Op-Ed: The Caribbean as a Healthcare Destination

By Shomari Scott

Op-Ed Contributor

AS THE world’s population ages, non-communicable diseases continue to rise in frequency and healthcare costs inflate at an alarming rate, the issue of creating a healthcare destination that provides a high quality service for far less cost has never been more pressing.

Countries such as India, Malaysia and Costa Rica have already made successful inroads into the estimated $55 billion market of what has been termed “medical tourism’, wooing patients from overseas to their facilities with the promise of high quality medical services, huge savings on costs of up to as much as 90 percent and a pleasant environment in which to recuperate.

Now it’s the Caribbean’s turn.

Housing a first-class medical facility within the Caribbean makes sense – it’s just a short flight away from some of the largest markets urgently needing a healthcare solution – North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Health City Cayman Islands opened its first phase in early 2014, putting the Cayman Islands on the map as a healthcare destination, and offering patients a centre of excellence for cardiac surgery, cardiology, orthopaedics, paediatric endocrinology and pulmonology.

Part of cardiac surgeon, medical pioneer and philanthropist Dr Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health group based in India (which oversees 26 hospitals), Health City Cayman Islands has already proven itself to be a medical force to be reckoned with, offering procedures at drastically lower costs than that of similar centres of medical excellence within other first rate institutions in the western hemisphere. Once completed, Health City Cayman Islands will have 2,000 beds, a dedicated medical research university, assisted living centre and be one of the largest healthcare centres in the world. Narayana Health is joined in the first phase of the project by Ascension, the largest private not for profit health system in the United States.

A patient will only travel for the purpose of undergoing a medical procedure if a series of criteria are met.

There must be demonstrable government and private sector investment in the country’s healthcare infrastructure as well as commitment to international accreditation, quality assurance, and transparency of outcomes by the service provider themselves.

The Cayman Islands government has been a supporter of Health City Cayman Islands from the outset and continues to work alongside the facility to ensure that the regulatory environment is welcoming for its purpose.

Health City Cayman Islands is currently working towards its Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation. In order to be accredited by the JCI, an international hospital must meet the same set of rigorous standards set forth in the US by the same body. Health City anticipates receiving accreditation during the first quarter of 2015.

The excellence of the location’s tourism product is of paramount importance to ensure the patient has a safe and pleasant environment in which to return to health.

The Cayman Islands has built an enviable reputation among its peers as one of the top locations for sun, sea, sand and fun; catering to tourists from all over the world.

As a result, the tourism product of the Cayman Islands, guided by the public sector Department of Tourism and the private sector Cayman Islands Tourism Association has provided the island with an incredibly successful and vital economic pillar over the years and an impressive service offering for visitors.

The potential for cost savings on medical procedures is probably the motivating factor for any patient to look overseas for treatment.

At Health City Cayman Islands, the quality of service will be a motivator and costs are significantly lower than comparable hospitals in the western hemisphere. Fees are all-inclusive with anaesthetist and doctors’ fees not being additional, as is often the case overseas, an added benefit for choosing Health City Cayman Islands.

Dr Shetty and his staff have built a solid reputation for quality healthcare through the sheer volume of surgeries performed in India, in comparison to other counterparts. With this experience comes a sustained reputation for clinical excellence. All surgeons at Health City Cayman Islands possess a similar level of skills and vast experience, all with international training.

In addition, its sister hospitals under the Narayana Health group in India have successfully adopted best practices and state-of-the-art medical technology and Health City Cayman Islands is currently implementing the same rigorous best practices, especially with regard to patient feedback, as well as installing the best possible medical technology available.

All of which adds up to the creation of an incredibly exciting new era for the Caribbean, with the Cayman Islands very shortly poised to dominate the international medical tourism industry.

Shomari Scott is the marketing director at Health City Cayman Islands and the former director of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.