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MEDICAL TOURISM IN SPAIN

Mya Care Guest Blogger 16 Sep 2020
MEDICAL TOURISM IN SPAIN

Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Updated 7th October 2021

This article is continuously updated.

Spain has officially been dubbed the world's healthiest country!

As of 2019, the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index has officially announced that healthcare in Spain ranks number one out of 169 countries, beating the UK, US, Italy, Iceland and other major healthcare players[1].

According to other statistics, healthcare in Spain only falls behind Japan and Switzerland when looking at the entire globe; making it an absolute dream holiday destination for those in need of superior medical treatment. Not surprisingly, Spain has one of the highest life expectancies of all European countries, averaging 80 for men and 86 for women![2]

Additionally, sight-seeing in Spain is a genuinely amazing experience! As a tourist, one can spend ages exploring the vastly varied landscapes, enjoying the delicious food, cheerfully mingling with the friendly locals and getting lost in the multiple pockets of ancient architecture that Spain has to offer.

Tourism aside, let's take a closer look at why you ought to travel to get the best healthcare in Spain!

Spain's Healthcare System at A Glance

Like most countries, healthcare in Spain is divided into the public and private sector. The public sector offers free basic healthcare to Spanish citizens, but not to international patients. Nevertheless, the majority visiting Spain for medical treatment are far more interested in what the private healthcare sector has to offer.

In fact, Spain is home to one of the largest and most successful private hospital chains in Europe: Quironsalud. If planning a trip for healthcare in Spain, we highly recommend booking with any of their many specialty centres. Quironsalud has a main focus on helping those with complicated diagnoses and cases, working with the best medical equipment and technology to treat any condition.[3]

Top 4 Specialties & Medical Procedures Worth Traveling for Healthcare in Spain

Spain is well-known for its medical excellence in the fields of cardiology, neurology, oncology, and pediatrics.

1. Cardiology Spain

Healthcare in Spain is renowned for its successful treatment of cardiovascular diseases.[4] Spain happens to be home to the Spanish Society of Cardiology[5], a dedicated organization that is constantly improving heart health for those in the country. Through continuous research, the Spanish Society of Cardiology explores cutting-edge options for treating heart disease.

Recently, the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos, underwent successful open heart surgery at the age of 81 at Madrid's Quironsalud University Hospital, boasting of their expertise in this area![6] The triple-bypass surgery - typically considered one of the most complex heart surgeries - went off without any complications thanks to the top surgeons Spain has to offer.

Aside from top surgeons and doctors of cardiology, Spain stands out for the following:

  • Bloodless Cardiac Surgery

You read that right! Spain has become the international benchmark for successful bloodless cardiac surgery. Aside from respecting the patient's wishes, bloodless surgery does not opt for using blood transfusions and minimizes the risks associated with inheriting blood from a donor.[7]

  • Da Vinci Surgery

Top healthcare providers in Spain implement the Da Vinci Surgical System[8], which is a minimally invasive technology designed to dramatically enhance precision and reduce recovery time. With this equipment, there are far less complications, as surgeons have access to a very precise 3D model of the heart on the screen and have full control of robotic arms that make the cuts for them. If going for cardio surgery in Spain, you can dispense with worrying about whether your surgeon will make a mistake or not, thanks to the Da Vinci!

  • Less is More Approach

Healthcare in Spain, particularly cardiology, appears to emphasize less invasive techniques to improve recovery time and success rates - less is more in the eyes of a Spanish cardiologist. One such approach is their fine appreciation of not too much or too little anesthetic - only prescribing the bare minimum to knock you out, but not so much that you'll battle to recover from the process![9]

  • Lower Waiting Times

Unlike the UK where you may be forced to wait 6-8 months for a critically required surgery, the waiting times for cardiology treatments in Spain are far lower. Recipients have mentioned that they only need to wait up to 2 months if using the public healthcare system; or not at all when booking for private healthcare. If you book in advance using an online platform like MYA CARE, the remainder of the time can be spent creating your dream holiday!

