Paving the Way toward Solid Infrastructure for Panama Medical Tourism



Pramod Goel, CEO of PlacidWay, a Colorado-based medical tourism provider and resource for international medical travel, recently visited Panama City, Panama and spoke at the first SALUD Panama medical tourism conference.  The first international conference on medical tourism and global health issues hosted by Panama had over 100 experts in the health and medical tourism field.

Held on March 14, 2013 in Panama City, Director General of SALUDPanama, Luis Santamaría hosted the conference, the first of its kind promoting medical tourism in Panama. Santamaria believes that the event provided positive international exposure for Panama's growing medical tourism industry as well as for Panama-based doctors and surgeons in the international medical travel market.

Goel, in addition to founding one of the largest and fastest growing medical tourism company and resources in the United States, recently authored, "Evolution of Medical Tourism - from Cottage Industry to Corporate World" offering his expertise to international medical providers around the world. Goel, a speaker at the event, believes that Latin American countries, including Panama, have some of the greatest potential to grow in the medical tourism industry.  The conference was designed and organized to provide international speakers with a wealth of experience in their native markets, as well as s to share resources and statistics regarding business structure foundation, growth and development. The conference also promoted the importance of multidisciplinary business models, and risk preparedness for all types of enterprises, large or small.

The conference also focused on educating its attendees regarding the importance of creating a workable and patient-centered business model, the vital importance of collaboration between medical providers, suppliers, hospitals, and healthcare facilities, as well as private sector experience in business and government models when it comes to health care and wellness.

One of the overall goals of the medical tourism conference was to provide extensive education and networking access with industry sponsors, as well as access to experienced guests and other attendees.

Touring Panama Medical Centers

Mr. Luis Santamaria, Director General of SALUDPanama, was the perfect host for the four-day conference. Goel looked forward to and enjoyed visiting Panama's top hospitals, including Hospital Punta Pacifica, San Fernando Hospital, Paitilla Medical Center, and National Hospital.

Hospital Punta Pacifica, founded in 2006, offers state-of-the-art diagnostics and technology for national and international patients. High standards of safety and quality have propelled the Punta Pacifica Hospital to the top in Latin American hospital systems. Hospital Punta Pacifica, located in Panama City, is a private hospital associated with over 150 clinics. The 75-bed facility specializes in cardiology, orthopedics, women's health, and in vitro fertilization programs. In addition, the hospital provides imaging procedures, surgeries, four surgical suites, an intensive care unit, a clinical laboratory and an emergency room. Hospital Punta Pacifica utilizes the latest in medical technology, including diagnostic equipment, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a three-dimensional 3D 3100 Hemodynamics inova angiograph, and computed tomography volumetric multi-detector technology. The modern facility is accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI) and follows all international protocols to alleviate any international patient’s concern about safety and quality.

San Fernando Hospital, one of the oldest and well-known in Panama, was founded in 1949, the first private hospital in the Republic of Panama. With over half a century of experience, its mission to provide high-quality care is still adhered to by the latest in professionalism, technology, and patient-centered care services today.  San Fernando Hospital is composed of four wards, with over 100 beds in semi private, private rooms, and suites.  Offering intensive care, five surgical suites, a dialysis unit, and a maternity ward, the hospital has long served the needs of Panama and international patients.  The hospital has kept up with technology, and their Department of Radiology utilizes nuclear medicine, computed tomography, MRI, and full field digital mammography, one of the few facilities in Panama that does so.  The Joint Commission International accredited the San Fernando Hospital in 2011, verifying the best in high-quality certified services when it comes to international quality standards of patient care. The attentive care of staff is very much welcomed by foreign patients coming to Panama seeking compassion in medical care.

Paitilla Medical Center, also one of the top-rated hospitals in Panama, offers a center of oncology, an infertility clinic, and an intensive care unit. Surgical suites, emergency medicine, and diagnostic imaging, a laboratory clinic and a rehab center are provided by Centro Medico Paitilla. Utilizing the latest in high-tech medical technology and equipment, the facility provides a number of semi private, private, and patient suites, depending on need.  From cancer treatment to bariatric surgery, and fertility, Paitilla has earned a well-deserved reputation by providing the best in patient care services, coupling the best in compassionate and patient-centered care approaches with the latest in medical, diagnostic and surgical technologies. Being adjacent to and connected with Hard Rock Hotel Panama, as well as the largest shopping mall in Panama, the hospital presents itself as fully prepared for medical tourism.

