Jan. 18, 2018

Rafael Espino de la Peña


Rafael Espino de la Peña

CEO, Amerimed Hospitals

"Although NAFTA is currently under review, it has substantially increased the exchange of goods and services between those markets and Mexico."


Rafael Espino de la Peña has been the General Director of Amerimed Hospitals since 2012. He is also a founding partner of the law firm Fernández, Espino y Asociados specialized in fiscal, corporate and trade law. He holds a bachelor in law form ITESM University in Chihuahua and a master’s in comparative law from George Washington University.

How would you characterize Mexico's strengths and weaknesses as a health tourism destination?

Mexico has great potential as far as medical tourism is concerned for various reasons. First, we have access to the best diagnostic and surgical medical equipment infrastructure due to prevailing multilateral trade agreements. There are hospitals that are equipped to the same standards as the best hospitals in developed countries, such as the US, Canada, and some European nations. Second, we have highly qualified medical personnel. For many years, Mexican public universities have had great medical, chemistry, and nursing faculties. Many Mexican doctors and nurses graduated from those universities are capable of providing high-quality medical services. Mexico exports a lot of talent to other countries and our challenge is to keep those professionals in Mexico. The third reason is our incomparable geographical location, neighboring the largest market for medical tourism (US and Canada). Although NAFTA is currently under review, it has substantially increased the exchange of goods and services between those markets and Mexico. We welcome medical tourists seeking cheaper and high quality medical services. Mexico has great hospital infrastructure in both public and private sectors. These hospitals are certified by the Mexican Health Council and by international entities such as the Joint Commission and the Canadian Accreditation Council, keeping up the highest standards of care.

Private and public players both have a role to play in fostering Mexico as a destination for medical tourism. Who is taking a leadership role in this regard?

We need coordination and a greater effort from our government to help connect relevant players in the medical tourism industry. The federal government is the only one capable of structuring the basis for growth in the industry and they have fallen short in this utmost important task. Many of the officers in charge of preparing public policies are not following the right path for they have no experience nor show any interest in the industry. They very unfortunately reach those positions for political reasons rather than genuinely pursuing benefits for the industry. The government should coordinate the different branches and implement a coherent policy for widely promoting medical tourism both for the private and public sector. As explained, Mexico should ignite its vast potential in the world medical tourism industry.

What is Amerimed strategy to attract foreign patients?

We began as a company that provided high-quality medical services for tourists who visited Mexico via cruise ships. We have had the main cruise ships as clients for many years: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess and Holland America. We have grown over the past decade by establishing our high-resolution boutique hospitals in the main touristic destinations: Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel, and Cancún. Right now, we are building a brand new hospital in Playa del Carmen. In November 2014, we sold our facilities on the Pacific Coast to a Spanish hospital chain. We kept the ones that are located in the Riviera Maya. We specialize in intensive care but feature mostly all medical specialties, ranging from emergencies to kidney transplants. All of our hospitals are very well equipped with MRIs, CT Scans X-Rays, Cathlabs, laboratories, and pharmacies. Our staff is bilingual and take pride in keeping the highest standards in providing medical services. We aim to have a hospital in the main Mexican touristic destinations. About 35% of our patients are foreigners and represent more than half of our total revenue. We have an excellent relationship with most of the international insurers and are the hospital chain that receives the foreign patients in Mexico.

How do you articulate your health offer with other players of the tourism industry?

We enter into agreements with most of the hotel chains and international cruise lines. This is a strictly commercial relationship. We also welcome foreign investment in our business. This does not mean that we are exclusively focused on foreign patients; we have Mexican patients, but would like to cater more to the foreign market. We need to be present in the most frequently visited touristic destinations in Mexico. We are committed to providing high-quality medical services; hire the best doctors and have the best-equipped facilities in Mexico, even though we have small hospitals with less than 40 beds each. We have very ambitious growing plans for the next five years. Soon we will be entering a joint venture with a private equity fund to gear ourselves into the world medical touristic market. We take challenges and are committed to invest in Mexico.

What was the reason behind entering the joint venture with a private equity fund?

To grow and develop our marketing ideas. We know how to operate hospitals and have fun doing so. We believe we have a comparative advantage as far as investing in and operating hospitals is concerned. Our mid-term plans include opening new facilities in the pacific touristic destinations.

To what extent do you use telemedicine in your offering?

We have an agreement with several hospitals not only in Mexico, but in the US. Many of our doctors of various specialties do not have residency where the hospital is located, and many others are traveling and do consultations through telemedicine. We have used it over the years, and it is becoming more and more popular.