  • Accurate Diagnosis with MR Scanners

The height of Cardiology, Spain makes full use of the best diagnostic tools for picking up on heart disease. One such tool is a magnetic resonance scanner, which is typically available in most private hospitals in Spain as well as even one or two public ones[10].

2. Neurology Spain

There is a lot to be said about Spanish neurology. Spain has become a very popular destination for patients from all over the globe for providing exceptional expertise with regard to treating complicated brain diseases.

Just as with cardiology, Spain has a Society of Neuroscience[11], which is just as dedicated to improving health outcomes for those with neurologic disorders. Statistics have shown that Neurology is one of the most popular choices for those who are studying medicine in Spain, making world-class specialization in this field readily available across the country[12].

Below are some of the best procedures and highlights of neurology Spain has to offer[13]:

  • Directional Deep Brain Stimulation

An innovative technique currently being used to treat Parkinson's Disease and other neurological conditions is Directional Deep Brain Stimulation. The procedure involves implanting permanent electrodes into the brain and sending out electrical impulses to balance defective neurological signals. A second device is implanted in the upper chest of the patient that regulates the impulses derived from the brain electrodes.[14]

Spanish neuroscientists and researchers are constantly improving on this technique, minimizing potential complications and improving the way the treatment regulates the brain. For those with tremors, epilepsy and other diseases where the brain is out of sync, this treatment offers a lot of promise!

  • Gamma Knife Treatment

Gamma Knife treatment is an advanced radiation technique that is used to effectively remove diseased portions of the brain. Unlike what it sounds like, the device is not a blade but rather a machine that shoots a very precise beam of high-powered radiation into the brain of the patient, without damaging any surrounding tissues[15].

Patients with brain tumors, Alzheimer's disease, permanently damaged brain tissues, epilepsy, trigeminal neuralgia and several other neurological conditions can find immense benefit from this therapy.

  • Neuro-ophthalmology

Spanish neurologists often cater to the needs of multiple patients through making use of an impressive interdisciplinary approach. Neuro-ophthalmology is one such approach that integrates eye and brain health, looking at diseases of the eye from the perspective of the brain.

Those who are suffering from optic neuropathies, double vision problems, eye movement disorders and any other eye diseases linked to the brain and nervous system will find a variety of top healthcare professionals in Spain that can provide the required treatment.

  • Neuro-Rehabilitation

Neurology in Spain offers some of the rarest specialty care for those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and that need to rehabilitate their brains. Spanish experts adopt an integrative approach to brain rehab, looking at the body holistically to achieve the best results; while simultaneously implementing the most sophisticated medical techniques and technologies.

3. Oncology Spain

Cancer is an extremely tricky condition to treat. Spain is very involved in researching cancer treatments and expanding upon the oncological expertise of its oncologists. The European Society for Medical Oncology has repeatedly held their annual congress in Spain for this very reason.

In terms of oncology, Spain and it's collective of oncologists tend to come out on top for accurate diagnosis and crafting the best multi-modal approach unique to the patient's case. Specific genetic testing and a heightened research focus are what set oncology in Spain apart.[16]

Here are some other highlights:

Oncology in Spain excels in delivering the most effective radiation treatments of our time, such as proton beam therapy[17] and cyber knife treatment. As with Gamma Knife treatment, both of these radiation therapies use machines that use different forms of radiation to that of x-rays such as gamma rays and protons.

These treatments differ to other radiation therapies in that they are more precise with increased potency, non-invasive and may even provide immediate pain relief to the patient.[18]

A bone marrow transplant is also known as a stem cell transplant, as healthy stem cells are implanted in the patient's marrow to encourage healthy marrow growth. The bone marrow of many cancer patients often becomes damaged while undergoing chemotherapy; in which case a bone marrow transplant is highly advisable.[19]

Once again, Spain seems to outshine the rest of the world in this department, offering bone marrow transplants combined with a more integrative approach to ensure optimal success. Furthermore, the majority of Spain offers bone marrow transplants freely to all of it's citizens and offers it as part of the coverage of nearly all insurance policies.[20]

