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Medical Tourism in India: A rising industry

Medical tourism or health tourism is described as the practice of travel to different parts of the world to receive specialised health-care treatment. Medical tourism offers immense opportunities for development of various industries in developing economies like India and China.

Medical tourism, they say, is like any leisure product where the service components — such as, airlines, hotels, travel, transportation, food outlets and medical treatment at the best hospitals — are offered as a package. The medical treatment for various ailments is combined with recuperative leisure packages at tourist resorts.

The rising cost of healthcare in many western countries is the major driving force behind tourists visiting low-cost medical destinations.

According to the Investment Commission of India, this sector has witnessed a phenomenal expansion in the past four years, growing at over 12% per annum. As per a recent CII-McKinsey report, growth in this sector can contribute 6-7% to the overall GDP growth and increase employment by at least 2.5 million by 2012.

According to a Press Trust of India news report, nearly five lakh foreign patients visited India in 2008-09 seeking less expensive treat-ment. Though the trend of foreigners coming to India for treatment has gained momentum only in the past five years, the country is giving tough competition to other medical destinations like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

While nearly 5 lakh medical tourists visited India in 2008-09, the figure for Bangkok and Phuket (Thailand) alone stands at around 6 lakh visitors. Statistics for Malaysia show that 4.25 lakh medical tourists visited the country in 2009.

The key growth drivers of Indian medical tourism are the best-in-class treatment and benefits at a fraction of the cost (almost 1/10th) of that in the developed world, with no waiting time for surgeries. In countries like the UK and US the waiting period is substantially longer.

Areas Of Medical Tourism In India Include:

  • Allopathic-surgery: Mostly cardiac, spinal, cosmetic and joint replacement
  • Ayurveda
  • Yoga
  • Naturopathy
  • Dental: Generally, dental insurance is sold separately from medical insurance, thus pushing up costs of all dental procedures.

Assocham estimates that during the ongoing Commonwealth Games, India’s ayurvedic, yoga and medical tourism industries may gain nearly Rs 1,000 crore, with thousands of tourists visiting the country during the country. It is estimated that each foreigner visiting In-dia during the games is likely to spend between Rs 10,000 and Rs 35,000 on ayurvedic and yoga services.

While Assocham‘s estimation has raised hopes of increase in revenue for the industry, the messy build-up to the Commonwealth Games and the subsequent lukewarm response to the fortnight-long event has dampened those very hopes. Besides, it will be quite a task to categorise the revenue generated from the Commonwealth Games tourists as ‗regular‘ or ‗medical‘.

Currently, ayurvedic and naturopathy industry are valued at Rs 5,000 crore and the medical tourism sector is estimated at Rs 1,950 crore, says the study. However, the study states that medical tourism spending is expected to be higher in the range of Rs 40,000 to Rs 1,20,000, as tourists will spend on procedures such as cardiac surgeries and bone marrow transplants.

Need For A Comprehensive Policy

Dr Vinayshil Gautam, head of department, management studies, IIT Delhi, says, “Tamil Nadu, specifically Chennai, is an eye care hub. New Delhi is known for heart care and Kerala has marketed itself as an ayurveda destination. Yet none of these states has brought out a comprehensive medical tourism policy.” According to him, other countries such as Thailand, China, Singapore and South Africa have long had national medical tourism policies which provide a boost to the industry.

Process of Medical Tourism

  • Person seeking medical treatment abroad contacts a medical tourism provider & gives details including medical report, nature of ailment, local doctor’s opinion, medical history and diagnosis
  • Certified medical doctors or consultants then advise on the medical treatment, tourism agency provides with details of approximate expenditure, choice of hospitals and tourist destinations and duration of stay
  • After signing consent bonds and agreements, the patient is given recommendation letters for a medical visa, to be procured from the concerned embassy
  • The patient travels to the destination country, where the medical tourism provider assigns a case executive, who takes care of the patient’s accommodation, treatment and any other form of car
  • Once the treatment is done, the patient can remain in the tourist destination till he recoupes or return home.

With far-reaching developments in the Indian pharmaceutical industry, rising number of nurses and a growing hospitality industry, medical tourism can be the next success story of India.

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Categories: Tourism
  1. August 31, 2011 at 9:43 pm

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  1. February 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm

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