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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Guatemala Medical Travel

An Interview with Lori Shea, Owner, Guatemala Medical Travel

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Guatemala Travel Information          Lake Atitlan Travel and Info

Our objective at Retire Early Lifestyle is to offer our Readers viable solutions to retirement challenges. With the prices of medical care and health insurance in the States being so high, Medical Tourism or Medical Travel is a workable answer for many.

Lori Shea is the owner of Guatemala Medical Travel and she shares some very important insights on this conundrum.

Take a look.

REL: Could you tell us a little about your background?

Lori Shea: I have worked in the hospitality industry for 30 years, managing high-quality hotels and restaurants in Washington DC, Miami and Key West, since the 1980’s. I started my own consulting company in South Beach, providing operations outlines, training programs and financial control guidelines for the new, trendy beachfront hotels that were opening then. In my spare time, I have also traveled extensively around the world.

REL: What was your motivation to begin your business of Guatemala Medical Travel?

LS: When I was living on my sailboat in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, I helped some local ex-pat retirees to find medical care in Guatemala City. At a very reasonable price, the level of medical skills and expertise I found there was astounding. The patients, my friends, were amazed to be treated with respect, compassion and patience by a medical specialist. Some said, for the first time in their lives. I recognized this as a valuable resource that more international patients need to know about.

Lori at her desk in Antigua, Guatemala

REL: What were the biggest challenges you faced?

LS: The biggest challenge is educating patients about the quality of skills and experience of the Guatemalan doctors, going against their initial resistance to seek out care beyond their hometown in America. Once they experience the care and prices we offer in Guatemala, many of our patients come back 3 or 4 times and send their friends here too.

REL: How long have you been in business?

LS: It was in 2009 that my friend came here from Key West for cataract surgery for $2300, after getting a quote of $11,000 in Miami. We talked about creating a business concept to bring other people here too, to get their surgical procedures in Guatemala at unbelievably low prices. It took me three months to research the global industry of medical tourism and to write my web-site. It went live on-line in January, 2010.

 

REL: We have been proponents of Medical Travel for over two decades now, long before it became a common topic of discussion. Do you find that people still balk at the idea of traveling to a foreign country to received medical care?

LS: Some people simply are not travelers and would prefer to stay home, and pay five times more in medical expenses, than to get on a plane and stay at a nice hotel in a foreign country. People who have traveled extensively, and needed health care abroad, are well aware that doctors and hospitals in other countries are quite often superior to anything they would find, or could afford, in their home state.

REL: What do you find to be the biggest fear that prevents people from utilizing Medical Tourism?

LS: Patients want to be assured that everything will be comfortable and familiar, just like at home, and it is.

REL: How do you counter those fears? Besides better pricing, what does Guatemala Medical Travel service offer?

LS: Communication and coordination are what we do best. Patients are actually better off coming to Guatemala and having an agent to accompany them as a personal companion, nurse and secretary throughout the whole process. We provide detailed medical progress reports and financial statements, from their arrival to their departure. Every expense is listed and described in English, together with receipts, compiled into one easy-to-understand report. They return home with all of their diagnostic reports, prescriptions, bills and instructions together in one file for easy future reference. 

They could never expect to have all that information from a U.S. doctor or hospital, or get that kind VIP treatment at home.

Entranceway to Casa Muriel, Antigua, Guatemala

REL: What makes you different than other Medical Concierge sites that offer Medical Tourism services?

LS: We have spent many hours over the years we have been in business to determine who the absolute best doctors in the country are. We now have long-standing professional relationships with surgeons, hospital, doctors and dentists that we trust completely.   

Other medical tourism companies sell hospital services in many different countries and know nothing about the quality of care that is offered. They sell based on who pays the most for advertising placement and patient referrals. At Guatemala Medical Travel, we live here and work here every day, so we know Guatemalan medical providers better than anyone.   

REL: Tell us a little about the staff of doctors with whom you work? Do they speak English? Where have they been trained?  Does a patient need to speak Spanish in order to take advantage of the medical services you offer?

LS: We work with about 35 doctors and all of them speak English fluently. It is absolutely essential to have clear communication with your medical provider. I have also brought European patients to a German-speaking gastroenterologist and a French-speaking ENT specialist in Guatemala City.

Guatemalan families send their brightest students to the best universities in the world. In the U.S., they earn degrees from schools like Harvard, Colombia and Johns Hopkins, and then they are told they have to return to their home countries. We are incredibly fortunate to have extremely well-educated and skilled physicians, with global credentials, right here in Guatemala City.

REL: What about the hospitals that you utilize in your business?  You know that people will ask if they are of similar quality that they can find in the States or Canada.

LS: The doctors that we trust and promote are trained in the best schools in the world. They will demand surgical instrumentation, sanitation and support staff to the highest global standards, in their medical facilities. The Guatemalan hospitals in which they practice are on the same par with modern high tech hospitals in Europe, North America or any other country.

