Gabriela Martinez
Director General
Hospital Amerimed
Dr. Fernando Rivas Olivares
Dr. Fernando Rivas Olivares
Medical Director
Hospital Amerimed
View from the Top

Diversifying Cancun's Tourism Base

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 13:07

Q: What were the main objectives underlying the creation of Hospital Amerimed?

FR: In 2001 we opened a clinic in Cancun and it was such a success that we decided to build the Amerimed Hospital, the construction of which was completed in 2003. We began to transition into providing medical tourism after obtaining a solid local patient base, and now the primary objective is to be the first point of contact for medical emergencies and illnesses while on vacation. We are very focused on international patients because there are such large quantities of tourists arriving every day, yet so few resources available in terms of medical treatment, especially of the quality international patients are generally accustomed to receiving.

GM: In about 2003, the shareholders communicated that they envisioned specialist hospitals in Cancun and Los Cabos. As a result, they set up the facilities to cater not only to medical procedures but to maternity needs as well, for those that unexpectedly go into labor while on vacation. We opened a program to target obesity in 2009, and in 2011 we started a program that strengthens the function of the central nervous system for people with multiple sclerosis. In 2015, we hired highly specialized doctors who work in interventionist cardiology and interventionist radiography, among other innovative areas.

Q: How did you discover the potential of the medical tourism market?

FR: People who were involved in projects in the medical tourism area identified a gap in healthcare that met international standards and pitched the project to us. Since then, we have always used the approved international procedure for whatever condition we treat, relying on globally trusted protocols.

Q: Are hospitals in Mexico using innovative technology for common treatments?

FR: When patients seek treatment overseas, they still expect cutting-edge surgeries and technology. For example, we use a treatment for patients with prostate cancer called high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which eliminates cells around the prostate with intense ultrasound waves. This treats male potency, is very fast, and has minimal complications. However, while it is approved in Europe, the FDA has not yet approved it. This means that prostate cancer patients from the US must go to Mexico or Europe for treatment. Another advantage for patients coming to Mexico is that cosmetic surgery procedures that are available in their native country are more accessible in Mexico, while we are closer to the US than Europe. The environment in Cancun really creates a haven for people who seek aesthetic cosmetic surgery, with most requested surgeries including facial, breast augmentations, liposuction, or abdominoplasty. Nevertheless, medical tourists are not only paying for hospital care, they consider the cost of flights, accommodation, food, and, as a result, we must remain as competitive with pricing as possible to continue attracting patients to Mexico.

Q: What is the balance between the local and international patients that you treat?

GM: Around 80% of our patients are local and 20% are from abroad. We expect this figure to rise in the future. To see this happen, we are looking for positive feedback from companies who refer patients. A recommendation by US companies inspires trust in new clients, in the same way as when patients are satisfied with our work. We also have a state-of-the-art hospital in Cozumel that opened in 2014. With two hospitals in Cozumel and Cancun, and a planned expansion in Playa del Carmen, this is a really exciting time for us.

Q: What efforts are needed to grow in the medical tourism industry in the region?

FR: The government is making a big effort but a campaign to promote medical tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism was only implemented five years ago. Considerable investments are being made to promote the industry in countries like Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, and India, where medical tourism spreads to conditions like cardiology procedures. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism, as well as other Mexican government agencies are very proactive in trying to replicate the conditions in these countries, using marketing tools and business contacts to ensure that Mexican market leaders meet with foreign investors to generate investment in this industry.