Internationalization Essential for Mexican HospitalsWed, 09/06/2017 - 13:05
A boost in federal government support would bolster and expand Mexico’s medical tourism, creating jobs and helping to keep doctors from leaving for greener pastures, says Rafael Espino, Director General of Amerimed, a hospital network focused on treating tourists. “We need a coherent medical tourism policy. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism should work together to promote the country’s advantages through federal funding, better financing and business promotion.”
The lack of a cohesive policy is keeping the hospital on the fringes of the medical tourism industry despite the low prices and top-notch doctors and nurses that make Mexico an attractive destination to receive medical care. “The country has access to state-of-the-art equipment from the US or Europe at a good price, because Mexico has trade agreements with most western countries,” says Espino. “We are more focused on emergencies or consultancies. Medical tourism, which consists of programmed surgeries or treatment, represents only 3 or 4 percent of our activities,” he says.
Espino says better policies could increase employment and keep doctors in the country, giving Mexican cities an aggregated value. He also cites changes in US healthcare policies such as the current US administration’s rebuttal of the A ordable Care Act, that could increase the number of US tourists traveling abroad for medical care. That number, according to Patients Without Borders, reached 1.4 million in 2016. “If healthcare prices do not drop with the suspension of the A ordable Care Act (Obamacare), Mexico will be the first option for Americans due to proximity, the number of facilities near the border and low prices further favored by the peso’s depreciation.”
The exchange rate, however, might favor his business. “Mexico could become cheaper for foreigners, therefore more tourists will be attracted to the country and the demand for hospital services will increase.”
Amerimed has branches in two of Mexico’s main tourist destinations: Cancun and Cozumel. Most of its patients are vacationers who have been in an accident or have gotten sick. “With more than 20 years of experience, our network has received the majority of foreign patients in the country,” says Espino. The hospital, which is focused on providing quality services in strategic locations, has a patient profile that breaks down to 70 percent Mexican tourists and 30 percent foreign.
According to Espino, Amerimed services are mainly delivered to the private sector but as one of the few well-equipped hospitals in its chosen locations, it frequently supports IMSS and ISSSTE with X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and laboratory services. The hospital network also participates every year in government tenders.
To ensure its growth ambitions, Amerimed is working to improve quality and the number of specialties available at its hospitals. It is also obtaining JCI certification for both facilities in Cozumel and in Cancun. “The JCI has good recognition abroad and it is important for us as an international health service provider to be certified by the most important international agencies,” Espino says. Amerimed already is certified by the General Health Council in Mexico and the Canadian Accreditation Council. “We are the only hospital in Cozumel that is internationally certified. This is important since the island is a frequent destination for the main world cruise lines, which like to have quality medical facilities available on land,” says Espino.
Amerimed is also looking forward to branching into other tourism locations. The company is building a boutique hospital in Playa del Carmen, which will have a variety of medical specialties, an intensive care area and two surgery rooms. There also are plans to open a small hospital in Acapulco. “This will be a new direction for the business model because 97 percent of the tourists in Acapulco are Mexicans, so the business will be focused on national patients instead of international ones,” Espino says.
To execute this growth, Amerimed has partnered with a private equity fund in the US and is looking for additional funding to increase its infrastructure and services. “We are open to working with other private equity funds that want to invest in the Mexican healthcare sector,” Espino says.