribbean islands and Ecuador as its main
clients. The plan moving forward is to continue strengthening the sector, as well positioning the country even more as a health destination.
In addition, Colombia is now going through an excellent moment on the subject. Colombian health institutions have reached worldwide acknowledgement thanks to its state of the art technology, qualified personnel, customized attention, excellent service-lead times and competitive pricing.
The sector is currently working very strong on accreditation activities. While the country has its own accreditation system, there are some institutions working on their accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI).
So far we have two accredited institutions and around 15 in the process to enter the United States’ market.
2. How is the government promoting Colombia as a medical tourism destination?
The Government chose the medical services exports sector as a world-class industry, on the basis of which the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism is conducting its activities around
creating tools to facilitate and overcome certain barriers that have been identified in the health field.
The duty-free regulation arose from the fact that sufficient beds were not available. Thus, the duty-free zones will increase the capacity by over one-thousand.
Furthermore, as part of its exportation promotion activities, Proexport Colombia is working very hard on positioning the country abroad by participating in events and arranging fam-trips where we bring insurers and facilitators to display our technology, infrastructure and the clinics.
3. What do you see as the advantages of medical tourism in Colombia for North American consumers?
There are several reasons why Colombia is a health-tourism destination: First of all, it stands out at Latin American level thanks to its research on scientific and health topics; it has
established itself as an annual host for prestigious academic events, conventions, seminars and health training sessions; in addition to being pioneers in Latin America on the creation of its own health-accreditation systems (a total of 16 institutions have national accreditation and two have JCI international accreditation).
Colombia ranks first in Latin America in overall health system performance, and 22 in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
On the other hand, significant advancements have been made in the country as contributions to the medical world, such as the creation of the pacemaker (useful for certain heart
diseases), the Hakim valve (created to treat brain diseases) and the Malaria vaccination (a tropical disease that causes serious health problems in the region), among others.
Because of this, and thanks to the firm commitment to always guarantee the highest quality standards of health services, Colombia is one of the most attractive destinations world-wide for
4. I know Colombia has regulations in place restricting organ transplantation in Colombia to prevent black market sales. Can you tell me more about that?
This is not a competency of Proexport Colombia. There is a regulation in place to give priority to national patients for transplants. The entity in charge is the National Health Institute. Its web
page is www.ins.gov.co.
5. Is Colombia planning to be represented at the Medical Tourism Association Congress in Chicago this October?
Who will be representing Colombia, and what will they be presenting?
We will be at the Convention in Chicago. The Colombian representation will be led by 10 institutions from the whole country. Proexport Colombia will coordinate the entire participation, thus we will have a stand with information regarding the country and four of
the participating clinics, which are all accredited and will have a stand. The best of the best from the country is going to be present at the event. They will be presenting their services, their export offer and the progress made in matters of infrastructure and technology acquisition.
6. Is there anything specific you would like to pass along to Americans considering coming to Colombia for surgical procedures?
The offering found in Colombia by the foreign visitors coming to the country seeking these services is varied; however, the main sectors sought after are Cardiology, Cancer treatments,
Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Dentistry, medical check-ups and plastic surgery.
Amongst the sales channels identified by Proexport, the entity in charge of exports, investment and tourism promotion in Colombia, we have the end user, insurers, facilitators and foreign doctors.
However, the arrival of new visitors into the country seeking these services is due to the various international conferences and conventions which take place, web-page promotions, insurer and
facilitator Fam Trips.
Bogota and Medellin are the main destinations for foreigners, followed by Bucaramanga, Cali, Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cartagena and the Coffee Triangle.
Colombian Doctors are very experienced, and the majority of them have been educated in universities abroad.
We also have state-of-the-art technology and a one of a kind diversity of climates all year round, which is great for all patients.
In addition, thanks to our economy and exchange rates, we are very favorable in terms of costs, considering that health services are very costly and slow in other countries, while the opposite
occurs in Colombia.
Furthermore, we have good air-traffic connections with the United States.
7. Can you explain the medical visa to me? Is a medical visa needed?
This is Foreign-Affairs Ministry issue. But Colombia does not require a medical visa. If the treatment is a very lengthy one, lasting over six months, you must request a visa.
Thanks again, Mr. Amorocho, and Thanks, ProExport Colombia.
As we’ve seen several times before, Bogotá surgeons stay ahead of the curve on cutting edge treatments. In the last several weeks, HIPEC or Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (Sugarbaker procedure) has been dotting the news headlines in the United States, and across the globe.
But as my readers here at Bogotá Surgery know, not only have we talked about HIPEC in the past - Dr. Arias has been performing this procedure at Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota since 2009. He reports he did eight cases in May alone. (This is considered fairly high volume if you review the amount of cases being done at other centers.)
Planning to catch up with Dr. Arias and check in later this summer..
Well, the book goes for final editing next week – and still no comment or response to my inquiries at ProExport Colombia. The situation has me completely frustrated – as it’s a whole division of government supposed devoted to helping people like me – to encourage economic investment in Colombia. It’s not as if my inquires have fallen into a black hole – I’ve had numerous people contact ProExport on my behalf – so this silence isn’t an incidental bureaucratic oversight – it’s a deliberate manuever from Deisy Vargas – since she’s been contacted about this; both in phone calls and emails from my other contacts multiple, multiple times (as well as my own efforts.)
If I were President Santos, I’d investigate this department – and see what they are doing with all those federal funds. Almost six months now trying to get a response from Deisy Vargas – and getting a lot of ringing phones (no voicemail), and unanswered emails. Where are these people all day? What are they doing all day since they certainly aren’t helping people like me?