The Bold New Face of Global Medical Tourism

We always promised our loyal EscapeArtist readers that they would receive a thorough and candid view of the “hot topic” issues that impact the global Expat marketplace. It would have been so easy to write this article from an Ecuadorian perspective, the country I most closely cover, because the demand for Medical Tourism and medical healthcare options in Ecuador is off the charts intense. Everyone is curious…everyone wants to know: “How can we get less costly quality healthcare in Ecuador and what cost-effective healthcare solution options exist for us, here, in Ecuador.” Easy…yes…but not the best way to meet the needs of our EscapeArtist readers. While I know that those of you searching for information on the escapeartist.com/ecuador website are mostly interested in my adopted country, the plain truth is that curiosity surrounding medical tourism and less expensive healthcare options is a global phenomenon. Whether you are an Expat looking to retire in Mexico, one already living in Colombia or someone considering options in Southeast Asia, the medical tourism and cost-effective quality healthcare question rages. It simply would not have been fair to cover a burning hot topic such as this, from a uniquely Ecuador-centric perspective. So, when my mind turned towards getting an informed global perspective on this critical issue, the answer seemed simple: Domingo Silvas, our very own CEO at EscapeArtist.

The simple answer of “Domingo” readily arose, because I know that this is a top priority issue for Domingo, in terms of personal interest and, also, in terms of products and services that he is looking to bring to the EscapeArtist family of readers. Additionally, I also knew that Domingo had just returned from a critical trip to Washington, DC, where the world’s largest medical tourism organization, aptly called, the “Medical Tourism Association (MTA)” was having their yearly international conference. I instantly knew that this opportunity to bring the most up-to-date and informative data on medical tourism to our EscapeArtist readers meant only one thing – a gloves off, no-holds barred interview session, with Domingo Silvas.

 

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HGQ: Welcome, Domingo. Thank you for taking the time to meet and discuss medical tourism and expat healthcare issues.

DS: Thanks for bringing me on, as you know, it is a topic that I find absolutely essential to completing any information campaign to the Expat market that we serve, here at EscapeArtist.

HGQ: Domingo, I could not agree more. I almost felt the excitement of your attendance at the Medical Tourism Association conference, from afar. In fact, we will get to your personal perspectives shortly, but talk to me about the MTA Conference and your experience there. What was that like?

DS: The Medical Tourism Conference was an opportunity and a binding relationship that was created out of an ongoing effort on my part and the entire EscapeArtist team over the last nine months. We actively looked to find a way to work with the Medical Tourism Association, or MTA, because I know…I truly believe… that interest in medical tourism and global health care options is really growing. I can see it on an almost daily basis. It’s almost identical to the opportunity I saw at EscapeArtist almost four years ago. This bubbling and churning Expat market, longing for a bold new face and perspective, which is what I hope we are staring to bring to our audience. Same thing I see in medical tourism today. Even before my arrival at EscapeArtist, credit goes to my predecessors for being boldly ahead of their time, when this all began over 20 years ago. That’s where we want to position EscapeArtist moving forward. We want to be boldly ahead of our time, when it comes to medical tourism. We want to provide the information to our readership. We want to find, analyze and share those special niche opportunities that exist on a global basis. So, at the MTA Conference, which EscapeArtist helped sponsor, I am sitting in this massive room, with 2,500 of the world’s brightest and best medical minds…doctors…hospital administrators…medical tourism facilitators…insurance industry healthcare providers and the energy level is incredible, with the clear buzz in the room being all about the skyrocketing level of global interest in medical tourism. Not just from the Expat community, although of course, that’s a huge part of it, but also from just rank and file folks that may never move out of their native countries, but for whom quality medical care is no longer affordable or accessible in a timely manner. I got to hear the first-hand, cutting edge information. I got to hear the excitement in the voices of just about everyone…everyone, really…that I talked to about the medical tourism phenomenon. It’s not just focused in one area or region. I mean, Thailand, Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador…the Philippines…they were all represented there at this MTA conference, as were many, many more nations. This topic has become a global explosion. I got to be there on the front lines and be able to share that with our EscapeArtist membership.

