North American Specialty Hospital is Legitimizing Medical Tourism

North American Specialty Hospital is Legitimizing Medical Tourism

By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire
 5-minute read

A split photo of Galenia Hospital beside a doctor looking through a microscope.

In short:

  • North American Specialty Hospital (NASH) has developed the first U.S.-Mexico cross-border medical service aimed at self-insured employers. 
  • The company offers pre- and post-operative care in the U.S., with surgery performed in Mexico by U.S. doctors at internationally accredited hospitals. 
  • NASH is making a name for itself in the healthcare industry by offering a service that saves employers and patients money, pays doctors more and provides patients with consistent, high-quality medical care.


Skyrocketing medical costs have led to an increasing number of U.S. citizens traveling abroad for healthcare needs over the past decade, a phenomenon known as “medical tourism.” 

An estimated 750,000 Americans traveled overseas for medical services in 2007, according to the American Journal of Medicine. Patients Without Borders, an organization that offers data on international health travel and medical care, estimates that number will jump to 1.9 million in 2019. 

Medical tourists typically balance the cost savings overseas with risks like language barriers and potentially substandard medical facilities. However, North American Specialty Hospital, known as NASH, is hoping to bridge the medical tourism gap by providing cost savings and ensuring reliable, quality care. 

The Denver, Colo.-based health service provider launched in 2017 and offers low-cost, high-quality cross border medical treatments to self-insured companies and their employees. NASH has performed dozens of operations for U.S. patients at Galenia Hospital in Cancun, Mexico.

By handling pre and post-operative services in the U.S. and surgeries in Mexico, NASH can save employers up to 33% on procedures like knee and hip replacements, founder and CEO James T. Polsfut said. 

Additionally, the New York Times reports, employers sometimes pass cost savings on to employees in the form of a check, which in the case of one patient amounted to $5,000. U.S. surgeons flown in for the operations also receive significantly higher payouts.  

👉 When building your business, consider the value of international collaboration (i.e. between the U.S. and Mexico healthcare industries) to achieve improved quality and pricing (i.e. high-quality, low-cost medical treatments).

North American Specialty Hospital (NASH) offers lower-cost surgeries to U.S. patients by treating them in Mexico.

World’s first cross-border medical services company needed the right team and perfect timing 

Polsfut has spent the majority of his career working to strengthen ties between Latin America and the United States.  

A passion for Latin America first took Polsfut to Costa Rica on a Rotary Scholarship in graduate school. He then bounced between Denver and Mexico City for nearly a decade as the general manager for GE Capital. Years later, he founded the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing greater understanding and collaboration between the U.S. and its southern neighbor. 

Polsfut got involved in the healthcare industry around 2014, when he could no longer ignore what he calls “a systemic decline in the U.S. healthcare system.”

“The United States has devolved into remarkably inconsistent healthcare outcomes,” Polsfut said. “The quality of care varies tremendously from hospital to hospital, and patients are saddled with hyperinflated costs.”

“The United States has devolved into remarkably inconsistent healthcare outcomes.”    

  Drawing on his decades of experience generating business between the U.S. and Mexico, Polsfut and a group of colleagues began to wonder if a cross-border healthcare service might be the solution. 

“Mexico has really developed its healthcare infrastructure over the last 20 years,” he said. “They have hospitals that are accredited by U.S. and Canadian standards with state-of-the-art medical services.” 

Inspired by this idea, Polsfut amassed a team of healthcare management specialists, doctors, investors and real estate executives, most of whom had experience working between the two countries.  

“We wanted to rationalize the delivery of healthcare in the same way we’ve rationalized the production of goods over the last hundred years,” he said.

“We wanted to rationalize the delivery of healthcare in the same way we’ve rationalized the production of goods."

👉 Rely on your unique experiences and skills (i.e. a decade of business experience between the U.S. and Mexico) to help you conceptualize and develop alternative products or services (i.e. cross-border healthcare for businesses).


The NASH patient experience: free travel, hotel stays and cash  

A typical NASH client experience begins with pre-operative care performed in the U.S. However, the actual surgery takes place at Galenia Hospital in Cancun, Mexico. The NASH website describes Galenia as “a state-of-the-art facility” with accreditation from top U.S., Canadian and Mexican accreditors.

Before and after surgery, patients stay at a Sheraton Four Points Hotel attached to Galenia. On the day of surgery, a surgeon flown in from the United States performs the procedure -- NASH has upwards of 40 orthopedic surgeons on its roster. After surgery, the patient continues post-operative care back in the U.S. 

The New York Times covered the case of Donna Ferguson, an American Warehouse Furniture employee who underwent a knee replacement at Galenia. In Ferguson's case, there were no out-of-pocket co-pays or deductibles for the surgery. Her employer actually paid her $5,000 to undergo surgery with NASH.   

NASH's procedural structure is a significant shift from traditional employee health claims handled within the U.S. But companies looking to cut costs and with employees open to overseas surgery are exploring the option.

NASH performs surgeries at Galenia Hospital in Mexico, the only one on the continent with three accreditations.


NASH growth fueled by targeting self-insured employers

To build a customer base for its services, NASH is targeting self-insured companies -- organizations that bear the financial risk of covering healthcare for employees. That’s a massive market, covering 108 million people in the U.S., or approximately three-fourths of all people who receive insurance through their employers, according to Collective Health. 

With so many companies becoming medical coverage providers, Polsfut hopes the quality of healthcare and cost saving NASH can provide will entice companies to try the cross-border alternative. 

👉 Target a massive customer segment (i.e. self-insured companies) on a required service category (i.e. employee healthcare) who are largely unhappy with current solutions. If your solution is good, you'll have a large and active customer segment to target.

To pursue new customers, NASH is contacting companies directly, working through an aggregator that represents self-insured companies. It’s also working with healthcare benefit consultants like Mercer and Aon, which advise companies on how to reduce healthcare costs. Polsfut said the response has been favorable so far. 

“Employers are extremely frustrated by the amount of healthcare costs they endure,” he continued. “Every time an employee needs a knee replacement, that employer takes a $35,000 hit to their net income.” 

“Employers are extremely frustrated by the amount of healthcare costs they endure.”

The hyperinflationary, widely variable costs also make the actual price difficult for employers to anticipate, Polsfut explained. NASH entices customers with a reduced, bundled pricing structure that includes travel, pre- and post-operative care and medical costs.

NASH anticipates continued growth this year, when it will start offering surgical procedures while working with a hospital in Cabo San Lucas. 

With first-mover advantage as the only cross-border medical service of its kind, the company looks to retain that positioning as it grows and builds market share in the healthcare industry.

👉 Attaining a first mover advantage (i.e. cross-border healthcare for self-insured employers) brings the potential for strong brand recognition and customer loyalty.