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Advice from a CEO
Wouter Hoeberechts, CEO of WorldMed Assist, was recommended to the Traveling4Health Community by a professional peer as “one of the most professional and knowledgeable medical travel facilitators I have ever met and a very straight-up guy”.
That’s the kind of person whose opinion counts, and we interviewed him to ask him what makes his company unique and to find out about the hospitals he recommends in Mexico.
Mexico as a Medical Destination
“Mexico is by far the closest destination country for our US and Canadian patients and serves a lot of our patients,” said Hoeberechts, “it’s such a logical choice. And if you’re selective in which hospitals you include in your network, as we are, there is very good quality there and the savings over treatment prices in the U.S. are substantial.”
“Mexico is a good destination for many medical procedures,” said Hoeberechts, “There are some countries that, because they are so far away, they only make sense if you do the very complicated procedures such as a liver transplant.”
However, said Hoeberechts, “You can do a liver transplant in Mexico with very high quality. But you can also do something much more straight forward such as a hernia repair. You can do that high-quality hernia repair in India, as well, but it doesn’t make sense to fly for 30 hours and save a couple of thousand dollars.”
“The cost of medical care in a country like India is much lower than it is in Mexico in most cases, but for lower cost procedures that cost differential gets negated by much more expensive plane ticket and a much more lengthy stay because in a country that far away the travel back is so long you have to be pretty way on your way to recovery before you can withstand such a long flight time,” he explained.
“Whereas in Mexico, he says, “we have people driving across the border. The point is that high quality healthcare can be accessed at different countries in the world, but that the specific circumstances make one country a more logical choice than another.”
Mexico Centers of Medical Excellence
“We currently work with three providers, one in Tijuana, one in Monterrey, and one in Merida, Mexico. They are overall very high quality, said Hoeberechts:
1. In Tijuana we work with a heart center there called Excel Heart Center. The majority of the doctors that we work with there are U.S. Board Certified and are actively practicing in the US. It’s phenomenal; their physicians have performed thousands and thousands of procedures.
2. In Monterrey we work with Hospital San José Tec de Monterrey, an institution that has many innovations to its name and is a full tertiary care general hospital with many specialties.
3. In Merida, Mexico, we work with Star Médica; again a very good full tertiary care general hospital.”
Safest Hospital in Mexico
“The hospitals I listed are all safe from the standpoint of being medically safe,” said Hoeberechts, “Mexico receives a lot of bad press related to safety from drug related crimes and kidnappings and deservedly so. However, for all of our hospitals, we have instituted protocols that absolutely keep our patients out of harm’s way. Our hospital in Merida can generally be considered the most relaxing destination: Merida is an old colonial town with Mayan ruins close by, where you can easily walk on the streets, even late at night. Many Canadians and Americans retire in Merida. There are direct flights to Merida, Mexico from some U.S. and Canadian cities.”
The Importance of Customer Service For Medical Tourists
“We are a medical travel company focused on customer service. We do not provide medical care, ourselves, but of course we arrange for people to get medical care. We provide each patient with a case manager to arrange and be the point of contact for the patient during their medical trip. All of our case managers are Registered Nurses.”
“To be assisted by a case manager with a medical background is something that is of extreme value,” explained Hoeberechts, “The case managers can very quickly understand the patient’s situation and are able to ask the right questions to get down to the heart of the matter.”
“A nurse case manager is also a value to the destination hospital,” he said, “because the nurse case manager is able to provide the hospital with the medical information required.”
“WorldMed Assist’s specialty and reputation is related to our level of customer service as well as the relationships we have with the hospitals, gained through sending them hundreds of patients” said Hoeberechts.
“One of the things that sets us apart from a lot of our competitors is that we work with a very small list of countries and within most countries we only work with one hospital, “he said, “The exception to that is Mexico where we work with three hospitals and in India with two hospitals, Fortis and Apollo.”
“That was a strategic decision,” explained Hoeberechts, “We realized we needed very good relationships with our hospitals in order for our company and our patients to get preferential treatment as well as to know the ins and outs logistically, politically, and understand how to work with a hospital’s management policies and processes.”
Combine our experience helping many patients, our relationships and our customer focus with our experience in creating benefit plans and it is logical that we are a very attractive partner for a self insured company that wants to add a medical travel benefit to its benefit plan. Corporate medical travel is the way of the future.
Medical Vacation in Mexico
“Obviously the idea of a medical vacation works best for most medically light procedures, but for example that wouldn’t work well for a hernia repair which might otherwise be considered a light procedure. The patient can’t lift heavy objects after a hernia repair for quite a while; there may be a rupture if they do that. So for them to take a Canopy tour in Costa Rica after a hernia repair would not be safe,” explained Hoeberechts.
“We try to dissuade people from trying to include any tourist activities,” said Hoeberechts, “We’re really a medical travel company instead of a medical tourism company. Our stance is we’re not going to schedule any tourist activities in advance. If you feel really good after your treatment and if your doctor approves for you to do certain activities that’s when we’ll start helping you get in touch with contacts for tourism.”
Advice for Medical Tourists
How to choose a medical travel company
Hoeberechts offers the following advice for Medical Tourists:
“When choosing a medical travel facilitator, look at how long a facilitator has been in business, their experience and relationships with the destination hospitals, look at the patient testimonials, and do a lot of online research outside of the testimonials.
For Example, said Hoeberechts, WorldMed Assist is a Better Business Bureau member, and we’re the only medical travel company that has the A+ rating.”
Ask the treating doctor about the medical travel company
“One of the things that we arrange is a phone consultation between the patient and the treating doctor before the patient travels. During that phone conversation the patient can ask the doctor some pointed questions about our company like, ‘how often have you worked with WorldMed Assist and has there been any issues working with the company’,” said Hoeberechts.
Note from author: That’s good advice — checking out the reputation of the facilitator with the treating doctor – and a tip I hadn’t heard before.
Let us help you find the destination for your own lifestyle and healthcare needs:
The author: Ilene Little
Ilene has written 38 posts to this blog. On The Water Series - Panama. --Note from author, Ilene Little, CEO of Traveling4Health & Retirement: For people who are attracted to living on the ocean, the "on the water" lifestyle promotes both physical and emotional health. Although the locations are specific, the topics are universal!
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