I grew up in the United States and lived there until moving to Mexico in August of 2015. As a result, I am very familiar with the American health care system.
Living in the U.S., I had gotten accustomed to arriving on time for my appointment only to wait an additional 30 minutes before I saw the doctor. Once the doctor did come in, I knew that I only had a few minutes to cover any health concerns I may have before he or she moved on to the next patient. I always assumed that this is how it worked everywhere in the world — until I moved to Mexico.
I hate to paint an entire profession with a broad brush, so I will focus this article only on our experiences visiting dermatologists both in the United States and in Mexico.
Spending the majority of our lives living under the Florida sun, my wife and I both understand the importance of visiting the dermatologist on an annual basis. In fact, we both went to a highly recommended dermatologist in Florida for skin checks prior to moving to the Riviera Maya.
So far, my wife is the only one of us who has been treated by a dermatologist in Mexico. The following is a comparison of her visits in both countries:
Dermatologist in the United States
The Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) put on a pair of magnifying goggles and quickly went over my wife’s skin from her scalp to her feet. She then spent another couple of minutes talking to us before moving on to her next patient.
Time spent with doctor: approximately 5 minutes
Cost: $30 insurance copay
Dermatologist in Mexico
The doctor, not a nurse or nurse practitioner, conducted a very through interview with Linda to determine her past skin issues and pertinent family history. He then conducted a very detailed examination of every mole, blemish, and dry area on her skin.
If there was a mole that he deemed “suspicious”, he scanned it into the computer using a digital dermatoscope (shown below). He studied a magnified version of the mole before adding it to the digital patient’s file. He said that allows him to track any change in the size and/or shape of the mole during future visits.
A nurse then took Linda into another room and took pictures of her face using ultraviolet imaging technology to detect sun damage. I was very impressed with the quality of the equipment.
As a result of the examination, the doctor had recommended a prescription cream. He then provided us with his personal cell phone number and told us we could contact him with any further questions or concerns.
Time spent with doctor: approximately 40 minutes
Cost: $37 without insurance
Let’s Wrap This Up
Just in case you think that the treatment that we received at the dermatologist’s office in Mexico was atypical, I do not believe it was.
We have several expat friends who have received medical treatment while in Mexico and their experiences were all very similar. The overwhelming majority report being treated by well-equipped, professional medical personnel who seemed to take a genuine interest in their well being. Two of my friends were even visited in their homes by their doctor when they were too sick to go to his office.
In case you are wondering what this personal level of attention costs without insurance, check out Mexico: A Look at the Costs of Medical and Dental Treatment.
Reading over this article, it sounds like I live in a sleepy little hamlet where the town doctor has enough free time to swing by a patient’s house for tea each day. I am actually referring to the quality of medical care in Playa del Carmen, a city of approximately 150,000 inhabitants.
Just like in the United States, doctors and medical facilities can vary quite a bit. It is always a good idea to speak with expats in your area to get their recommendations.