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Medical tourism - winning hearts overseas

P.T. Jyothi Datta

New Delhi , Aug. 3

IF Noor, the little Pakistani girl who came to India for her operation, caught the fancy of the nation — the healthcare industry is just as delighted, as it has put the spotlight on the emerging concept of "medical tourism".

And if the healthcare industry gets its act right, there is an estimated Rs 1,500-crore potential waiting out there - besides, of course, winning hearts overseas.

Healthcare and tourism may seem quite an odd couple, but it is not an entirely new concept. "People have already been coming for rejuvenation packages to Kerala or Goa. The effort now is to institutionalise and re-route patients from foreign markets to Indian hospitals — it works out to one-fifth the UK rates or one-tenth US prices. A patient can even enjoy the facilities of a hotel, for instance, during the recuperation period or post-operative care," a healthcare official told Business Line.

Indraprastha Apollo Hospital's, Managing Director, Dr Yogi Mehrotra, said that the group has already treated about 60,000 foreigners. About 10 per cent of those treated at their hospitals are foreign nationals. Highlighting the need for a dynamic health insurance, he said that if foreign insurance companies do not recognise medical institutions in India, it could be a stumbling block. In global markets, medical expenses are largely covered by health insurance.

But is it only the 20-million strong Indian diaspora that flocks back home for treatment? "Indian surgeons are internationally reputed. Initially, it was non-resident Indians who travelled to India. Once the word gets around, trust builds and foreigners would also begin to come over," points out Mr Vikram Singh, Chief Operating and Financial Officer of medical equipment company, Stryker India.

Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry's Healthcare Committee, observes that there are pockets of excellence in the healthcare industry. But on a larger scale, services will have to be standardised and accreditation of hospitals could help build credibility. "There are long waiting lists in the UK. We can tap into this by providing quality healthcare at a relatively low price." The CII is taking a delegation to the UK in September to showcase the Indian healthcare industry.

Meanwhile, Indian medical institutions are already seeing patients from West Asia, Africa, and European countries. Other countries on the medical tourism radar include Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Mauritius, and Seychelles. According to the McKinsey study on healthcare, the medical tourism industry could generate revenues to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore 100 billion by 2012.

A model of health and hospitality

AN interesting model of health and hospitality - the Victor Apollo Hospital - is poised to become operational in Goa by mid-October.

The project comprises a 250-bed multi-speciality hospital, besides 150 cottages on the beach "to provide holistic treatment — from surgeries and transplants to rejuvenation through yoga and naturopathy," Apollo Hospital Group's Chairman, Dr Pratap C. Reddy, told Business Line.

The project is managed by the Apollo group, at an investment of Rs 35 crore, exclusive of the land and the cottages, which are owned by the local partner.

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Medical tourism - winning hearts overseas

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