A husband and wife entrepreneur team has partnered with a local doctor and is working on launching a medical tourism business focused on the area around Lake Chapala and Guadalajara.
Dan Sieben, who runs the company MexAmeriCare with his wife Kay, said his experience with the Peace Corps in Peru in the 1960s opened his eyes to the world and, specifically, Latin America. Describing himself as an “entrepreneurial addict,” Sieben said he saw an opportunity to launch a business catering to individuals looking to save money on medical costs by traveling to Mexico.
“Mexico is close. Mexico has wonderful medical facilities,” Sieben said. “And so all my gut feelings pointed to Mexico as a prime location for medical travel.”
Guadalajara, with a major international airport, and particularly Lake Chapala, which boasts a mild climate year-round, proved to be an ideal location within Mexico, Sieben said.Guadalajara has emerged as a destination for travelers looking to save on costs for dental work, bariatric (weight loss) surgery or breast augmentation and other plastic surgeries.
Medical travel companies such as MexAmeriCare provide customers in the United States with information about options in Mexico, along with details about how much it will cost. If someone decides to travel to Mexico for a procedure, the company provides transportation to and from the airport and nursing support if the patient requests it.
With MexAmeriCare, the patient’s first contact is with Dr. Santiago Hernandez, a primary care physician. Hernandez was born in Mexico, lived in the Chicago area for more than 30 years, and has experience with the medical culture in both the United States and Mexico.
One difference between medical care in the United States and Mexico is the expectations about customer service provided by nurses, Hernandez said. Patients in the United States expect a high-level of nursing care, while in Mexico family members usually handle bedside care during recovery.
For that reason, MexAmeriCare recommends any patients travel with a family member. Medical tourism companies also will have nurses who are more accustomed to the level of attention American patients expect.
Sieben said he anticipates patients first visits will most likely be for dental work, which provides a less intrusive entry into Mexican medical services. MexAmeriCare’s first customer is a woman recovering from methamphetamine addiction who now requires extensive dental work.
Her father, Gene Fambrini, said in a telephone interview that having the work done in their home state of California would have cost as much as 13,000 dollars. With the price of the dental work about a third of that in Mexico, Fambrini said it made sense to make the trip even when considering travel expenses.
Given the extent of the dental work, Fambrini couldn’t be sure exactly how many visits it might take to complete the procedure, but he said the process would likely have taken more time if done in the United States.
“I have the confidence that they’re going to do the best job that can be done,” he said.
Fambrini said he’s traveled to Mexico before, but this will be his first visit to Lake Chapala and Guadalajara.
While Sieben said traveling to the lake provides a good opportunity to do some sightseeing while undergoing a medical procedure, Fambrini said how much vacationing gets done will depend largely on how his daughter feels.
Right now, Dan and Kay Sieben live in Connecticut, but they’re planning on moving to lakeside next year. When it comes to growing the company, Dan Sieben said he expects most of the business to come from online traffic and he’s begun working with a marketing company to track down that business.
The company will focus exclusively on Guadalajara and Lake Chapala, so Sieben said he and his wife plan on becoming familiar with medical providers and hospitals in the area. As a person who thrives on starting business ventures, Sieben said his research has shown that there’s plenty of room for a new medical tourism company here.