Mexico Has a Unique Potential to Skyrocket Medical Tourism
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Mexico Has a Unique Potential to Skyrocket Medical Tourism

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Rodrigo Andrade By Rodrigo Andrade | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Wed, 02/15/2023 - 17:33

Mexico is the second largest medical tourism hub globally and the industry can bring even more economic opportunities, as the country can provide quality healthcare at an accessible cost. As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, medical tourism has become an essential aspect of the country’s economic recovery. Despite the challenges, health experts and the Mexican government remain confident that the country can become a critical tourism hub for North America.

The four main drivers of medical tourism are: economics, access to treatments not available in the patient's country, avoiding long wait times for treatments, and the quality of care, which varies drastically depending on the country, says Rosario Pereira, Director of Cultural Development and Health Tourism, Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR).

In post-pandemic times, medical tourism offers many different alternatives and by 2030, the sector is expected to grow by 25%, according to International Healthcare Medica. 

Mexico’s ideal location allows it to leverage medical tourism, as most foreigners looking for medical care come from both the US and Canada. Tijuana and Cancun are two of the key states for medical tourism in Mexico, explains Javier Balmori, Medical Director, Balmori Aesthetics Center, to MBN. While other states have potential to become medical tourism hubs, the patient is ultimately the one who chooses where to get their care. “Mexico City has the medical workforce, infrastructure and technology necessary to become a hub. But selecting the destination for a surgery depends on the type of patient. Some patients come from cold places in the US or Canada and want to visit the beach,” says Gabriela Clavel, CEO, Abeile Med, to MBN

Foreigners find Mexico an attractive medical destination, as it offers savings between 35% and 85%  in medical procedures. For example, while in Mexico a cardiac bypass surgery costs about US$27,000, in the US it can cost US$144,000, an 81% difference, as reported by Médica Sur. Mexico can fill the void in medical care that exists in the region but its ability to do so relies on investing in the right strategies to keep positioning the country as a reference in medical tourism. 

Medical tourism is closely linked to both tourism and healthcare. The growth of medical tourism also supports hospitals, hotels, restaurants, clinical centers and airports. However, the sector was forced to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and some of those changes continue until today. 

Pereira stresses that having standardized care across the airline, hotel and medical hospital industries is necessary to offer the patient the same level of quality throughout the whole medical tourism value chain. Medical clusters play an important role in this regard, as they help ensure that all necessary care is available in one location. Accessibility, cost, quality, and safety are important considerations for medical tourism, and Mexico needs to publicize the actions it is taking to continue attracting investment.

For Mexico to truly achieve its potential for medical tourism, the country must develop some important opportunity areas. Misael Uribe, Director of International Medicine, Médica Sur, explains that it is essential to guarantee patient safety during medical trips and to adapt the latest technologies and tools the sector has to offer, as patients demand the best possible care.

The private sector has been a key player in the development of medical tourism but the biggest challenge is developing strong communication between the public and private sector, says Fernando Santiago, President, Medical Tourism Cluster. The right steps have to be taken to open the door for a better service. The industry has to generate certainty within each stage in the medical tourism chain and prove it has the capacity and hospital infrastructure to provide any type of health service. For medical tourism to thrive it is key that the world sees Mexico as the country with the best medical care in the world, says Santiago. 

The industry needs to know how people across the world perceive health services, because medical tourism is highly related to marketing, due to the very nature of the tourism sector. According to José Luis Elizoldo, Founder and Partner, Wellmedic, the industry must ask itself “how the people around the world are buying tourism.” The traditional approach has shifted and with it, the way people perceive health services as a whole has also changed.

According to Elizoldo, medical tourism is “much more than attracting foreigners,” as the quality of Mexican doctors is first-class. He urges the country to capitalize on its rich culture, natural resources, gastronomy and business opportunities to provide an integral service for all patients. When a medical center decides to become a specialty center, it creates an excellent opportunity to attract medical tourism.

Mexico's medical tourism industry has evolved from cosmetic surgeries to include the entire medical process, from diagnosis to recovery. To continue this trend, universities must prepare students in medical tourism, as it will be a differentiating factor in the upcoming years, says Gabriela Clavel, CEO, Abeile Med.  She urges industry players to make the medical tourism experience Mexico's greatest differentiator because the country has all the necessary human and natural resources.

Photo by:   MBN

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