WHAT REALLY IS AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE, ANYWAY?
Here in the U.S., we have one of the finest healthcare systems in the world.
And with the Affordable Care Act, the finest healthcare is more affordable than ever, right?
Let's forget the politics for a moment.
And let's forget the procedural challenges involved.
From any other standpoint, the ACA brand is still problematic at best.
So we're not going to dwell on all that. Instead...
LET'S JUST SAY THAT YOU WANT A HIP REPLACEMENT
And for whatever reason, you have to pay for that hip replacement yourself.
In the U.S., that procedure will probably cost you around $50,000.
But hey, quality of life, right?
Can't put a price tag on that, can you?
But you can definitely put a price tag on the act of healthcare.
And $50,000 is way too much for a lot of Americans.
SO, WHAT IF I TOLD YOU I COULD GET YOU THAT SAME PROCEDURE FOR 27 CENTS ON THE DOLLAR?
But in all honesty, for almost one-quarter the price, you probably won't get the same experience.
The cheaper experience might be better.
The doctor might take more time with you.
He might even have better training than the doctor you would normally visit.
And what if, instead of just being hustled through the system, you actually were indulged?
What if the doctor and the support staff all took their time with you?
Moreover, what if you could enjoy your pre- and post-surgery time as an affordable vacation in a tropical paradise? Great food and activities galore--all for a fraction the price of what you'd normally expect to pay?
SOUND GOOD? LET ME RUIN IT FOR YOU WITH ONE WORD.
Suddenly feeling different about it now, aren't you?
If you're like many people we know, the idea of going to Mexico for amedical procedure holds zero attraction.
All you can think of is a back-alley tattoo parlor in Tijuana with a flickering fluorescent light, a half-empty bottle of gold-ish liquor with a worm at the bottom, and a bent scalpel.
For many Americans, Mexico has a distinct branding problem far worse than that of the Affordable Care Act.
AND FOR AMERICANS, MEDICAL TOURISM IN MEXICO HAS AN EVEN BIGGER BRANDING PROBLEM
To which a fair question would be: what do you actually know about healthcare in Mexico?
"Well, the cartels! The drug wars! Narco violence! Drunken tourists in big, silly hats! Cheap tequila!"
Well, allow me to share an experience the Fabulous Honey Parker and I had last week in Puerto Vallarta.
Yes, the town whose name might conjure up an auditory memory of a game show host saying, "Johnny, tell her what she's won!"
And Johnny gleefully announces a vacation in "sunny Puerto Vallarta!"
OR MAYBE YOU THINK OF CAPT. MERRILL STUBING AND ALL THE CREW OF THE LOVE BOAT
Anyway, Slow Burn was dispatched to lovely PV to discuss marketing with a gentleman we know from a previous project.
This fellow has become involved with an orthopedic clinic, helping them raise their game in marketing to U.S., Canadian and UK patients with an eye on medical tourism.
But there's more to be done for his client, which is where Slow Burn comes in.
And frankly, it was a trip loaded with surprises.
The first surprise was PV itself.
Did you have any idea that Puerto Vallarta has been compared to Palm Springs and Fire Island, and is considered the San Francisco of Mexico?
Yes, news to us, too.
SORRY TO DISABUSE YOU OF ANOTHER POSSIBLE BRAND PRECONCEPTION
We were staying in the funky, older part of the city known as La Zona Romantica.
While we were there, we happened to have an extraordinary meal in a fine dining restaurant. It ranks as one of the top three gourmet meals I've ever experienced anywhere.
And the price was about one quarter of what you'd expect to pay in New York.
No, no tacos and beer that night.
And yes, another brand preconception shot to hell.
Anyway, medical tourism.
IF YOU WERE UNAWARE, THIS IS A BURGEONING INDUSTRY
It's not unique to Mexico. It's happening in South Korea, Thailand, Costa Rica, India--basically, anyplace you can think of where you probably hadn't thought about visiting.
There are doctors in cities around the world who are making a fine living serving tourists who don't want to pay the high prices of medical care in their home countries.
Which takes us back to the hip replacement done for 27 cents on the dollar in the middle of a tropical vacation.
The doctor we met in Puerto Vallarta is a Canadian citizen of German extraction who has lived in Mexico since he was a child.
HE IS ONE OF THE SINGLE MOST DELIGHTFUL MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS YOU'D EVER WANT TO MEET
He speaks passionately of his adopted home town: "Vallarta has a magical power."
And of the patient experience: "We have to treat them with our hearts."
And of giving the patient a totally comprehensive experience in care: "We make a 6-month investment of time preparing, receiving and discharging a patient."
His patient testimonials are glowing and extraordinary.
"Dr. Smith and his professional and caring staff made my hip surgery the best decision I could have ever made."
"I never knew a doctor as well as I do Dr. Smith...I was more informed going into surgery before and after than anything I had in the states. It seemed like in the states, I was on a need to know. Here, they answered any questions I had."
"Clearly, Dr. Smith is focused on building relationships... His natural warmth and charisma contribute to a great bedside manner."
There are dozens more like this. And they are everything you rarely get to hear about a patient experience in the U.S.
So here's a question: what is your perception of Mexico as a healthcare destination?
And what would it take for you to feel good about considering Mexico as an option for your own elective surgery?
Feel free to send your replies to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.