Jun 212014

Mexico is both a growing market for medical tourism and a world leader for the manufacture of medical equipment.

Growing market for medical tourism

The global market for medical tourism in 2013 was estimated to be worth about $2.847 billion, with some 7 million patients seeking medical treatment outside their home country each year. According to Patients without Borders, a U.S. business that specializes in the field, Mexico is currently the second most popular destination for medical tourists, after Thailand. Nationwide, Mexico has more than 71,000 doctors working in hospitals and private clinics. Almost two-thirds of all doctors in Mexico are specialists, compared to an average of 57.7% for all OECD member nations.

Mexico’s Economy Secretariat estimates that, combined, the one million medical tourists in 2013 and the numerous affiliated services such as spas, massages and non-conventional therapies, contributed $4.2 billion to the national economy. This figure is growing at about 7% a year.

Patients without Borders claims that patients from the USA and Canada pay between 36 and 80% less for operations and medical treatments in Mexico than the cost in their home country. The most important states for medical tourism are Nuevo León, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.

A plan to build a new “medical city” has been announced by health officials in Quintana Roo. It would be called “Jardines de la Sabiduría” (Gardens of Wisdom) and located on a 550-hectare lot between Cancún and Puerto Morelos. The new city would have four zones: residential, hospitals, recreation and cultural/educational, and would include at least four hospitals: for children, cancer care, dental work and orthopedic surgeries respectively. It remains to be seen if sufficient foreign investment can be found to bring this project to fruition.

World leader for medical equipment

Mexico is a major manufacturer of medical devices. Sales of Mexican-made medical equipment exceed $10.6 billion a year and are predicted to reach $14.9 billion by 2020. Manufacturing costs for medical devices in Mexico average 25% below those in the USA, the world’s largest market for such products.

Major medical device manufacturing areas in Mexico

Major medical device manufacturing areas in Mexico. Credit: Economy Secretariat.

Mexico’s exports of medical equipment and supplies were worth $6.2 billion in 2011, making Mexico by far the largest exporter of medical devices in Latin America, and the 11th largest in the world. 92 % of medical devices manufactured in Mexico are exported to the USA, accounting for two-thirds of all U.S. imports of those products.

According to Pro-Mexico, Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of bore needles; the 4th largest exporter of medical, surgical, dental and veterinary furniture; the 5th largest exporter worldwide of medical,surgical, dental and veterinary instruments and apparatus; and the 7th largest exporter worldwide of ozone therapy, oxygen therapy, aerosol therapy apparatus, breathing apparatus and other respiratory therapy apparatus.

More than 2,000 separate businesses, and about 135,000 workers help invent, design and manufacture medical devices in Mexico. Medical device manufacturing is concentrated mainly in northern border states, especially Baja California, where the cluster of more than 60 specialist firms includes Smiths, Tyco Healthcare, Cardinal Health, Medtronic, Gambro, ICU Medical, CLP, Sunrise Medical and North Safety Products.


  • The Medical Device Industry, 2012 (Pro-Mexico; pdf file)

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