Dentists in Mexico looking for a taste of the profitable medical tourism industry have a training program to sink their teeth in.
Representatives of the Medical Tourism Association® met this month with administrators, doctors and support staff of Sani Dental Group in Los Algodones, located in the state of Baja California, where they conducted a training workshop and site visits leading toward their certification in International Patient Services.
Certification helps healthcare and hospitality professionals seeking practical training and knowledge to effectively manage the international patient-care process and, at the same time, fills a growing need for qualified and experienced skills at hospitals now focusing on medical tourism in Mexico and across the globe.
“This training and certification is very important for us,” said Victor Jimenez, general director of Sani Dental Group. “We strive for the highest standards in education for our staff, which has a direct, positive impact on our patients as well as in the economic development of the group.”
Program administrators will now evaluate the training sessions and dental clinic visits and make recommendations for Sani Dental to achieve within 3-4 months before becoming eligible for certification. When completed, Sani Dental will be the first dental group to earn Medical Tourism Association® International Patient Services Certification (IPSC).
South of the Border Care
The rising cost of dental care these days can put a frown in any smile. That’s why a growing number of North Americans are going south for medical tourism opportunities.
Tourism officials estimate about 450,000 people visit the Mexican state of Baja California each year for medical tourism procedures – from dental work to extensive surgeries. What’s more, Mexican tourism officials say the patients are worth some $89 million in U.S. dollars per year to the state.
Almost 99 percent of the patients that visit the Sani Dental Group in Los Algodones, a small town on the extreme northeastern tip of the municipality of Mexicali — or about 20 miles west of Yuma, Ariz. – are residents of the United States or Canada.
Easier to Swallow
If crossing the border for root canal or dental implants sounds painful, then the cost savings of up to 70 percent compared to those in the United States for similar procedures and treatments must be easier to swallow. Then, it’s not such a strange trip after all, especially for the estimated 120 million Americans, who do not have dental insurance and can’t expect coverage under the new healthcare reform laws, either.Under the new healthcare reform legislation that will be implemented in full at the beginning of the year, adults must buy health insurance or pay a fine starting in 2014. The law does not require those same adults to purchase other types of policies like dental or vision, although some healthcare plans include the additional coverage.
"Sani Dental Group has been wonderful to work with,” said Marilyn Outram, a patient from Sky Valley, Calif. “They are very professional, caring, and accommodating. Their work was exceptionally good and completed in a timely manner.”
Sani Dental Group provides options for both the uninsured and the insured who can’t find the treatments they can afford. The facility is like any other found at its neighbor to the North. Sani Dental is accredited by the American Dental Association, houses on-site laboratories and cad-cam and laser technology, and supports 17 specialized doctors who have trained at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States including the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, in Boston, and the International Center of Laser Education, in Indianapolis.
“We offer free personalized quotes, and support in planning the trip with both transportation and lodging,” said Alejandro Gutierrez, director of marketing for Sani Dental Group. “All of our marketing efforts are made in the United States or Canada. We also facilitate communication with the doctor and follow-up.”
Sani Dental receives about 350patients each month. The international accreditation could go a long way toward increasing that number in both the summer and winter seasons.
“Los Algodones has seen an increasing number of visitors, especially during the last couple of years,” said Dr. Jimenez. “We received more than 5,000 patients in 2012 and we expect even more this year. I think this town is great for the concept of medical tourism because everyone speaks English, all the transactions are made in U.S. currency, and we are in walking distance from the border. In fact, most people just walk across the border because everything is so close.”
While there may be an exotic ring to the name, Mexicali is all business. Patients are more likely to run into a medical professional in Los Algondones than a western cowboy.
“Sani Dental understands dental tourism and provides patients with a shuttle service from the nearest airports,” said Gutierrez. “Patients can also find overnight accommodations at the ‘Hacienda Los Algodones,’ the only hotel in town and one owned by Sani Dental.”