 

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HGQ: Well, I can tell how exciting that was just from the tone of your voice. You’re normally jazzed up about everything, but this is…whoosh…in my face excitement bubbling from you. Please, continue.

DS: Well, at this MTA Conference, I am there and our team is just literally recording hours and hours…and hours…of conference footage, interviews…fresh perspectives…on the whole, “What’s next for medical tourism” topic. All that is going to be available on EscapeArtist real soon, at escape artist.com and, eventually, that information and much more newly developed information, will be moved to our upcoming EscapeArtist Medical Tourism portal.

HGQ: You mean, like we have all these great country portals, we are going to feature a portal specializing on medical tourism?

DS: Absolutely. Like I said, I am excited about this topic. We are full in at EscapeArtist, when it comes to medical tourism. So, from the MTA Conference, we filmed all these medical tourism experts and, you know, we asked them, “What’s the difference in medical tourism today?” We asked them, “Why should someone consider the medical tourism option and seeking healthcare overseas?” I mean, it doesn’t skim the surface. We have a ton of information filmed. The information, from just that one event…the MTA Conference…is just so, so powerful and informative, you know, and we now have this capacity to leverage that through our affiliation with the Medical Tourism Association and bring that fresh information to our membership. We can provide real information, in virtual real time on just a host value based medical opportunities. It is just awesome!

 

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HGQ: So, how do we make that information convenient for our readers to obtain?

DS: Well, all anyone has to do, for now, is go to escapeartist.com and pull down that information. Shortly, they will go to escapeartist.com, enter the Medical Tourism portal and everything will be organized there in a ready to use format. Of course, if someone already has a target country in mind, say Ecuador, all they have to do is go to escapeartist.com/ecuador. If the interest is in Colombia, they go to escapeartist.com/colombia. For Mexico, it would be escapeartist.com/Mexico. And so on…if it is country-specific medical tourism data an Expat or future Expat seeks.

HGQ: Ok, so as important as the MTA Conference was, I think our readers would like to get a feel for your perspective on the whole medical tourism thing. You know, where have we been…where are we now…where do you want to see the industry headed? So, let’s do it chronologically. How do you see medical tourism, say 20…even 10…years ago?

DS: Well, I never like to over generalize, but honestly, I think medical tourism, certainly 20 years, but maybe even just a decade ago, it was a dark place. A sort of last place of refuge. Maybe a place where you go to get a procedure done that was not allowed in your home country, either because it had not been approved by medical regulatory agencies or because it was outright illegal. The medical tourism route was a place of last resort, if someone sought to, quite literally, save life and limb. Maybe that’s where a majority of people’s minds went, when they thought of receiving medical treatment in some foreign land.

HGQ: Domingo, if I can interject, I’d have to agree. I think that is exactly how the world saw the industry and I am not sure it was even justified then, but certainly, not justified now. Speaking of which, how do you see the industry having evolved since those self-professed “dark days”?

DS: Well, I know you are trying to pull me away from the topic, but just look at the medical tourism conference I attended. A whopping 2,500 professionals, under the bright lights, in the light of day…no darkness…not hidden…an open, public and frank discussion. We are light years ahead of where the industry was just 10 years ago. It has not only become accepted, but…dare I say…it has become somewhat fashionable. Discussing medical tourism…having a medical procedure performed overseas…is no longer relegated to whispers and backrooms. It is, in essence, today’s talk of the town.

 

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HGQ: And why do you think that is the case?

DS: Several, reasons…really. I mean healthcare costs have been spiralling upwards and out of control for decades now. In some countries, like the United States, despite the wonderful quality of our healthcare, many procedures are simply no longer affordable for the middle-class “working man”…and…”working woman”. That’s scary, because we are talking not affordable for those working and insured. Imagine what it is like for the many unemployed, under insured, or simply uninsured?

HGQ: Scary, indeed.

