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
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
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?
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
REL: How long have you been
LS: It was in
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
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
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,
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.
Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala
Don’t go to
Guatemala without this book! Take advantage of what we know. Click
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
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
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.
What is the chance of medical malpractice or adverse outcome?
kill 400,000 patients in the US usually happen due to a lack of
communication between caregivers. GMT patients stay in comfortable local
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
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.
How can the patient be sure that they are paying the best price of medical
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
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
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.
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
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
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want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
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