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DocTour: Mexico’s tourist telemedicine solution

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Mexico is a hugely popular tourist destination. More than 20 million people flock to the country every year for its numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, stunning nature and partying hotspots.

But those who come down with a medical issue could find themselves in hot water. DocTour hopes to change that.

DocTour is a telemedicine solution providing a full range of health services to tourists. The company connects clients with its own staff doctors and nurses, as well as third-party pharmacy services.

DocTour provides an affordable alternative to navigating Mexico’s health system alone.

Gabriel Garza Caro is the company’s co-founder and managing director. He explains how unsuspecting tourists can fall foul of some unscrupulous medical services.

“When a hotel visitor gets sick, they get sent to the hotel doctor for a consultation. Normally, the doctor is freshly graduated with little experience.

“The doctor charges a huge amount for that consultation and then sends you to the hospital via an ambulance, even when this is not needed. This is a standard procedure and includes another high charge.”

These charges quickly stack up. Co-founder and director of operations, Guillermo Loyo Garza, has himself worked in tourist hospitals. The general physician says that a problem that should cost $200US at most can easily turn into $4,000.

That supports a chain of bad practices, with each doctor and service taking their cut as the patient navigates the chain.

Tourists who don’t understand the system or speak Spanish can end up in hospital with their passport confiscated until they pay in full.

DocTour aims to break the chain through its telemedicine platform. The company is also set to launch the DocTour app, where patients can book appointments and access their health records.

Guillermo says:

“Tourists mostly have small medical issues, like diarrhoea, skin problems, urinary tract infections…very mild problems that can be dealt with in a video consultation.

Gabriel adds:

“After the consultation, you want your medication, right? We’ll send it to you. Don’t move. Need a nurse? Don’t move, we’ll send one to your room. You need a doctor to clean a wound? Stay there. Everything gets sent to the hotel room or Airbnb.”

DocTour may not have been able to gain a foothold in years past due to the once-impenetrable travel health business model.

Hotels have deals with private hospitals. Anyone trying to make their way in risks encountering ‘some very questionable practices’ linked to the viciousness that infects the whole medical supply chain, Guillermo says.

However, the weight of tourist complaints has helped break that exclusivity deal and paved the way for DocTour.

Gabriel says:

“A lot of tourists complained about how the whole experience is just awful for them. Because when they arrive at the hospital, they take their passport, and they do not give it back until you pay. And a lot of times, the insurance is not accepted at that hospital, so it must be cash.

“So, of course, they go back to the hotel to complain because the hotel sent them to those places. And it starts to become a problem with the hotel.

“We don’t want any commission, we just want fair treatment and local prices for the patient. We already charge for our core services. For the rest, we just want a good experience for the patient.

“Most Cancun resort tourists travel with enough money for just a couple of nights out and a tour. Afterwards, they have everything at the hotel.

“People who travel to vacation rentals also have a limited budget.”

DocTour is now looking to expand its full range of services nationwide, including nursing and Covid testing. In time, Gabriel and Guillermo have ambitious plans to service tourists in the Caribbean, Colombia, Brazil and beyond.

Meanwhile, the company has developed a special service for international tourists in Mexico.

The package includes everything from Covid treatment and hospital transportation to helping with lost luggage and providing a return flight ticket for tourists who have to get back home in an emergency.

This patient-centred approach informed the DocTour business model from the very beginning.

Both Gabriel and Guillermo were determined not to follow the delivery platform model. Instead, their doctors are all paid employees, giving DocTour accountability; and patients, peace of mind.

Gabriel says:

“The marketplace model is okay for meals, for transportation, but when it comes to health, no one wants to be a number, someone to make money off through a transaction.”

Guillermo adds:

We also wanted to make sure that our employees have a sense of belonging and a fair salary.

“Delivery and taxi apps don’t offer that, they’re just there for making money. That means, employees will be jumping around from company to company, always looking for the best offer.

“We want them to stay with us, fight for the company, because we pay fairly and have created a culture for them to be part of.”

DocTour’s social interests are integral to that culture, Gabriel says. The company is working with an education foundation to provide education to rural areas.

Each family is given a tablet packed with educational content created by students at Monterrey Institute of Technology, with DocTour providing information on health, hygiene and nutrition.

Gabriel says:

“We are also about to implement some telemedicine points in the rural community. So it will be one tablet that will be connected with us. Local people can consult with our doctors once a week with no cost at all.

“We help them with the education on the one side, and with the follow up and treatment on the other to improve their health.

“Some of these places only have a single phone for the whole community, so we’re working with the government to put the necessary resources in place.

“These are the forgotten ones in Mexico so we want to look out for them.”

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