Cyprus' model for medical tourism is examined by Caroline Ratner

 

What exactly is AIMIS?

AIMIS is a collective partnership made up of thirty top US spine surgeons, who specialise in and teach minimally invasive spinal surgery. These world class surgeons are now offering this groundbreaking surgical technique in Cyprus; until now, this specific type of surgery was only available in the US.  On average, US patients flying to Cyprus will pay 60%-75% less, than if they had surgery at home and that’s including flights and luxury accommodation.  By bringing the US surgeons to Cyprus, it also means that patients from other countries can now benefit from cutting edge spine technologies outside of the US, where it is usually prohibitively expensive for most foreign patients to travel to, as medical tourists.

Is AIMIS a medical tourism facilitator?

No. AIMIS is a collective partnership of surgeons. We are neither a facilitator nor a facility nor a medical travel company. It’s a new medical travel business model to provide US patients (and others) the chance to have the best American medical care for minimally invasive spinal surgery, at a fraction of the costs than if they were having the surgery in the US.

How did you get involved with AIMIS?

I have spent the past 25 years in the medical industry working with multi national companies, the past ten years in orthopaedics and the past four of which, specifically in the spine sector. Four years ago, I brought NuVasive to Greece (creative spine technology) and it became the fastest growing company in that sector. During that time, I met Dr William Smith, a top US spine surgeon specialising in minimally invasive techniques and we discussed the possibility of sending US spinal patients to Cyprus for minimally invasive surgery. Last April we presented the concept to the leading spine surgeons in MIS techniques and gradually set up a network of some thirty of the worlds’ leading MIS spine surgeons based across the US.

How will it work?

Our surgeons will see American patients in the US pre and post-operatively and come to Cyprus on a rotating basis for ten day periods. Our doctors are committed to travelling to Cyprus for a minimum of 1- 2 times a year and if necessary more, depending on patient numbers.

Have you opened your own hospital?

No. We are operating from existing private hospitals in Cyprus and plan to keep it that way for the time being. Further down the line we may look into opening our own hospital, but our objective now is to work from existing private hospitals in Larnaca, Limassol and Nicosia.

Where will non-US patients consult with doctors before and after surgery?

We are aware that the two most critical aspects determining successful medical travel are the quality of healthcare and post operative care provided to our patients. It is vital that both are of the highest level and standard throughout the whole process. AIMIS Spine offers these highest levels of American healthcare, with the most technologically advanced American products and procedures with the possibility to have any follow up required “back home”. AIMIS truly expands and stretches beyond the US not only through the specific associations and networking it has been developing, but also through the training of other surgeons, our surgeon base and other doctors associations. 

We are currently working with the European Chiropractors Union and are developing a Manual of Medical Services between our surgeons and a chiropractor. This manual explains how chiropractors and our spinal surgeons can work together, so that their members can undertake pre-operative screening and carry out any post op medical services to a patient. We are officially launching this manual in June at the annual congress of the European Chiropractors Union in Zurich.

Moreover, AIMIS surgeons teach other spinal surgeons these techniques, who automatically become our Institute’s associates and we will gradually include key surgeons from most European countries in our collective environment. In this way non-US patients, through our networks, can see a surgeon trained in minimally invasive spinal surgery, in their home country pre and post operatively.

We are also about to open a multi-lingual call centre where patients can speak to trained operators who can answer their questions and advise on all aspects of the surgery and travel. It is important to us that patients can speak to a person, from wherever they are in the world, which will help patients psychologically as well as practically understand the process rather than all communication between AIMIS and the patient being online.

What about accreditation of your hospitals in Cyprus?

All the hospitals we operate out of in Cyprus are in the process of being accredited by internationally recognised accrediting bodies, such as QHA Trent and our own doctors in AIMIS partnership are also the ones who accredit hospitals in the US.

Who are your competitors?

We have no competitors as such; we are not just another medical travel company or local healthcare provider. There is no-one else doing what we do.

Why did you choose Cyprus as your base for spinal surgery?

We chose Cyprus because it is an English speaking highly developed EU country and an attractive holiday destination with a climate perfect for recuperation.

Apart from the US, where do you think most of your patients will come from?

We believe that 50% will be American patients, the rest from Russia, the Middle East and the UK. One of the reasons we chose Cyprus is because it is so conveniently located for our main non-US patients.

How are you attracting US patients to Cyprus?

If patients are out of an insurance network or have no insurance it is extremely expensive to have any type of surgery in the US so we are marketing directly to those patients.

Additionally the insurance companies don’t fully cover a lot of procedures, which makes it almost impossible for many US patients to be able to afford surgery. The average cost of spine surgery is around $150,000 to $200,000 in the US. By coming to Cyprus patients can have the same treatment by the same surgeons with same products at something like 60% below US prices whilst recuperating in the sun in luxury accommodation.  This is a huge incentive for any one out of network and for medical insurance companies as well.

How about insurance claims for accidents and injuries?

Personal injury cases are potentially a big market and we are actively marketing AIMIS to people with personal injury claims in the US, creating an awareness and of course directly to the insurance companies. Insurance companies can save huge amounts of money on medical and legal costs by sending their patients to Cyprus for treatment. What is happening at the moment is that insurance companies tend to delay approval in personal injury cases, resulting in prolonged patient suffering, thereby instigating unnecessary court cases where claims costs are paid through the legal system. Through AIMIS the patient can have his surgery prior to settlement at a fraction of the costs and enforce and speed up settlement. We have already had patients who have had their operation and successfully reclaimed their costs from their insurance companies.

FURTHER CONTENT PUBLISHED BY THIS AUTHOR

Backtracking on non-compete clause

Articles, 20 December, 2010

The US Medical Tourism Association responds to criticism on its non-compete clause

Destination Cyprus

Articles, 06 December, 2010

Caroline Ratner attended the recent Health Destination Cyprus event

Good or bad for medical tourism?

Articles, 01 April, 2010

We question what effect the US healthcare reform will have on medical tourism

Cross border suits

Articles, 18 March, 2010

Could your clinic be sued in a UK court?

The role of accreditation

Articles, 18 February, 2010

What does accreditation mean to a medical tourist business

Where do we go from here?

Articles, 09 October, 2009

Caroline Ratner summarises the debate around 'Who owns medical tourism?'

Who owns medical tourism?

Articles, 02 October, 2009

The MTA sues the IMTA over service mark infringement. Can "medical tourism" be owned?

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