DS: Yeah, and then you have other countries, Canada is a good example, where the healthcare quality is good and the national healthcare coverage extensive, but just try to schedule a timely procedure, for many medical procedures. It doesn’t happen. You go on a waiting list and maybe it’s 3 months…usually more like 6 months or longer…in a few extreme cases folks in Canada have told me about waits lasting more than a year, in order to have a procedure done under the existing healthcare coverage. Run that through your mind. Can you see a whole host of medical procedures for which waiting even three months, let alone one year, might be a little bit scary?

HGQ: Domingo, absolutely. Basically, anything for which you go under the knife, having grown up in the USA and now living in über cheap Ecuador, where medical coverage is very affordable, is basically something I consider as an immediate medical option. No waiting…just right now. That’s when I’d feel I’d need treatment. Scary indeed…times two. Wow! A lot to think about and I think our readers would agree. Any sunshine behind these dark clouds? Any positive reasons to choose the medical tourism path of overseas healthcare, as we look at the industry today?

 

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DS: Well, yes. Two things jump immediately to mind. I am sure there are others. For example, there is the obvious. Cost…viewed from a positive perspective. I mean the whole reason we want to establish the escape artist.com medical tourism portal is to give people the accurate information…let them know that they can feel comfortable to get a treatment…all sorts of medical care…overseas, with a quality healthcare provider, who may be even better than the quality care you’d get in your home country, all for a cost structure that can be as little as 25% of the cost one would find, in say, the United States, as an example. Think about…that’s the crazy thing. It’s a wow factor moment. I had someone at a recent “Dare2Escape” Conference, hosted by, obviously, EscapeArtist…they came up to me and told me they were from the USA. They went on to tell me that they flew to Nicaragua for dental care…a whole bunch of complicated procedures…all handled personally by the primary care dentist, not some dental assistant…and the entire cost…well, they were handed a bill for a whopping $150 USD! Think about that…$150 USD! I mean, even with the cost of the flight to Nicaragua and the hotel stay, the EscapeArtist member assured me that they saved thousands of dollars over what they were quoted by USA dentists. Again..wow factor! You just can’t argue with that or compete against it.

HGQ: Domingo, I couldn’t agree more.  You did say two positives. What do you perceive as the other?

DS: Well, at the risk of this sounding almost morbid…just to be clear…no one wants to get sick and, even if for so-called elective surgery, no one really wants to go under the knife for any kind of medical procedure. It is not a desired goal. At the same time, have you seen some of these places, where one can go on a medical tourism junket?  These are the kinds of places you’d want to visit, medical tourism option or not. Most premiere medical tourism operations also offer and host exceptional recovery facilities. Again, not playing down the serious nature of the medical process, but…again…have you seen some of these medical recovery facilities? They are like quasi-resorts. In some cases, they are actual resorts! The kinds of places anyone would want to stay, even if it wasn’t part of an exceptional money saving medical tourism opportunity. So, again, not minimizing the medical aspects of the situation, but you get to travel to some pretty exotic locations and get to recover in some pretty exclusive and exciting facilities.

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HGQ: Domingo, I have to stop you right there, for a shamless plug.  Mostly, because I agree with your observation and don’t see it as being morbid at all. We promised our readership candor and sometimes that candor comes with an odd flavor. I get it though about the exotic locations and I sure do get it about the uniquely interesting and exclusive medical recovery facilities. This isn’t your grandaddy’s sterile white room, with those horrid iron beds and cheap mattresses.  In fact…here comes the shameless plug…I am marketing a medical recovery facility, right here in Ecuador. It was actually most recently used as a medical retreat center and is located in the Andes hot spot of Cotacachi, Ecuador. Gorgeous, enchanting countryside and, as you said Domingo…the facility…plain wow!  I mean the kind of place you can easily book and get lost in as a week long get away. Someone recovering at the facility I have listed for sale would be recovering in absolute style and maximum comfort.  The place even has a series of medical treatment and consultation rooms.  The whole set up is there, already laid out…and all anyone in the medical tourism industry would have to do is buy it and roll with the operations. I don’t want to prolong this.  A bit tacky already, but it supports what you said about the look and feel of recovery facilities today…absolutely first class and stellar.  So, pretty much ending this, anyone interested in such a valued piece of real estate, can find information and my contact data at:

http://www.escapeartist.com/realestate/property/wellness-center-retreat-cotacachi-ecuador/

 

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DS: Sounds interesting.

