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Know Your Options: Healthcare Abroad

With the state of our healthcare systems in the U.S. and Canada, many people are looking for alternatives. Whether you are being charged through the nose for dental implants or having to wait months or even years for treatment, our current systems leave much to be desired. And, unfortunately, it looks like they are going to continue the spiral downwards for the foreseeable future.

So, what are we to do? Well, as you know, here at Escape Artist, we are all about giving yourself options. And that goes for healthcare, too.

So, we brought in Tracy Griffith of Healthcare Adventures to discuss the healthcare options available overseas. You probably already recognize Tracy, since she is a regular contributor for Escape Artist Insiders magazine. Here’s a little more about her and her company, Healthcare Adventures:

Tracy Griffith is a Certified Medical Travel Agent with over 25 years of experience in clinical nursing and is the founder of Healthcare Adventures. Her company specializes in medical tourism in Mexico and Central America and provides comprehensive and customizable medical travel packages. Tracy’s expert team at Healthcare Adventures understands the importance of finding talented surgeons and high-quality care facilities, utilizing their network of affiliations to make their clients’ overseas medical experience worthwhile.

Now, let’s start this interview!


Lisa: Welcome, Tracy! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. A lot of our readers are really interested in medical tourism due to our deteriorating healthcare systems in Canada and the US.

Tracy: Thanks for having me.

Lisa: So how did you actually get started in medical tourism in the first place? You mentioned you’re a nurse by trade?

Tracy: Yeah, so I’ve been in nursing since I997. I have been very frustrated with healthcare for a long time and I had always been at the bedside, and the times I had dabbled in management for a year here and there it was not something I was really interested in.

So, after a couple years of management I decided this is just not me and I ended up going part-time. We (my husband and I) were trying to find a way to take what I know, which is healthcare and medicine, and put it with what I love, which is traveling, and that’s how we came up with the idea of medical tourism.

While everybody was stuck at home during 2020, I was traveling. I was down in Cabo, Mexico meeting with dentists and plastic surgeons and anybody else that would meet with me, visiting different hospitals. I was in Cancun doing the same thing, and then I went to Costa Rica and met with dentists and endodontists and plastic surgeons there. And then in the beginning of 2021, I ended up in Panama talking to orthopedists and dentists and that kind of thing.

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I wanted to check out their facilities to make sure that they were up to what people in the US or other countries are looking for. Sometimes they get a bad rap because of that whole third world country thing… But these places are so squeaky clean. Their equipment is the exact same from the same companies that we have here in the States.

And then I ask the hard questions. I’ve had several orthopedic surgeries myself, including total knee replacements, so I know what to ask the surgeons about how they do the procedures. For instance, a total hip replacement, you have a couple of different ways of doing it. One is what we consider to be more of the old-fashioned way. It creates more of a scar and it takes longer to recoup after surgery with therapy, versus a newer type that they would have to go to an extra class to learn to do.

So, are you the orthopedist that plans on being around for a long time? And you wanted to have this new technique available because it’s better for your patients and it’s quicker for them to get back on their feet? Or are you the old school doc who always wants to do it the same way you’ve been doing it and you’re really not interested in anything new and upcoming because you just like the status quo.

So, those are the kind of things I ask. Things that normal, everyday people don’t know. A nice voice and a nice person doesn’t necessarily make the best surgeon.

Does that make sense?

Lisa: It does. As the patient, you’re going in somewhat blind, your home country is turning the screws on you already, and there’s a certain level of desperation. So, I’m sure it’s very helpful to have somebody who’s already qualified these places, like you have, when they are finally ready to make the leap and seek out healthcare in other countries.

It sounds like you really bring a lot of expertise into Healthcare Adventures. What are some of the services you provide?

Tracy: It’s more about à la carte thing. I can do as much or as little as you want. If you want me to be more of your travel agent and set it all up as far as flights and places to stay, excursions and that kind of thing, I can do that. Or, if you just want to come in 24 hours before, show up for surgery and then get back as soon as possible, I can help with that, too.

