Interview of Dr. Alejandro Mora Lasso, the director of Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica, discussing future of dental tourism in Costa Rica with Mr. Paul van Staalen from The Miami Herald.
Q: I would like to start by asking you for your professional history and how you have come to found Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica?
A: I got off dental school around 8 years ago, and I realized that for the future the most important aspect would be cosmetic surgery, so that is what I focused on. I have had the opportunity to study outside of Costa Rica and gain experience abroad in aesthetics; I have gained this experience in Chile. The medical tourism boom started not soon after, and after developing my own website we got together with colleague dentists and we decided to set up Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica.
Q: You mentioned your focus on medical tourism and the boom you are currently in. How important is medical tourism for Costa Rica and for your clinic.
A: At the moment it is around 50% of our business, mostly US based clients. At first it was not that much but lately this is an ever increasing number and we are glad for that.
Q: One of the trends that we see is offering packages to patients offering service from the time they get into the airplane until the time they get back to their homes. Does you clinic offer any additional services to foreign patients?
A: We focus on the dental surgical services. However, once you are rolling into the medical tourism business, you are networking a lot with other doctors and people from the industry, this way you create a network of relationships that can serve the patient in its best way, for instance with other medical services and tourism product services.
Q: How important is it for you being able to work from the CIMA hospital premises?
A: CIMA is a brand and it gives you credibility and not everyone is allowed to work on the hospital facilities. One goes through various tests and one has to prove their professionalism. This is an extra assurance to the client.
Q: Do your patients stay at the hospital overnight for recovery?
A: For most dental surgery procedures this is not necessary and we have deals with various hotels in the neighbourhood or recovery centres where the patient can recover or stay. During this time they can enjoy Costa Rica as they wish.
Q: What part of the market do you offer your services to?
A: We have patients ranging from small checkups that they do here when they are on a holiday to full mouth recovery surgery. We offer services to all patients that come into our clinic.
Q: How important is the tourism product of Costa Rica and the attractiveness of the country? Why choose Costa Rica over other destinations?
A: More than half of the population in Costa Rica speaks English. We have our nature and a developed tourism product which patients can enjoy that ads to the satisfaction of the patient. The medical sector is very well developed and enjoys good government regulations.
Q: How do you guarantee this quality and how do you assure US citizens that Costa Rica offers comparable medical services to the ones they enjoy at home?
A: First of all you have to have your accreditations in order. This proves that you are up to date with the latest techniques. We belong to various different American accreditation programs that guarantee our services to be of high quality.
At our clinic we focus on personal care and quality, which means that we do not treat as many patients as possible. We treat patients to our best ability and dedicate much time to each individual. This assures quality. Many patients of ours come through recommendations. We offer introduction meetings so that we can determine the patient’s problems and to analyze the best treatment etc... It is not about sales velocity, but about quality care.
Q: What can you tell us regarding the prices of services compared to US prices?
A: Services compared to the US are on average 30% of the price that you would pay for the same service in the US, depending on the service.
Q: You have recently opened an office in the Guanacaste area as well?
A: The Guanacaste area’s tourism sector is growing very much, so we have allied with a general dentist in Guanacaste that we work with, and we go down to the region whenever a serious treatment is needed that she is not able offer as a general dentist.
Q: According to Mckinsey and Co., the medical tourism industry taken at a global level, will grow from 40 billion USD in 2004 to approximately 100 billion USD in the year 2012. How do you see the possibilities for Costa Rica?
A: Looking at those numbers, and I believe those numbers, I think in Costa Rica we have to be looking after the fact that we are not getting overcrowded. We have to make sure that we maintain the quality of the services that are offered in Costa Rica. Insurance companies in the US are looking at the possibilities to finding better rates abroad and they will start offering insurance with the trip included to the patient. This will only increase the influx towards Costa Rica, and the main catch in the future will be the insurance companies.
Q: What are you personal goals and objectives for the coming time?
A: I see ourselves expand, covering more area within the hospital; we will need to expand our equipment set according to state of the art technology. We want to explore the Guanacaste area for growth and with the possibilities that the market offers us at the moment, the sky seems the limit.
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