HGQ: It is a uniquely interesting opportunity, but enough about my segway into self-promotion.  So, where do you, personally, want to see the medical tourism industry head in the next 10 years?

DS: Great question and one that I am not sure can be completely answered.

HGQ: Why do you say that?

DS: Too many variables, with the industry so white hot that it is shifting constantly and rapidly.  My turn for what some may see as self-promotion, but I think the future for medical tourism is the Internet.  Folks searching online for opportunities, comparing options, analyzing prices and levels of service…perhaps, even more importantly, finding a central source where they can do all that on a global basis and vet out the quality operations, at the same time.  That’s a lot of legwork to do, even from the convenience of your own home, via the Internet. I think that is where escapeartist.com comes into the picture. You know, we cover the globe and bring our readership opportunities from the four corners of the world.  We team up with quality partners, like the Medical Tourism Association, seeking out the best information and cutting edge opportunities for our membership.  So, truthfully, that’s where I’d like to see the medical tourism industry go from here, over the next 10 years. They have already gone from what we have deemed “the darkness” into…I guess…the “public spotlight”. It seems the next logical progression is from center stage to the global stage, utilizing the ever evolving information highway and global connectivity offered by the Internet.  I am confident that anyone doing so will likely select escapeartist.com as their preferred first stop, along that information highway.

 

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HGQ: I am betting on it.

DS:  However, the first real stop might be a focus on next year’s Medical Tourism Association Conference.

HGQ: I know how excited you’ve been, but are you already plugging that?

DS: Absolutely. No reason not to, it is an exceptional opportunity and event.  It will be held next year, 2015 in Orlando…something like September 26-30, 2015.  I can vouch for how awesome Orlando is as a conference locale, because as you know, we just held the Dare2Escape Conference in Orlando, Florida. EscapeArtist selected that locale for, I am sure, many of the same reasons MTA did…it rocks as a conference site locale!  So, guess what? We’ve decided to double dip. To add some pop to the budding relationship, EscapeArtist has decided to have next year’s Dare2Escape Conference in Orlando, as a back-to-back event, with the MTA Conference. Sort of like doubling the value for attendees to both events!  Our Dare2Escape Conference will run October 1-4, 2015, rolling right into the backend of the MTA event that we will be sponsoring.  It promises to be an exciting week.

 

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HGQ: Believe me, I plan to be there. Missed both events this year, because of how busy the real estate consulting business has been, but…I am majorly gearing up for next year’s “Main Event” – “Dare2Escape: The Sequel”.

DS:  You’d better be there, it is also corresponding with EscapeArtist’s big anniversary celebration…all in one compressed time period.  It promises to be a spectacular event!

HGQ: So, in closing…even though I think it may be anti-climatic after the “big announcement” you just made, do you want to leave our readers with any last thoughts.

DS: Well, only this. EscapeArtist events are not designed for our audience to just sit and listen. We want them to participate. At the MTA Conference, potential medical tourism service seekers were offered time to ask their questions directly to the industry professionals. In fact, we recorded this session, which has already been made available to our Dare2Escape members…formerly our Passport Program members…and will be made available shortly to the general membership.  So, next year our goal is to make the Dare2Escape Conference even more interactive and we just want to let our membership know that. We want to let them know that their participation is encouraged and greatly desired.  It is what makes these events rock!

HGQ: Well, on that “rocking'” note, I want to thank you for your time for this interview on medical tourism.

DS: It was a pleasure. Hope to see you make the event next year.

HGQ: Bet on it!