4. Pediatrics Spain

Considering that Spain has one of the lowest birth mortality rates in Europe[21], it's not surprising that they excel in the medical field of Pediatrics. Spain offers plenty of the world's best healthcare pediatricians with a specific focus on pediatric surgery, oncology, orthopedics and cardiology.[22] As with all the other medical specialties listed above, Spain has it's very own Society of Pediatric Intensive Care, dedicated to improving the lives of children everywhere through targeted research.[23]

For infants, young children and even adolescents up to age 16, pediatricians in Spain are capable of offering some of the most expert treatment you'll find on the planet. Even as a pregnant mother, your child can receive an accurate diagnosis before exiting the womb, for which the doctors can then already begin working with the mother to give the child the best start in life.

  • Pediatric Telemedicine

Many disorders that begin in the early stages of a child's life require follow up treatment. Another point to make about pediatrics in Spain is that healthcare providers often make use of telemedicine to ensure that international patients can still receive follow-up consultations and advice throughout the course of the child's development.

  • Pediatric Surgery

As with the other surgeries we have outlined above, pediatric surgery in Spain has a reputation for being reliable, precise and minimally invasive. Robotically-assisted surgery, that makes use of tools such as the Da Vinci System, ensures that there are far less complications when operating on tiny bodies. Even the smallest of babies have mostly had successful operations thanks to these latest advancements in pediatric surgery.

Pediatric surgeons in Spain are especially gifted at using robotically-assisted surgical techniques, with the first introductions of these systems never once reporting the need to revert to open surgery[24]. Most pediatric surgeries carried out in Spain today also use bloodless techniques that do not expose children to the risk of inheriting a disease from a blood donor, unless absolutely required.

While your child can undergo just about any surgery necessary, Spain truly stands out for mastery in respiratory, digestive, vascular, liver, reconstructive and oncological surgeries for children.

  • Pediatric Cardiology

There are many heart problems that can manifest in children - too many to list here. Pediatricians in Spain are well equipped at diagnosing and treating all of them, gaining an impressive international status amongst local and foreign patients alike.

A lot of parents lose their newborns as a result of cardiac surgery. However in Spain, the success rate for such surgeries is a whopping 96%![25] The pediatric cardiologists of Spain often assume an interdisciplinary approach as well, treating your child's condition within a whole-body context that promotes top-notch results.

If your child needs a pediatric heart specialist, do not hesitate to book a trip to Spain!

  • Pediatric Orthopedics

Hip dysplasia, clubfoot, long bone disorders like gigantism, burn wounds, cleft palates and many other growth deformities need not be a lifelong stigma for your children any longer! Pediatricians in Spain will combine their mastery of reconstructive surgery with some of the best known strategies to treat your children, allowing them to lead a normal healthy life free from any constraints, both emotional and physical.

  • Pediatric Oncology

As with adult oncology, Spain has gained a lot of expertise in the area of pediatric oncology too. Since children are still developing their immune systems, Spain's top pediatricians tend to use a progressive multidisciplinary approach to treating children. In conjunction with many of the radiation therapies discussed above, immunotherapy is often employed to treat children with cancer; adding to Spain's impressive child-cancer remission rates![26]

Specialized pediatric oncology units exist in Spain, which adopt young patients from all over the globe to treat even the most serious forms of cancer[27]. Research is continuously being carried out to help improve treatments for these children, with innovative procedures and therapies being tested for currently incurable forms of the disease.

With Spain's progressive approach, they are fast-forming the best pediatric healthcare service in the world to-date.

COVID Travel Requirements and Restrictions for Spain

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Spain has restricted non-essential travel to the country. Luckily, these restrictions do not apply to those who are fully vaccinated and there are additional exceptions which may grant unvaccinated individuals entry.

Who can Enter Spain during the current pandemic?

Spain’s borders are currently open to any EU and Schengen region citizens; as well as to a select list of other countries and locations. These include: Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Uruguay, Canada, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Ukraine.

