Alma Orozco
Director General
Tijuana Bariatrics
View from the Top

Foreign Bariatric Surgery Demand on the Rise

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 11:58

Q: Tijuana Bariatrics has a unique operational structure with its main offices in San Diego. Can you further explain the reasons why you opted for this location?

A: Tijuana Bariatrics was registered in the US and it is considered a medical tourism facilitator. We link up US and Canada-based patients with Mexican medical practitioners and we arrange the logistics for their stay. From the moment patients register on our webpage we begin to plan their trip and provide prospective patients with detailed information of their procedure, services and the physicians who will take care of them. Once they are informed about our services and the patient has made a final decision, we charge an initial deposit to secure their place in the schedule. It is important to mention that patients coming to Tijuana fly into San Diego, which is a faster, more affordable domestic flight and from then on they are under our watch. We send a driver to pick them up, take them to their hotel and the following day they are driven to their pre-operatory checks. Once there, they will meet their medical team, their nutritionist and all the staff that will be in charge of their procedure.

Q: Considering the specific procedures your patients undergo, how long do they normally stay at your facilities?

A: It depends on the procedure they are interested in as we offer a great number of bariatric and plastic surgeries. For instance, when recovering from gastric sleeve surgery patients remain two days in the hospital and can leave Mexico on the seventh morning. All gastric bypass surgeries including mini bypass, bypass and duodenal switch require three days of hospital stay, leaving on day six. Among them, gastric sleeve surgery is the most popular. Nowadays, gastric band surgery is not as frequently demanded due to a lesser success rate than alternative procedures but it is still an option. We also offer revisional procedures to improve on previous bariatric surgery results, which can be a different procedure to better fit needs. Finally, the company has expanded its procedural scope to take part in the orthodontics and plastic surgery fields. We are in an evaluation process to decide whether fertility medicine is something we want to take part in as demand from medical tourists is high.

Q: How does Tijuana Bariatrics manage its patient flow?

A: Our onsite coordinators are very important, as they serve as Tijuana Bariatrics’ initial and final point of contact during the patients’ stay. Part of our patients’ success is contingent on their follow-up process, thus Tijuana Bariatrics accompanies its patients through their weight loss journey, monitoring new behaviors and helping them with their new eating habits and supplement requirements. We send a reminder every three months for a year to our patients to recommend they undergo a checkup. Thereafter, once a year will suffice. We have an onsite doctor and nutritionist in charge of post-operatory care, key factors to the success of the patient.

We see an estimated 100 surgeries each month, which requires a lot of attention. We have developed and implemented a database that automatizes patient care and their consequential attention. Following patient registries, systemic information packages are sent to them, helping us ensure their safety and successful treatment. Our database management system also includes travel info, pre and post op diet information, payment information, dates, bank information, medical tourism policies and patient consent forms. Medical tourism insurance policies are an important part of our operations. In the rare event of a complication, these policies will cover additional expenses needed by our patients, according to their coverage, helping patients feel more secure being treated abroad.

Q: What alliances have allowed you to operate under your plan?

A: Throughout the years, Tijuana Bariatrics has created multiple alliances. Hotel chains, like the Tijuana Marriott, offer special fees to our clients, improving our prestige in customers’ eyes. Hospitals are also a key component for Tijuana Bariatrics. We have collaborated with a newly established hospital, the CER Hospital. Their top-notch facility ensures success and the peace of mind we need to treat patients from around the world. Rather than only focusing on specialized services, CER is equipped with intensive care units and laboratories, further attracting patients from abroad. CER has given Tijuana Bariatrics a whole floor for its operations and refers all bariatric procedures to the company. We also have the flexibility of having the rest of the facility on hand if we happen to be oversaturated.

Q: How has your position in Tijuana helped the company’s overall operations?

A: Our proximity to the border has worked in our favor. Tijuana Bariatrics is positioned on the border in one of the city’s nicest areas. In return, it has helped our logistics, travel affordability and connectivity between sites. Even though our orthodontics facility is not in CER, it is just around the corner in a state of the art institution with English-speaking personnel, further improving the way we work. Because most of our patients come from the US, Tijuana-based professionals must speak English, which all of our drivers, onsite coordinators and doctors do.

Q: How has the medical tourism sector in Mexico evolved throughout the years?

A: Mexican physicians are becoming more specialized in their fields considering that most of their competition comes from US doctors, with the advantage that patients are very cost-conscious. Mexico remains a better choice due to the high-quality services at affordable prices.

Tijuana Bariatrics, alongside the nation’s health clusters and the Mexican health authorities, has detected multiple areas of opportunity. They are looking to include facilitators in a regulatory framework to standardize service clusters and categories to make it easier for

patients to find the company that better fits their needs. By categorizing facilitators based on their types of services, efforts can be channeled more effectively further strengthening the medical tourism market. We can also pinpoint and evaluate a hospital’s and doctors’ performance, thus helping them build their international reputation.

Q: What other markets does Tijuana Bariatrics plan to cover in the near future?

A: We have our sights set on the city of Monterrey once again. Its infrastructure and capable professionals have helped it gain the name “health city”, demonstrating its importance for the medical tourism segment. Cancun has also emerged as a medical tourism paradise pushing us to consider the city as our next destination.

The natural economic and demographic landscape of the city makes it ripe for opportunities and we are making sure that Tijuana Bariatrics patients are able to take advantage of these medical travel advantages. Obesity has increased incredibly globally, making bariatric surgery a determining factor for patients to obtain the quality of life they deserve.