Obesity is one of the most common chronic metabolic problems across the world and a major risk factor for the leading causes of death, including stroke, heart attack, and cancer. People struggling with obesity now have a wider range of medical and surgical options to help them lose weight and lower their risk of complications than they did decades ago..
The Obesity Control Center, based in Tijuana, Mexico, has built a reputation for offering top-tier surgical treatments for people struggling with obesity and who want to see a remarkable improvement in their weight in a short time. The leading bariatric surgery center packs a team of renowned surgeons and highly-trained specialists who provide top-line care with the best surgical interventions and techniques for patients from around the world.
In this interview, Dr. Ariel Ortiz, Medical Director of the Center, discusses his contributions to the field of bariatric surgery, the rise of bariatric surgery services for international patients, and how accreditation has set the center’s medical tourism program apart and built trust with local patients and medical tourists from around the world.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am a double board certified physician in general surgery and bariatric surgery with 30 years of experience in the field and a pioneer in the medical tourism industry.
How did you begin working in the area of Global Patient Services?
I pioneered several weight loss surgery procedures only available outside the US and became the professor and proctor of these new procedures in the United States. This has led to a high demand for these procedures by patients, in whose country they were unavailable. These services were made even more attractive by the vast experience that we had at the time.
How long has Obesity Control Center had a Medical Travel Program and what are the top treatments you specialize in for medical travelers?
The Obesity Control Center has had a Medical Tourism Program for 27 years now. Weight loss surgery, plastic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, and several other services are being developed at the center at the moment.
What support services do you offer medical travelers?
We hold their hands from start to finish. All accommodation, transport logistics, medical services, and long-term follow-up telemedicine are well coordinated for our international patients to ensure smooth care continuum.
What sets your organization apart and makes it so unique?
Our organization has five world-class quality accreditations and is a pioneer and innovator in the field. We are committed to quality, compassionate and affordable care. These have set us apart as a global bariatric surgery center committed to delivery top-of-the-line care for our patients.
You recently established a historic partnership with the University of California San Diego. Why is this collaboration so unique and how will it benefit medical travel patients?
Many patients have few options in the US for health care; once they are denied coverage, they find out it is impossible to pay completely out of pocket. Healthcare abroad usually has less overhead than in the US, making it attractive to the consumer. A mutual partnership of collaboration, consulting, teaching, and training with a Center of Excellence such as UCSD creates a unique opportunity to advance patient care, improving the availability, timeliness, and cost of care.
How do you see medical travel evolving over the next two years?
The industry hit the brakes during COVID-19 and has been on its path to recovery since restrictions were eased. Stakeholders in the industry have learned lessons from the crisis and are bringing fresh ideas and concepts to rebuild it. For instance, this pandemic has taught us the importance of telemedicine and its validity as an essential tool for care.
Are you seeing pent-up demand from medical travelers for weight loss treatments as a result of the pandemic?
Our patient load no doubt has doubled. We speculate that the fact that metabolic diseases were associated with higher COVID-19 mortality was a driving force. Another reason was simply the increase in excess weight seen in the general population after the long periods of restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
Your organization has several accreditations. Why did Obesity Control Center choose to get accredited by Global Healthcare Accreditation?
GHA is the only accreditation with standards related to healthcare for the traveling patient, a fact of life that other organizations do not even consider. GHA does not only focus on the quality of treatments delivered by a medical tourism program, but also on the overall patient experience at every step of the care journey.
What value does GHA provide to your organization? What value or benefits does it provide to your medical travel patients?
Excellence and safety go hand in hand. Being held to higher standard guarantees that our organization provides the highest quality and safety available in the industry.
Do you believe accreditation is important for building patient trust in your organization?
Being part of an international organization where patients decide to travel outside their country for medical care, a third party accreditation is really the only way to guarantee that the claims the organization makes online are actually true.
About Global Healthcare Accreditation
Global Healthcare Accreditation is a global authority in healthcare accreditations for providers and businesses, with focus on raising the standards in medical travel and wellness. The GHA for Medical Travel helps healthcare providers and medical travel programs to build and demonstrate a commitment to quality, safety, and a positive patient experience through the care continuum. GHA equips healthcare providers and medical tourism programs with the requisite tools to rethink their policies, procedures, and processes to meet global standards and international best practices. This ultimately builds trust for international patients and ensures positive healthcare outcomes.