Travelers from regions not specified above may be allowed if they have a vaccination certificate that is recognized by Spanish health authorities. Those from the UK or Ireland can enter if they have an equitable vaccine certificate and/or an official diagnostic test certificate that confirms they don’t have COVID-19.

Entry from countries outside of the EU and partner nations may also be granted to the following individuals, irrespective of vaccination status:

  • Foreign residents within the EU, Schengen regions, Andorra, Monaco, The Vatican or San Marino.
  • Long-term visa holders intending to travel to the EU or Schengen regions (the visa must have been issued by countries within these areas).
  • Students studying in the EU or partner countries.
  • Transport operatives, essential healthcare professionals (incl. professional elderly caregivers and researchers), essential highly-skilled workers (incl. sports professionals), diplomats, military personnel, and members of humanitarian organizations.
  • Those traveling for essential family-related purposes
  • Those requiring to enter Spain out of absolute need or for humanitarian reasons

The above applicants need to provide valid proof of their intention to travel to Spain. Currently, only essential travel within the above categories is permitted.

In addition to these restrictions, entry may be denied to travelers entering from a high-risk country; unless travelers from these regions possess an EU Digital COVID Certificate or another official form of certification that meets the same requirements (see below). Spain’s high-risk list is updated every week and may include countries from the EU/Schengen regions.

Spain Travel Requirements

Spain launched the Spain Travel Health initiative as a prevention measure for those intending to enter the country[28]. In addition to pre-existing travel requirements, a few other requirements have been added as a result of the initiative.

Visa: A visa is required for travel to Spain, unless the traveler is entering from a visa-exempt country. Tourist visas are known as Schengen visas and may also be used for business purposes. These allow a traveler access to all 26 Schengen countries for a period of up to 90 days. Spain has other visa options for workers and students.

Visa-exempt countries include those from the EU/Schengen area, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil and Japan. After 2022, those from the EU/Schengen area need to apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver.

Health Control Form: A Health Control Form is required for anyone traveling to or transiting Spain. One needs to fill out the form 48hours before departure. It captures personal details which are sent to the Spanish Ministry of Health in order to keep track of those entering the country. There are unique versions of this form for individuals, groups/families, air travel, ferry travel or those who have already filled out a form from prior travel to Spain. You can find the appropriate Health Control Form here or on the app (see below).

Spain Travel Health App: All travelers need to download the Spain Travel Health app. This keeps a record of your Health Control Form and provides airport officials with a QR code. The QR code allows you to enter Spain and a new one is generated for every trip. Other details are also uploaded to the app, including your Digital COVID Certificate.

If you lack the ability to get the app, you can manually print out your QR code to show at the airport. Furthermore, you will be subject to a slower arrival process, as all your documentation will need to be manually checked by airport staff.

EU Digital COVID Certificate: This is certificate provided by officials of EU/Schengen region countries that verifies either of the following:

  • Full vaccination against COVID-19, effective 14 days after the final shot was administered,
  • A diagnostic test with confirmation of a negative result, or
  • Confirmation of recovery from COVID-19 (at least 11 days after receiving a positive diagnostic result), valid for 180 days.

There are currently 16 non-EU countries that also provide EU Digital COVID Certificates, as seen here.

Not everyone can get an EU COVID Certificate. Other relevant certification that meets the requirements of the EU certificate may be used when applying to enter Spain. The requirements are discussed in more depth below, under testing and vaccination.

Vaccination: A full vaccination status grants automatic entry into Spain and is a requirement for all traveling from a non-EU/Schengen area country (see exceptions above). Spain accepts a full regimen of either EU-approved or WHO-approved vaccines.[29]

So far, the EU accepts the following vaccines[30]:

  • BioNTech/Pfizer
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)

CureVac, Sanofi-GSK and Novavax are expected to be approved soon by the EU as well.

In addition to the above, Spain will accept a full regimen of the following[31]:

  • Covishield
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

Full vaccination status is only active 14 days after receiving the final shot of any vaccine regimen. The EU approves of mixed vaccinations, however only standard combinations are approved.[32]

A vaccine certificate needs to display your full name, date of birth, a unique identifier such as your ID or passport number, date of vaccines received, the name of the vaccines received, the company that produced the vaccines and the organization that administered the vaccines.