National Hospital provides some of the best domestic and internationally based ambulatory and hospital-based services in Panama.  At Hospital National, surgical teams take advantage of the precision and technology provided by the da Vinci surgical system.  The hospital also provides endoscopic surgical procedures, diagnostics, fetal diagnostics, diagnostic imaging, and more, with over three decades of experience in numerous medical fields and specialties. Founded in 1973, National Hospital, or Hospital Nacional Panama, is ISO certified and belongs to numerous domestic and international medical associations.  From cancer care and treatment to obstetrics and gynecology, hospital staff provide quality and compassionate, patient-centered care to domestic and international travelers, whether they’re seeking maternity care or undergoing treatment for autoimmune conditions and diseases. The hospital has recently gone through a major renovation and expansion, which will triple its capacity, and is coupled with latest and greatest medical technology desired by medical tourists.

Goel, who has traveled from India, to South Korea, to Turkey and multiple locations throughout Latin America, was impressed with the quality, technology, patient care, and cleanliness of Panama's top hospitals.


Day three of the conference emphasized speakers from around the world in the medical tourism industry, many of whom  traveled from the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica and other locations throughout Panama to speak at the conference. Each of the speakers promoted interaction among the guests, providing necessary industry knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned from other medical tourism deployment while seeking excellent networking opportunities with over 150 doctors, dentists, clinic owners, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities, including marketing managers of hospitality and hospital industries. Such networking offered visitors and guests an opportunity to brand their services in the right markets.  Expertise of guests ranged from CEOs to medical travel companies, book authors, including Goel, author of, “Evolution of Medical Tourism -From Cottage Industry to Corporate World”, as well as analyst and author Jill Hodges, author of, "Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism."

Medical Landscape in Panama

The medical landscape in Panama is impressive, with extremely qualified doctors, a majority of them American educated, practicing in high-end medical centers utilizing the latest in state-of-the-art medical technology from the United States.  The Joint Commission International accredits two of the four most popular hospitals in Panama, and each of the four hospitals profiled above have a solid and patient-centered infrastructure and culture.

Panama-based medical tourism program is young and on its path to grow given the right infrastructure and support is available. Panama is among the top supporters of research and education in the medical industry, and since its growth in popularity nearly a decade ago, Panama has focused its communications through Internet, television, and print media. The conference itself focused on over one hundred of the most well versed and well-known Panamanian experts and specialists including board members of regional hospitals, public and private health systems representatives, and executives in business marketing, tourism, and hospitality industries.

Panama as a Travel Destination

Panama is one of the most visited Latin American countries, attracting tourists with its semi-tropical environment, climate and reputation in providing some of the best in not only medical facilities, but also indoor and outdoor attractions for travelers far and wide. Panama City, Panama's capital, utilizes both the United States dollar and the Spanish Balboa for currency, and with its typical 84° weather, offers year-round attraction. Whether visiting the Pacific or the Caribbean side of the country, outdoor adventures await visitors, including windsurfing, sailing, deep-sea fishing, diving, sail gliding, and more. Horseback riding, hiking, and jungle tours provide excitement for all ages, while the high-tech nightlife environment of Panama City attracts young and old alike after a day of playing or sunbathing.

Due to its geographical location, Panama hosts hundreds of rivers as well as Caribbean and Pacific coastline, providing the ultimate in freshwater and saltwater fishing. Harbors and beachfront along the Caribbean coastline is rich in historical landmarks, museums, and scenic points. Traveling to Panama is easy and accessible. Among the most popular sightseeing locations throughout the country include:

  • Visiting the Panama Canal
  • Bird watching in the jungle
  • Hiking local volcanoes
  • Snorkeling/scuba diving in Bocas del Toro Islands
  • Snorkeling the reefs and coral formations of Contadora Island
  • Sightseeing Spanish colonial architecture


Climate friendly, people friendly and diverse in geography, Panama offers one of the ultimate travel destinations for medical travelers, whether seeking plastic surgery, dental procedures, fertility treatment, cardiac care, cancer treatments, or bariatric procedures. Panama is on the cusp of creating and developing one of the most solid infrastructures in medical tourism programs, and government support for such programs has steadily increased in recent years.  The government encourages such facilities to develop and grow, providing tax incentives and trade zones that are favorable to businesses that support medical tourism, including restaurants, hotels, and travel services and agencies.

Panama’s vibrant economy, rapid growth, and excellent education system provide Panama City with the ability to promote and encourage innovation. Creation of City of Knowledge indicates investment and supports to innovative environment as well as pursuit of knowledge to gain competitive advantage.  Panama’s ability to develop solid infrastructure and master plans for sustainable medical tourism programs will be the key to growth of the industry and competitive offering in Latin America.