There are different options depending on what you’re having done and how long you stay post-op because you can’t just get right back on a plane to come right back home in many cases. But it depends on what you’re having done. If you’re having simple lipo, maybe, but if you’re having an abdominoplasty or orthopedic procedures done, you’re going to be there for an additional two or three weeks, depending on how you’re doing. It’s really very dependent on the patient, what they’re looking to have done, and what other medical issues they have going on.

But that is the great thing about these places. For instance, Costa Rica has a lot of post-op wellness centers where you can go and get your own private duty nurses and that kind of thing. There’s actually a Marriott Residence Inn there that’s literally five minutes walking distance from the hospital and the doctor’s office, so they can send their nurses over to check on you and you’re really close by them if there’s a problem.

Lisa: Okay, and what really struck me about what you said there is that you’d be in the hotel down the street and they’d actually send someone to see you. That’s quite different than in the US or Canada!

Tracy: And most of the time things like that are already included in the price of the procedure. In Cabo, Mexico I toured a hospital. They had an ocean view, and their rooms were specifically for medical tourism patients from the States. It looked like a hotel room. There was a place for your family to stay, there was a coffee maker and a little refrigerator in the room and it was across the street from the ocean so you actually had an ocean view from your hotel room. I couldn’t believe how big it looked, it looked just like one of our suites here in a hotel. And right beside that when you got out of the hospital there was a hotel, I believe it was a Holiday Inn Express, where you could actually stay and have your therapy right there in the hotel. They had everything already set up to meet all your needs and be easy and accessible.

Lisa: Wow, that sounds amazing, especially compared to here, where you’re lined up in a triage of beds post-surgery with only a curtain for privacy! Definitely not as conducive to the whole healing experience.

Tracy: That’s right.

Lisa: What are the most common procedures people reach out to you about?

Tracy: So far it’s been the dental and then the cosmetic surgery. Costa Rica has been the number one spot in Central America for cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately, the prices have gotten to be more like what they are here in the States.

Lisa: I was actually going to ask if inflation was a factor for pricing down there.

Tracy: Yes, and they’re good. Don’t get me wrong. And I’m sure they’re cheaper than places like Miami, Los Angeles, New York. But they are on par with places like South Carolina so you have to ask yourself if it makes sense from a travel standpoint, the fact that you have to fly down there, find a place to stay and all the kind of stuff.

Mexico is by far cheaper. A total knee replacement in Mexico, depending on if you want the private level health care or the public level health care, the difference between them is only $1500. Same surgeon, same implant. When I checked into it, the most expensive knee replacement procedure was $14,000 and the cheapest was $11,000, whereas here in the States it’s $40,000 for that same surgery.

If you have a $10,000 deductible you have to meet then you’re going to be out that money anyway, so you may as well go down there and have it done. But it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Lisa: Sometimes Canadians end up going down to the States to get stuff done. Sometimes the hospital will send them, and sometimes they have to go of their own accord because they can’t get the treatment they need here.

If you’re in a position where you’re already willing to travel for healthcare, I’m hoping maybe people can make that extra leap to considering Mexico, Panama or Costa Rica as another option. But here in North America we forget there are other countries in the world and other options available to us.

Tracy: There’s a lot going on on the other side of the world. Whether it’s Turkey or Singapore or Malaysia, there’s so much going on over there.

I went to Mexico City and had a comprehensive physical that included a cardiac work-up, eyes, ears, dental, bloodwork, mammogram, everything. It can include a colonoscopy, if you want it. They did a CT scan of my entire body looking for any masses or anything like that. And they put it all in English for me for less than $2,500.

They had a female package and they had a male package, and then they had a female package for women over 40 and under 40. They even send a translator because everybody doesn’t speak English everywhere or, even when they do, sometimes it’s harder to understand. All the doctors have spoken very good English, usually it’s more of the ancillary staff that it’s harder to communicate with and those are things you set up ahead of time with your translator.

Lisa: Okay, so we can put people’s minds at ease that they will be able to understand and that they don’t have to worry about a language barrier there because you can set that all up ahead of time. That is really good to know.

What is the most popular healthcare destination out of Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica from your experience?

Tracy: It depends on what you’re looking for. For cosmetic procedures it’s Costa Rica. Dental is usually going to be Mexico. And then Panama has a big orthopedic center, built right in the middle of a bunch of new expat stuff outside of Panama City. It’s three stories and huge and looks like any Hilton-style hospital that we’ve seen here in the States.

