India as a hub of medical tourism

24th Dec 2018
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 Since ages, India has been world-renowned for its picturesque locales, rich heritage, vibrant culture and warm hospitality, making it a must-visit destination for many global travelers. But in recent times, the tourism sector of the country is witnessing the progression of a new trajectory—medical tourism. The Indian Medical Tourism Industry is facing a phenomenal growth percentage of 18% CAGR every year. Currently constituting of nearly 18% of the global medical tourism market, India is expected to reach 20% of the share with a worth of about USD 9 billion by 2020. According to the Medical Tourism Market Report 2015, India was found as ‘one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations’. India has diligently recognized the opportunity and is showcasing its strength and potential in global market through public-private partnership, thereby paving its way to become a hub for medical tourism.

Factors Facilitating Growth

India is known to offer a complete bouquet of healthcare services at an affordable price. Despite having a diversity of languages, India is one of the largest English-speaking nations. Further, easy availability of language interpreters, English-based documents etc. work as an advantage for the country especially with inward medical tourists. Be it cardiac bypass, heart surgery and bone-marrow transplant or even cosmetic surgery and dental care, India has become a popular destination for these procedures along with advanced and alternative medicine processes. Some of the major factors supplementing the robust expansion of medical tourism in India are:

●       Affordability: India boasts of well-certified, highly skilled and experienced medical professionals offering affordable services of optimum international standards. Additionally, India provides world-class hospital infrastructure at minimal charges when compared to countries such as the US, UK and Gulf nations. The above-mentioned 2015 market report on medical tourism has observed that India ‘offers wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the US’. An instance provided by HealthStatus stated that while an open-heart surgery would cost around USD 150,000 in the US, it would cost somewhere between USD 3000-10,000 in the best hospitals of the country. A patient traveling to India for their medical treatment can therefore save anywhere between 30-70% of their expenditures, inclusive of travel and accommodation.

●       Implementation of technology: From sharing the entire treatment plan to post-hospitalization care management, India has been successively incorporating technological advancements for clinical outcome and for managing the complete life cycle of a patient. From machine learning to IoT sensor technology, these interventions are reshaping the future of healthcare. Being a fast adopter of these disruptions, India has certainly earned an advantage over the rest of the countries.

●       Personalized care: Largely provided by unorganized players and startups till now, personalized care is a booming segment of healthcare in the country. In such a system, focused attention is offered to a patient as per their convenience, thereby providing them with services customized according to their individual diagnostic traits. Through provision of such comfortable care and hospitality at affordable rates, India has been attracting a lot of medical tourists for personalized care, estimated to grow up to USD 6.2 billion by 2020, according to an analysis by Cyber Media Research (CMR).

●       Post-treatment recovery: Equipped with natural therapeutic practices such as Ayurveda, Naturopathy and Yoga, India provides the best of respites post-treatment. With such natural therapies that believe in holistic wellness through elimination of toxic imbalances, Ayurveda and Yoga are increasingly being accepted globally. The extent of this can be substantiated by the fact that Ayurveda has been recognized as an alternate form of medicine by WHO. Alternative medicine is also one of the most popular treatments sought by medical tourists in the country.

Government and private players

The growth of Indian Medical Tourism Industry can be accredited to both government and private players. By making the process simple and seamless along with drafting policies ensuring complete transparency and patient safety, the government is strengthening the cause. For instance, policies such as the introduction of Medical VISA and e-Medical VISA allowing multiple entries and longer stays as per medical conditions have been implemented. Further, the government is actively mandating accreditation to wellness centres and Medical Value Travel (MVT) facilitators. The recently-launched Ayushman Bharat Yojana stands as a testament of active government involvement in the provision of holistic healthcare.

Private healthcare players are also playing a crucial role by dynamically focusing on building and improving the infrastructure to make it at par with international standards. Additionally, these providers are working extensively on the enhancement of skills to provide cost-effective medical care on the same level of quality as any developed country. Currently, India has over 38 JCI-accredited (Joint Commission International) and 563 NABH-accredited (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare) hospitals across the country.

The country has understood the significance and the immense potential for medical tourism to thrive in the global market. By initiatives such as launching several incentive schemes for healthcare providers and promoting them in international events, an effective public-private partnership is emerging in the sector. This, along with the cost benefits and localized resource advantages, is strengthening India’s position as a high potential hub in the medical tourism market.


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