Ratner examines a model for medical tourism that has been developed by The American Institute of Minimally Invasive Spine
Surgery (AIMIS Spine) operating beyond borders in Cyprus. AIMIS
Spine consists of pre-eminent US spine
surgeons who are the primary educators in advanced minimal invasive surgical
techniques and who teach other surgeons these methods throughout the US and the
rest of the world. She spoke to Mr Marios
Papadopoulos, CEO of AIMIS Spine, which sees its first American patients arrive
in Cyprus in January.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Date published: 13 January 2011
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