We don’t do the border stuff like Tijuana and that kind of thing. We focus more on where you might want to go on vacation to see pretty things, the ocean, the jungle. It’s always better to recoup if you’re sitting on a balcony looking at an ocean somewhere.

Most people bring a family member or friend down with them and it gives them something to do also. Once you’re in therapy, maybe they get to go and take an excursion somewhere. Or maybe you come down a few days early and go do some fun things.

Lisa: That sounds wonderful! Now, what do you think the future holds for medical tourism? Certainly in the US and Canada, the healthcare situation is getting rapidly worse. Would you say that medical tourism is going to become more and more popular just based on the need of people to find other options for their healthcare?

Tracy: Yes, I do. I think that there’s going to be the people that will never leave the country they’re in because they don’t know anything else and change is scary. And they also have Medicare. But Medicare is set to run out in 2030. My husband and I are in our early 50s, so there’s not going to be those things for us there. There’s not going to be social security. There’s not going to be Medicare. We’re preparing for that and know that our healthcare will be coming outside of this country. Mexico’s the hottest spot ever right now, and they’ve set themselves up to be a huge player with medical tourism as Canada and the US are falling apart financially.

Lisa: Absolutely. And I think that a lot of the value you bring is that you have already gone and been the boots on the ground, and checked out the facilities, and talked to the doctors, and vetted everything ahead of time so that people who are needing these medical issues addressed, they can take that weight off of their mind. They know that somebody has already gone and done this who is knowledgeable in the field and that’s a big part of utilizing services from yourself, is that you have that peace mind and you don’t have to go this alone.

Tracy: Yeah, I don’t use doctors and dentists that I haven’t gone down and looked at their hospitals or clinics and talked to them face to face. I made those trips – that’s what I was doing during Covid, traveling to all those different places. I’ve been a patient down there also, so I don’t just say “go”, I’ve actually gone down there and had stuff done.

Lisa: You’ve demoed it out for us.

Tracy: Yes. It can be unnerving, so if you’re hiring somebody to go with you and they’re done it all of themselves, it really helps. When you’re the guinea pig, so to speak, you wonder how smooth it’s going to go. But I will tell you, it was just as smooth if not smoother than anything I’ve had done here in the States.

Lisa: That’s awesome. I know I’m sold! So what is the best way for somebody to reach out to you if they want to know more about your services?

Tracy: They can reach out to me directly via my Escape Artist Insiders contact form. I also have my Healthcare Adventures website where they can find more info, and they can contact me directly at info@healthcare-adventures.com.

Lisa: Excellent. Do you have anything else that you want to share about Healthcare Adventures or your services or anything?

Tracy: We’re small company. It’s just a couple of us. But sometimes that’s better because you don’t get lost in the big corporation. And, if I don’t have what you’re looking for, I usually can find it.

Lisa: Awesome, so definitely more of a boutique service.

Tracy: Yes. And it can be much quicker than it is in Canada or the U.S. as far as getting a doctor or dentist appointment. Or, if it’s not urgent and you want to take a family vacation but yet you really need to get this procedure done, you could go down and do it all at once.

Lisa: Multitasking.

Tracy: Yeah.

Lisa: Well, that brings the interview to a close. I really appreciate your time and I think it’s really cool, what you do. I enjoy reading your articles in Escape Artist Insiders magazine, and I know that we’re getting more and more interest about these kinds of topics. So, I think your expertise is just going to just be more and more important to people who are willing to expand their horizons and seek healthcare abroad.

Tracy: Yeah, I think so, too. Thank you.


I hope this article has given you some food for thought when it comes to healthcare options available overseas. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to subscribe to Escape Artist Insiders magazine for all the latest insights from our offshore experts. This month’s issue is all about Costa Rica and you won’t want to miss it. Subscribe today!

LisaLisa is an aspiring expat from Canada who is working to put together her Plan B with a young family in tow. She is excited to pair her lifelong love of writing with her passion for offshore strategies and outside-the box investments in her weekly articles for Escape Artist readers. Follow this “rebel with a cause” as she walks the path less traveled and shares her experiences along the way.
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