Interview with Carlos Zavala Ruiz
Carlos Zavala Ruiz has more than 16 years of experience in the healthcare field in Mexico. In 2004 he became the Director of Business Development at Hospital Angeles Tijuana part of Grupo Angeles Servicios de Salud the largest private hospital organization in Mexico. In 2010 he became the Chief Operating Officer of Angeles Health International the Grupo Angeles Medical Travel Division in the United States.
One of Mr. Zavalas main goals is to offer the services of Angeles Hospital and its medical network to the major healthcare carriers in the U.S. (HMOs insurance companies TPAs) and medical tourism companies.
I got chance to sit down with Mr. Zavala and ask him a few questions about Angeles Health International the state of medical tourism in Mexico and where he sees the industry going in the future.
Can you start by telling me about Angeles Health International and your background with the company?
I joined Angeles Health in order to build its then-nascent medical tourism business unit. Before 2006 (and really at its media frenzy peak in 2008) medical tourism was largely dependent on savvy consumers coming to Mexico from the U.S. after realizing they could get equivalent care at much lower prices on the other side of the border.
The fact that it is such a no-brainer made it more of a sensible business decision for us to make this patient care process easier. Due to the baseline exceptional quality of our hospitals and organization-wide commitment to patient care we just grew the business and never looked back.
Just for more business background Angeles Health International itself is the U.S.-based subsidiary of Angeles Hospital. Angeles Health International helps coordinate the treatment of North American medical travelers.
Angeles Hospital is Mexicos largest private hospital network. Our patient care network is comprised of 28 hospitals with over 15000 specialists that treat a total of five million patients each year. Angeles Hospital conducts an estimated 100 clinical trials annually primarily with major global pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
Our U.S.-based case managers have years of experience and offer our patients full English-fluent and Spanish-fluent concierge services. This personal touch allows people to get answers for any questions they may have while deciding to pursue surgery.
All of which is to say that was extremely proud of the qualify of affordable care we make accessible to people across the world.
How many medical travelers do you see per year?
For most years we see between 650 and 850 medical travelers for various procedures.
Do you envision greater growth in medical tourism in the coming year or will universal healthcare have some impact on demand from the U.S.?
Our impression is that despite increased competition across the world including in close markets like Costa Rica and even within the states with notable efforts like Florida there is ample opportunity for continued growth.
Again a key component of growth is the quality of the care involved. Since we can still offer a variety of operations that are several magnitudes better than those offered in the U.S. at equivalent (if not better) personal levels of care we only see greater opportunity as the population ages.
Another important point to touch on is the fact that across the world youll see that these nationalized care strategies typically end up having longer wait times than what we could offer many patients. That is not a direct critique.
Obviously we want everyone to have access to the care they need but so long as that isn forthcoming well do our best to get as many people as possible timely access to great medical care.
What do you make of the current regulatory environment in Mexico and how do you deal with any negative events that may occur within the country?
At Angeles we've always had a serious commitment to caring for our patients. While we understand that there will always be an appeal to some cheaper clinics it always just comes down to thorough research before getting involved with any company or organization that is going to treat your body.
That said there will always be a certain degree of media amplification of anything negative that occurs despite the fact that extremely sick patients are already involved. Im not sure if there will be a definitive solution from the government but we certainly hope there will be. That said we encourage patients to thoroughly research and hopefully go with the option that provides the savings they need while still providing the same level of care.
What would you say has accounted for the rise of medical tourism in Mexico even though it is mostly free of large governmental subsidies like many other markets?
For most Americans were actually quite an appealing location. Besides the fact that we're relatively close on a geographic level theres also a certain familiarity that you can beat. I also think its really something about the quality of care here.
Even though we don have the large government investments gifted to some other markets when you break it down at a basic level for most Americans theyd rather be a few hours or even minutes away by car from their families compared to 12+ hours.
What is the process that a patient goes through from start to finish when they choose to seek out treatment at Angeles Health?
If a patient is interested in care they can go to our contact page and put in their introductory information and the treatment options they're interested in. One of our case managers will directly follow up with them in the next 24 hours to discuss their medical treatment options as well as answer any questions they may have about treatment.
Over a few conversations with the prospective patient we gather relevant personal and family medical information as well as any diagnostic information that may be needed. For more complex procedures patients typically consult and speak directly with their surgeon. Should the patient commit to treatment a case manager will answer any final questions they have and give them general information like recovery times dietary restrictions etc.
The patient will be met at the nearest airport (or at the Tijuana border) by our comfortable Angeles Hospital shuttle service and taken to their chosen hospital. At the hospital they'll go through all the usual check-in procedures.
After their treatment and any requisite monitoring time they'll be free to check out of the hospital. If their procedure requires a follow-up consultation they will stay at a nearby hotel until they are approved for travel. When the patient and their surgeon are satisfied our shuttle will take the patient back to their original arrival point.
Once the patient is home Angeles Health International will follow up with them to ensure their recovery is going as expected answer any questions and help address any after-care requirements they may have.
What are your most popular procedures?
We are well known for the innovative approach of our functional oncology program. We're also proud to have one of the worlds best weight loss surgeons. We also commonly see patients for stem cell applications orthopedic surgery dentistry cardiology cosmetic surgery and just about any other procedure you would expect from a hospital.
Generally speaking patients come to us based on our reputation innovative approach and exceptional value. We do offer pretty much any other procedure you would need but we tend to concentrate on what we perceive is the greatest need across the world.
How much does a patient generally save for various treatments if they get treated at Angeles Health as opposed to somewhere in the U.S.?
While prices vary across the United States Angeles Health prides itself on offering comparable care and in many cases better treatment options at lower prices than what patients would receive in the United States. On average we save patients at least 40% of the cost of an equivalent treatment offered in the U.S. That number can significantly increase for treatment options that have higher margins.
For example gastric sleeve surgery has an average cost of about $19000 in the United States which insurance may not cover. At Angeles Health the same procedure with one of the world's most experienced surgeons costs $6500.
For a complicated procedure like an angioplasty that can cost up to $41000 in the United States our price of $14000 can represent significant cash savings.
Is there anything else you wanted to talk about today we haven gotten to?
If you have any questions about treatment options or our mission please don hesitate to reach out. We strongly believe in the rights of everyone across the word to access the medical treatment options they desire in a safe and professional medical environment free from price gouging or long wait times.