Medical Tourism: Prepping for Procedures After the Covid-19 Pandemic

Located south of California on the Baja Peninsula, Tijuana, Mexico boasts a Mediterranean climate that attracts millions of visitors each year. In fact, the city’s border between the United States and Mexico is the most heavily crossed one in the world.

Some travel to Tijuana for one of its many racetracks, while others head to the more than two miles of beaches that comprise its westernmost borough, Playas de Tijuana. What you might not know, though, its that the city is a prime destination for medical tourism.

medical tourism

Curtailed Costs in a Growing Market

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines medical tourism as consumers travelling across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment. Consumers choose medical tourism for a variety of reasons, the primary of which is cost savings. That’s not surprising due to the U.S. spending more money on healthcare – approximately $3.6 trillion and 18 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) – than any other developed nation.

According to Patients Beyond Borders (PBB), medical travelers save from 20-80 percent on treatments when compared to the U.S. Those getting procedures done in Mexico save approximately 40-65 percent. This cost difference often is substantial, especially for cosmetic surgery, which is typically not covered by insurance.

An estimated 14 million people each year travel internationally for medical treatment, making the medical tourism market worth approximately $45-72 billion annually. The global market is predicted to exceed $135 billion by 2024, and the cosmetic segment of the industry is projected to generate a revenue of $31 million by 2026.

Those who plan on travelling to Mexico or another country this year for a medical procedure, though, will most likely benefit from reduced costs, including cheaper airfare and lodging. In an effort to boost the medical tourism industry, some insurance companies have even started covering costs of procedures outside the U.S.

Planning for Procedures

If you’re planning on being part of the burgeoning medical tourism market this year or next, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate your risk of contracting the novel coronavirus while traveling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following tips for protecting yourself and others during your trip: clean your hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; void close contact with others; wear a cloth face covering in public; cover coughs and sneezes; and pick up food at drive-throughs, curbside restaurant service or stores.

When international travel and medical tourism become more frequent once again, there are some additional measures you should take to ensure you receive a high quality of care from a reputable healthcare provider. Most of all, do your research, and put your safety first.

  • Pick the correct procedure. Know what the treatment you want entails, the benefits it offers and any corresponding risks. Be aware of any possible complications.
  • Choose a trained specialist. Find a medical tourism or other healthcare provider who is board-certified and trained in the specialty in which you’re planning to receive care. If you’re planning to visit a clinic or hospital, make sure it has received ISQua accreditation and has employees who speak your language. If possible, talk with other patients who have undergone the same procedure. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) offer a guide to providers in cities around the world.
  • Share your medical history. Inform your selected healthcare provider about any medical conditions you have and what medication(s) you take. Be sure you’re up-to-date on any necessary vaccinations and other immunizations.
  • Know what to expect. Ask about how you expect the procedure to affect you and what side effects you might experience. Be informed about your estimated recovery time and any corresponding travel restrictions after the treatment.
  • Make contingency plans. Develop a strategy for dealing with unplanned changes in your trip, including those due to bad weather, accommodation problems and travel documentation issues.
  • Find a healthcare provider for follow-up. Before you travel to another country for a medical procedure, arrange for follow-up care with your primary care physician or another provider who has knowledge of the specific treatment you’re planning to receive.
  • Ask about insurance. Although not all insurance companies provide coverage for medical care received outside the U.S., some pay for post-procedure care.
  • Learn about legalities. As ISAPS notes, this consists of signing contracts, coordinating entry Visa requirements, organizing travel and accommodation logistics; and finding out your legal recourse if your procedure goes wrong, including the malpractice and patient protection laws of your destination country.

To consider visiting Mexico for any plastic / cosmetic procedure, the next step is to schedule a Virtual Consultation here.

Dr. Alejandro Quiroz

Dr. Quiroz is our board-certified Chief Plastic Surgeon at VIDA Clinic in Tijuana. He specializes in Facial Rejuvenation, Neck lift, Buttock Augmentation, Breast Augmentation, Body Contouring and more. He is member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, San Diego Plastic Surgery Society, the Mexican Society of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and the Mexican Council of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, to mention a few.