Since research began on the first edition of Patients Beyond Borders, Mexico has made great strides in healthcare. No longer known only for border-town dentistry and cosmetic surgery, Mexico has in recent years come into its own as a global healthcare hub, offering patients an array of specialties and procedures that now begin to rival its competitor nations in Asia.
While estimates vary, researchers place the number of patients traveling to Mexico between 200,000 and 1.1 million, with undocumented Hispanics returning home for care forming much of the discrepancy.
The lion’s share of medical travelers to Mexico patients are regional—from Texas, Nevada, Arizona and Southern California seeking easy access to affordable dental care and cosmetic surgery. However, patients from Canada and the UK are also drawn to the region due to the lack of waiting times from overburdened public healthcare systems and the lure of the warm Caribbean waters.
With new facilities and services has come increased international recognition. In 2006 Mexico had no JCI-accredited facilities; in 2012 it had seven.
Some medical institutions in Mexico have cross-border ties and operate as part of larger, international conglomerates. For example, Christus Muguerza Alta Especialidad is now part of CHRISTUS Health in the US, a group serving eight US states, mostly along the US-Mexican border. The merger has made Christus Muguerza the largest healthcare provider in Mexico. Similarly, the CIMA provider network, with hospitals in Monterrey, Hermosillo and Chihuahua, is owned and operated by the International Hospital Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, TX
Mexico Healthcare and Medical Tourism
Other hospitals in Mexico enjoy affiliation with major educational institutions. Hospital San Jose Tec de Monterrey, for example, is sponsored by the internationally recognized Tecnológico de Monterrey, a premiere educational institution that boasts more than 18,000 full-time students and operates 32 campuses across Mexico. Through its Medical School, Center for Biotechnology, and Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer, Tecnológico de Monterrey educates health professionals, while developing new models for clinical care and research.
Not all of Mexico’s medical offerings are located in major medical centers. Mexico-bound health travelers often seek out smaller clinics run by two or three physicians, some of them second- and even third-generation family enterprises. Unassuming yet clean and efficient, these clinics are often headed by either expatriate US physicians or practitioners trained in the US or Europe. Such clinics reliably treat tens of thousands of medical travelers each year, with many of their patients returning annually for checkups, dental cleanings, physicals, and a host of other treatments that can be had far less expensively than in the US, Europe, and even many Asian countries.
To learn more about healthcare options in Mexico, you may wish to read the Patients Beyond Borders: Monterrey, Mexico Edition.
In recent years, stories of drug-cartel violence in Mexico have become increasingly common. Is Mexico safe for the medical traveler? The short answer is “yes,” if you use your head and follow the new rules of the road: trust only established providers of travel arrangements, and don’t head off on your own. Don’t rent cars or take your own tours. Use only official taxis. Use guides and tour leaders recommended by your hospital’s international patient staff. Stay in a well-regarded international hotel and ask the concierge there to arrange transportation and sightseeing for you. Prior to travel, travelers should check advisories about unrest in destinations of choice, and exercise the usual cautions when in country.
Although quality clinics are located in nearly every major city and resort in Mexico, finding a good one can be fraught with frustration. Many websites remain in Spanish, and English-speaking physicians are not always available, nor are translation services. In smaller Mexican clinics, the health traveler is likely to encounter fewer English speakers than in Malaysia or Thailand, tens of thousands of miles away. So, unless you’re fluent in Spanish, you may want to enlist the assistance of a good health travel agency when arranging care in Mexico.
These challenges aside, geographical convenience is the big motivation for many Mexico-bound health travelers who reside in North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. More than 70 percent of Mexico’s US patients travel from the border states of California, Texas, or Arizona. Nearby patients from San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Dallas, and Houston make the two- to six-hour trek across the border to their clinic of choice, stay a night or two in a hotel, and then drive back. As one veteran cross-border patient comments, “A three-hour drive across the border saves me $700 in physicals and dental work every year. That’s a no-brainer.”
Last updated on 30 September 2014