BUILDING THE RIGHT NICHE

Mexico 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rafael Espino de la Peña, CEO of Amerimed Hospitals, on Mexico's excellent health infrastructure, catering to a traveling need, and providing high-quality medical services for patients of every country.

Rafael Espino de la Peña
BIOGRAPHY
Rafael Espino de la Peña has been the CEO of Amerimed Hospitals since 2012. He is also a founding partner of the law firm Fernández, Espino y Asociados and specialized in fiscal, corporate, and trade law. He holds a bachelor’s in law from 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 our multilateral trade agreements. Our hospitals are equipped to the same standards as the best US, Canadian, or European ones. Second, we have highly qualified medical personnel. For many years, Mexican public universities have had great medical, chemistry, and nursing faculties whose graduates are capable of providing high-quality medical services. Mexico exports a great deal of talent to other countries, and our challenge is to keep these professionals in Mexico. The third reason is our incomparable geographical location, neighboring the largest markets for medical tourism, the US and Canada. Although NAFTA is currently under review, it has substantially increased the exchange of goods and services between these markets and Mexico. We welcome medical tourists seeking cheaper and high quality medical services in both our public and private sectors certified by the Mexican Health Council and international entities such as the Joint Commission and the Canadian Accreditation Council, which keeps the highest standards of care.

Private and public players are both promoting Mexico as a destination for medical tourism. Which is taking the lead?

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 it has fallen short in this 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 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 in both sectors.

What is Amerimed's strategy to attract foreign patients?

We began as a company that provided high-quality medical services for tourists who visited Mexico via cruise ships for many years; Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess and Holland America were among our customers. We have grown over the past decade by establishing our high-end boutique hospitals in the main touristic destinations: Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel, and Cancún. 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 and kept the ones in the Riviera Maya. 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. We specialize in intensive care but feature mostly all medical specialties, ranging from emergencies to kidney transplants. All of our hospitals are well equipped with MRIs, CT X-ray scanners, cathlabs, laboratories, and pharmacies. Our staff is bilingual and takes pride in keeping the highest standards in providing medical services, and we aim to have a hospital in each of the biggest touristic destinations.

How do you differentiate your health offerings from other players in the tourism industry?

We enter into agreements with most of the hotel chains and international cruise lines under a strictly commercial relationship. We also welcome foreign investment in our business. This does not mean that we are exclusively focused on foreign patients, but that we 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, hiring the best doctors, and having the best-equipped facilities in Mexico, even though we have small hospitals with less than 40 beds each. We have ambitious growth plans for the next five years and will soon be entering a joint venture with a private equity fund to gear up for the world medical touristic market.