Saúl Ancona
Yucatan Ministry for Tourism Promotion (SEFOTUR)
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State Support for Medical Tourism

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 12:09

Q: Why is Yucatan a prime medical tourism destination?

A: Medical tourism has been developing in Yucatan for many years due to the high quality and globally competitive hospital infrastructure and the long tradition of training excellent doctors in local universities. Patients from nearby states such as Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco and Quintana Roo travel year on year to Yucatan for checkups and various medical procedures. Yucatan receives year- round visits from abroad due to its privileged geography. Particularly from November to April when countries like the US and Canada are in winter, many visitors decide to come to a warmer beach climate and some have medical checkups, attracted by the lower prices and the quality of service.

Q: What strategies is the state government implementing to promote Yucatan in the US and Canada and what other markets is it primarily targeting?

A: The strategies in place to promote the Yucatan healthcare digital platform are reinforced by participation in international medical tourism exhibitions that occur once a year in Canada and the US. As members of the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) the platform is promoted in specialized reviews and on the association’s website. Nationally our visitors are mostly from the southeast. Internationally, they come from Belize, Canada and the US. We also give the private hospitals of Yucatan training on obtaining the IPSC, given by the Medical Tourism Association, and the state government gives

Yucatan, its main doctors and private institutions to the attention of important associations and brokers. The warm climate is an advantage to welcome tourists looking to escape cruel winters. Between October and April there are communities full of Canadians in Yucatan, which has forced surrounding clinics to improve and has created clusters of health due to existing needs.

In 2015 the Anáhuac University Certification in Medical Tourism was launched, targeting doctors, brokers and administrative personal in the health sector. Almost MX$10 million (US$530,000) has been set aside from the state budget for marketing purposes. In terms of certifications, we are not only counting on the JCI but are giving clinics tools to work under Canadian accreditation. This shows the growth in demand and in the purchasing power patients possess to migrate to other destinations for care that is available in their cities of origin.

The figure of the medical broker is paramount. In other industries such as real estate or construction, it is true that a house or apartment complex can be sold without help, but the specialists that have formed around constructors have professionalized the industry with fewer risks to clients. Similarly, the needs of patients going to an unknown destination alone has bestowed the industry them 70 percent of the total cost to motivate clinics to obtain certification. Private clinics have also received help in obtaining an “M” distinction from the Programa de Calidad Moderniza and “H” from the Programa de Manejo Higiénico de los Alimentos.

Q: How will medical tourism contribute to a shift in the perception of Mexico and what are the main challenges?

A: According to Patients Beyond Borders, in 2014 Mexico was the second country globally for medical tourism. An increasing number of visitors are seeing the country’s potential as a medical destination as in the last few years more clusters have been created, generating more competiveness. Security is a key factor that has positioned us so highly internationally and within the country. Changing the exterior perception of Mexico remains a goal.

Several renowned hospitals have seen the potential of having a presence in Yucatan. The new Faro del Mayab de la Red Médica Sur hospital will have JCI certification, which will raise the competitiveness of the state and will attract more foreign patients, who have expectations of high quality and know the prestige such certification entails. Some hospitals are also working on obtaining with professionals that can give globalized and personal care and would help avoid pitfalls, generate real statistics and allow the client to have a smooth process. As a broker allied with the entire value chain, without thinking of a patient’s limitations, I need to know exactly what his or her budget and needs are: the link between patient and doctors, hotel and transport arrangements, airport transfers, bilingual translations and 24-hour assistance and special requirements such as wheelchairs.

With “Tailor-Made Yucatan”, we have succeeded in having every provider focus on their specialty and it results in a team of professionals that guide the patient to the best results. Companies like Yucatan Medical Services are fundamental to the optimal performance of the workforce in the state and the government and academic alliances have shown our competition that is not state-wide but international that we have triumphed, thanks to low costs and fast response times.

The goal for the end of 2016 is to see a larger flow of visitors due to the promotion and marketing carried out and measure which were the most effective methods. 2017 should be a year of reaffirming institutions with international certification and 2018 should be the year in which we see results of adjusted marketing techniques, certified care providers and economic benefits of the secondary sector we can compare with statistics. The Accreditation Canada International, based on the prestigious Canadian healthcare model.

Q: What impact will we see on the country’s foreign investment, capital retention and GDP from medical tourism inflows?

A: Medical tourism could have a strong and positive impact on the country. The diversification of products and services that a country offers is the key for a strong economy. Medical tourism has an extensive value chain because the distribution of capital inflows is not concentrated on a small group of actors. The benefits medical tourism brings will increase in Yucatan with the arrival of private hospitals and the implementation of international certification.

Q: What are the state’s plans for 2016?

A: In 2016, Yucatan Healthcare will participate in two international exhibitions focused on medical tourism. One is “Destination Health” in September in Ottawa. The second is in Washington, D.C. also in September and is organized by the Medical Tourism Association. In both events we will meet with companies interested in medical tourism to create agreements of mutual benefit so patients can travel to Yucatan to undergo medical procedures.