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As a prominent medical care organization in Mexico we have always taken our leadership role in health care innovation seriously. When we first began receiving international patients like many hospitals we worked with multiple medical travel facilitation agencies. As our medical travel patient flow grew rapidly so did the challenges.

We had the opportunity to observe dozens of medical travel agencies and how they handled marketing case management and daily business operations.While the growth in our international patient business was financially rewarding we could see that it was not sustainable to continue paying facilitators commissions for patients brought to us.

It made more sense to translate that spending from an expense to an investment that would help us realize not just longer term growth but also the development of a brand identity and presence in the global healthcare market. We could see that the medical travel facilitation business was becoming more crowded and patients are becoming quick to take full advantage of the increased resources out there for medical travel.

A different kind of patient is emerging one that is deeply informed and with high expectations of facilitators. And facilitators finding the field more and more competitive have begun expanding their provider networks. Today providers like us serving medical travelers find ourselves competing in a truly global marketplace.

Going Direct Meant Getting Smarter

With all of these moving parts it was clear operating a successful international patient business one that would grow at a healthy pace without becoming a victim of its own success would mean more than propping the doors open and expecting medical travel facilitators to bring a consistent flow of patients.

If both patients and facilitators were getting smarter than we had to get smarter too. We took a proactive approach in developing our international patient strategy identifying the capabilities we would need to develop a successful international patient division which were:

  1. Capitalize on established momentum in bariatric surgery niche well as expand beyond it
  2. Streamline and expedite communications between stakeholders (patients surgeons facilitators hospitals medical records agencies etc)
  3. Measure track and asses the success of marketing and case management processes
  4. Develop and control our brand message
  5. Institutionalize our learning to streamline training and onboarding

We decided to anchor our direct-to-the-patient international medical travel program on a CRM platform which we license from a technology services partner. The platform gives us operational control process integration and total transparency into every aspect of the business from recording every interaction included in/affecting a patients case record to identifying what web articles adwords and landing pages are the most effective at converting looks  i.e. patients doing research  to clicks and calls.

Measuring the Performance of Everything

Adopting this strategic approach has enabled us to quickly ramp up responding to 20-40 inquiries per day realizing 30% month over month patient growth even during these challenging times all the while successfully diversifying our medical travel procedure mix.

In the past six months weve brought more medical travel patients to our hospital network than all medical facilitators working with us combined have been able to do.Some of the things we particularly like about managing our medical travel program on a customized CRM interface are the marketing automation/tools and analytics  things we didn know about a year ago but are now using on a daily basis. Over the holidays we promoted a special medical travel package price for a weight loss surgery procedure.

In addition to some PPC advertising we created SEO press releases and articles and joined social media conversations as well as remarketed to our existing database of thousands of patients. We not only realized a 30% increase in gastric banding procedures we knew that our database marketing yielded the highest ROI.

We knew all of this as it was happening and so were able to direct our marketing dollars to the most productive channels which enabled us experience a commensurate increase in the number of sleeve gastrectomy and RNY gastric bypass procedures as well as bands.

ROI ~ Beyond Revenue

Launching and growing a medial travel brand using a fully integrated CRM solution helped us to gain ownership of our brand and develop operational expertise two of the more critical returns on the investment we repurposed from facilitator commissions.Now our investment is focused rather than depending on an increasingly fragmented facilitation model we are daily building value that translates directly to our patient base.

Our medical travel management platform puts the patient at the center of every transaction that occurs enabling us to measure and track our performance on the processes around those transaction touchpoints from end to end.For example where information is exchanged (e.g. website landing page newsletter) we monitor message effectiveness and optimize advertising spend accordingly.

Case Manager responsiveness to prospective patient inquiries is measured by the minute and monitored by virtue of an integrated VOIP call center enabling call listen-ins and chat assisted consults.

We program a schedule of contacts and measure our effectiveness at reducing the time elapsed between initial contact and receiving a signed quote. And we have established a formal system of patient follow-up that is automatically triggered to engage different team members at different post-surgery stages.

Basically our international patient program is built on transparency of performance in all aspects of the medical travel business from marketing to lead and case management to medical records collection travel concierge services intra-team communications and even financial accounting. Wherever there is a touch point we are able to measure performance in real-time.

With hundreds of touch points across thousands of patients and numerous locations we are confident that our path of continuous growth and improvement is not just sustainable but scalable.There are many ways that a hospital can go green From improving the handling of pharmaceutical waste to implementing energy savings programs going green means ensuring business practices are implemented with the overt intention of being a responsible steward of the environment.

Often a side benefit of going green is efficient and sustainable practices that lead to more green on the bottom line something every hospital director welcomes.For marketing and operations Transparency is transformational.

About the Author

Paulo Yberri is the CEO of Angeles Health International the innovative international patient division of the largest private hospital network in Mexico. The Angeles Health International provider network includes 22 hospitals 1700 beds and more than 11000 specialists and offers medical travel patients full English-fluent concierge services handling everything from medical consults appointments and records transfer as well as travel arrangements for patients and their families in a comprehensive affordable medical travel package.

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