Medical Complexities from AcademiaWed, 09/07/2016 - 10:57
Q: Why does the university see value in becoming part of the trend of medical tourism in the region?
A: Previously, healthcare was about the social aspect and caring for patients, but tourism has come along and made healthcare into more of a business. This can bring a great deal of economic advantages. It is our job to teach about these kinds of trends and to identify areas where we can create value. One of the first contributions made by the university to this industry was in innovation.
In 2008, we completed a specific analysis of medical tourism in Mexico and we found that in the Baby Boomer generation, many were looking to move to a different location, so more than medical tourism, there was a type of assisted living. Naturally, Yucatan became the nucleus of this activity and many people moved from Canada or from very cold states in the US to spend their winters or their retirements here. Obviously, these people needed healthcare and they began to bring their friends and family to take advantage of the quality and the low cost of medical treatment in Mexico. The question at that point became whether or not we had the facilities to accommodate this demographic, which prompted another analysis. We began to make small changes in terms of infrastructure, hygiene and access. At this point, the Mexican system was strengthening because a great deal of focus was placed on safety and security, so locations like Merida began to be considered more as a place to live or for a second home.
Q: Can you break down the value chain of medical tourism, especially related to Yucatan?
A: We have the hospital infrastructure, which is at the center of the chain. Clinics provide support for primary levels of attention. However, the value chain is not strictly limited to medical practices but also includes hotels, logistcs, transport services and restaurants that provide food to aid patient recovery. The role of the facilitator in this sense is relatively new and is not well understood because we are not talking about a travel agency that sells a package deal. Rather, there are more components that need to be considered. We also have a role in this as a university, as we must provide adequate training, not only in terms of the medical profession but also in terms of customer service for patients.
Q: How has Universidad Anáhuac strengthened the value chain with medical training?
A: We are working extremely closely with the Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR), to form various forums. The first platform we organized was with an international partner that focused on understanding generic concepts like that of Medicare and funding for healthcare costs. I am also a consultant for COPARMEX, which has a mandate to promote medical tourism, so we have been working in collaboration. We have recently had a proposal approved by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) to carry out an analysis in terms of both business and the value chain of medical tourism, and we have an agreement with the Universidad Iberoamericana, which is working on some other projects.
We must first break paradigms. The main way we would be able to obtain hard data on these indicators is by going to the source, which is of course the medical records held at clinics and hospitals. It is astounding that so many people seek dental attention, yet no records are kept because the clinics do not consider patients that come from other countries. We must also make the difference between medical tourism and tourism for purposes of wellbeing. For this reason, municipal authorities must be present to outline a proper definition of medical tourism.