REL: What makes your team of doctors and hospitals different than what someone may find “back home?”

LS: The difference is that doctors in the United States, although they may be very qualified, are not allowed to give CARE like the Guatemalan doctors do. Without American lawyers, insurance companies, patient quotas and government restrictions to interfere, Guatemalan doctors are free to spend much more time actually listening to and treating the patient. They can be totally honest about what the patient really needs, and does not need, and what they might want to choose as an alternative. U.S. doctors have their hands tied by legal restrictions and are forced to waste your time and money on unnecessary procedures.

The Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala

Don’t go to Guatemala without this book! Take advantage of what we know. Click here

REL: What is included in the prices you quote? Are there any hidden fees? I don't think people would welcome surprises like that. Do you have payment plans or must patients pay up front?

LS: For new patient inquiries, I send them the portion of a bill that was actually paid by a recent patient for the same surgery, so they can clearly see exactly what is included in the package price. The only variation would be for more or different prescription medications, or additional tests or materials that the doctor might require due to that patient’s particular medical history. 

Being foreigners here, Americans and Canadians do need to pay in advance because we would have no other way of collecting after the procedure is finished. The GMT agency has many resources and outlets in both countries through which the patient can pay for their medical expenses safely and easily. The patient will return home with all the receipts required to request reimbursement from their insurance company.

REL: It’s one thing to have a crown or dental implant done through Medical Tourism. But what if a patient has a serious condition like cancer or a heart issue? What sort of medical procedures are provided through Guatemala Medical Travel?

LS: The medical director of our cancer radiotherapy center worked at Sloan Kettering in NYC and was medical director of the New Orleans cancer center for 12 years. The chemotherapy specialist treats cancer patients and conducts research studies for the FDA, here in Guatemala. If you need delicate brain or neck surgery, it would be performed by a surgeon who went to Johns Hopkins. Cardiac surgeries are performed every day at our two largest hospitals. The orthopedic specialists here have performed thousands of joint replacements with astounding success rates.  

Hope International Hospital, Guatemala City

REL: Who does follow up care? What happens if “something goes wrong?” Do your doctors work with the doctors of the patient back in their home country?

LS: Thankfully, nothing has ever “gone wrong” under our care. The local physicians are exceedingly cautious with foreign VIP patients, knowing that the outcome of their work will be a reflection on all the medical providers of Guatemala. In fact, if patients need follow up or further treatment, most prefer to fly back here, instead of trying to get help from an American doctor. The patient leaves Guatemala with a complete file of the entire treatment process. The Guatemalan doctor will gladly phone or email other doctors within hours to work together with them to assure the seamless continuation of care for their patient. 

 

REL: What is the chance of medical malpractice or adverse outcome?

LS: Medical mistakes that kill 400,000 patients in the US usually happen due to a lack of communication between caregivers.  GMT patients stay in comfortable local guest houses, with complete access to our office and nurses whenever they want.  We are in constant communication with their doctor by email and cell phone, regarding surgery preparation, after-care, medications and various concerns and variables.

REL: Are pharmaceuticals much cheaper in Guatemala? 

LS: Some are manufactured here by Bayer, Pfizer and Merck, for example, and they are much cheaper. Other drugs must come from the U.S., so the shipping expense and heavy import duty makes them more expensive to buy here.

REL: How can the patient be sure that they are paying the best price of medical expanses?

LS: Your agent will keep a detailed line-by-line daily report.  All medical expenses are categorized and calculated on a daily basis in your medical journal report.

REL: Does someone stay in the hospital after their procedure or do you offer a place for recuperation? What if a spouse or other loved one wants to accompany the patient? Where do they stay?

LS: Sometimes the doctor will require a hospital stay of two or three days. On their release the patient is driven back to their hotel or furnished apartment. Spouses and friends are always welcome to join them. We hand-pick accommodations for our clients based on the accessibility, quiet environment, personal services and several other quality indicators. The patient will have a local cellular phone for constant communication and will receive several visits per day from their GMT representative, therapist and nurse.

REL: What is the patient’s responsibility in receiving this medical care in a foreign country?

LS: The patient needs to be absolutely honest about their medical history, to help the doctor diagnose and treat them most effectively. They should also buy airline tickets that allow for plenty of time for a full recovery under our care before returning home.

REL: If someone is interested in your services or would like to know more, how can they contact you?

LS: First, look carefully at our website and the video located on our primary page to understand what we do, how, and why. Read over our FAQ page. Email questions to Lori@GuatemalaMedicalTravel.com or agents@GuatemalaMedicalTravel.com and that will get you the most quick and complete response. Also, we have a Miami phone on VOIP so that patients can call us here in Guatemala without making an international long distance call. Also you can check out these websites, which oversee: Central America Surgery, Central American Dental, and Central America Doctors.  

We at Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Lori for her time and willingness to share her insight and professional opinion on the topic of Medical Tourism.

For more stories and photos of Guatemala, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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