Testing: A negative test result is required for unvaccinated individuals for entry into Spain; however, those traveling from non-EU/Schengen area countries may be denied if not fully vaccinated. Test results form part of the EU Digital COVID Certificate or equivocal verification.

Two types of tests will be accepted: a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) and a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). A NAAT needs to be performed within 72 hours of arriving in Spain, while a RAT needs to be performed within 48 hours of arrival.[33]

Testing is not a requirement for fully vaccinated individuals. Those wishing to make multiple visits to Spain will need to update their certificate with new test results for each trip.

Quarantine: Spain does not require for travelers to quarantine upon arrival. However, entry may be denied in lieu of the appropriate certification.

One may be forced to quarantine at an institution if tested and proven to have COVID-19. Temperature and physical symptoms will be screened upon arrival. If suspected, a test may be administered. Those from high-risk countries will be prioritized in this regard.[34]

To search for the best healthcare providers worldwide, please use the Mya Care search engine.

Source:

  • [1] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/world-healthy-country-ranking-list-healthiest-index-spain-uk-italy-iceland-a8797016.html
  • [2] https://www.who.int/countries/esp/en/
  • [3] https://www.quironsalud.es/en
  • [4] https://www.oecd.org/spain/Cardiovascular-Disease-and-Diabetes-Policies-for-Better-Health-and-Quality-of-Care-Spain.pdf
  • [5] https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Member-National-Cardiac-Societies/Spanish-Society-of-Cardiology
  • [6] https://apnews.com/433c1b671e26425a9ae24feddbfe8756
  • [7] https://www.quironsalud-hospitals.com/en/clinical-areas/heart-department
  • [8] https://www.davincisurgery.com
  • [9] https://www.euroresidentes.com/euroresiuk/health/operation_in_spain.htm
  • [10] https://www.revespcardiol.org/en-first-magnetic-resonance-managed-by-articulo-S188558571830094X
  • [11] https://www.senc.es/en/
  • [12] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2173580819301051
  • [13] https://www.quironsalud-hospitals.com/en/clinical-areas/neuroscience-department
  • [14] https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/deep-brain-stimulation/about/pac-20384562
  • [15] https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/deep-brain-stimulation/about/pac-20384562
  • [16] https://www.quironsalud-hospitals.com/en/clinical-areas/oncology-department
  • [17] https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/radiation-therapy/proton-therapy
  • [18] https://www.ucsfhealth.org/treatments/cyberknife/
  • [19] https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/about/pac-20384854
  • [20] https://www.nature.com/articles/bmt2016177
  • [21] https://data.unicef.org/country/esp/
  • [22] https://www.quironsalud-hospitals.com/en/clinical-areas/childrens-health-department
  • [23] https://www.wfpiccs.org/spanish-society-of-pediatric-intensive-care-secip/
  • [24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22097655
  • [25] https://www.quironsalud-hospitals.com/en/clinical-areas/childrens-health-department
  • [26] https://www.sjdhospitalbarcelona.org/en/immunotherapy-has-allowed-us-see-our-child-continue-growing
  • [27] https://www.sjdhospitalbarcelona.org/en/what-will-future-sjd-pediatric-cancer-center-barcelona-be
  • [28] https://www.spth.gob.es/faq?tab=0#whatis
  • [29] https://www.mscbs.gob.es/en/profesionales/saludPublica/ccayes/alertasActual/nCov/spth.htm
  • [30] https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/safe-covid-19-vaccines-europeans_en
  • [31] https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/which-covid-19-vaccines-are-approved-for-travel-to-spain/
  • [32] https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/safe-covid-19-vaccines-europeans/eu-digital-covid-certificate_en#recognition-of-covid-certificates-from-third-non-eu-countries
  • [33] https://www.spth.gob.es/
  • [34] https://www.mscbs.gob.es/en/profesionales/saludPublica/sanidadExterior/ControlHS.htm
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