The World Health Organization has ranked Costa Rica as one of the top three healthcare systems in Latin America, and the nation consistently ranks higher in healthcare than many of its industrialized counterparts including Canada and the United States. Similarly, life expectancy is among the world’s highest (79.7 years, one year higher than the US).
Health travel is huge as well. In 2015, the country welcomed some 48,000 medical and health travelers, mostly from the US, Canada, and the EU. Neighboring countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras also seek out Costa Rica for access to higher-quality medical services. Some five percent of Costa Rica’s international tourists visit this small, lush country to take advantage of its medical services, mostly cosmetic surgery and dental care.
For those planning minimally invasive procedures, Costa Rica’s proximity to the US and reputation as a tourist destination offer the best of both worlds. In fact, Costa Rica is one of the top five countries most visited by Americans seeking medical treatment.
Costa Rica boasts hundreds of board-certified physicians, surgeons, and dentists, mostly practicing in or near San Jose. Capitalizing on Costa Rica’s success in cosmetic surgery and dentistry, the country’s international medical offerings have expanded in recent years to include eye surgery and other elective procedures, such as bariatric surgery (for weight loss) and orthopedics. In addition, Costa Rica has launched research and clinical initiatives for Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, pain management, and diabetes.
Three hospitals—CIMA San Jose, Clinica Catolica, and Clinica Bíblica—have recently undergone extensive expansion and modernization to attract a broader mix of international patients. Clinica Biblica was the first in the country to achieve JCI accreditation. American-owned Hospital CIMA in San Jose achieved JCI status in 2008. Both are full-service hospitals offering patients a wide array of specialties and procedures previously unavailable to the medical traveler.
While Costa Rica enjoys a reputation for cosmetic surgery, many of the country’s noted surgeons do not have their own facilities, but rather practice in one of the respected private hospitals, such as Catolica, Bíblica or CIMA. For patients who prefer the comparative intimacies of a clinic, the less cozy hospital setting may be off-putting.