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Good Healthcare in Mexico Is About Communication

Healthcare in Mexico at San Javier Hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Hospital San Javier Puerto Vallarta

In survey after survey, Mexico’s healthcare system is ranked as one of the best in the world on a number of important rankings that consider both cost and quality of care. But it is one thing to know that affordable quality care is available, and quite another for an English-speaker to access it. Good healthcare in Mexico is about communication.

It boils down to this fundamental question: If you don’t speak fluent Spanish, are you going to be able to get the medical attention you need? Even in an emergency?

If you are prepared for the realities and are armed with some pertinent information, the answer is yes. But it isn’t going to just happen automatically. You really need to think about this now, before the need arises.

Here are some of the things you may want to consider:

Plan Ahead 

Find an English-speaking primary care physician before you need care. If you require a specialist on a regular basis, establish that relationship as soon as you can, too. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to find a doctor. The best sources for medical referrals? Online community groups are often willing to share doctor and dentist referrals. There are also medical boards in Mexico who may be able to refer you to specialists.

Learn Spanish 

The best way you can ease communication in nearly all situations in Mexico is to learn some Spanish. Every bit you learn helps, and Mexicans will appreciate your efforts, even those that speak English. Mexicans are very polite people and you need to learn, at the bare minimum, how to greet and thank people. Don’t wait until you get to Mexico. Start today.

Practice Being a Patient Patient 

Many medical professionals in Mexico have some level of English proficiency, but it’s wise to be considerate of possible language limitations by speaking slowly and clearly. Use a simple vocabulary. It’s rude to grow impatient with someone who is trying to help you. Don’t expect everyone to speak English, and even those that do may not be fluent.

Keep a Glossary on Hand 

Be prepared for those instances where you may need emergency treatment from medical professionals that don’t speak English. How? Consider printing out and carrying an English/Spanish translation of common medical terms and phrases, symptoms, body parts, etc. You can find such a list in my book “The English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico.”

Staying at a Hotel  

If you’re making a trip to Mexico and become ill, one of the first places you can go for help is your hotel’s front desk. Hotels often have a physician who speaks English they can call when needed, and like many doctors in Mexico, they often make house calls right to your hotel room.

Communication is essential for most relationships in life, and your relationship with healthcare providers is no exception. If you are willing to do your best to plan ahead and bridge the language gap by learning some Spanish and knowing where to turn to find English-speaking professionals, the people of Mexico will reward you with some of the best care available in the world right now.