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Kochi, March 13

Indian hospitals should create exclusive infrastructure for corporate medical tourism that would comply with international service and quality standards recognised by the international insurance industry to tap the emerging medical services outsourcing market, Dr Philip Augustine, Chairman, CII Kerala Health Tourism 2006 has said.

He said that exclusive corporate medical tourism and medical services outsourcing infrastructure could include chartered flight services and attractive tourism packages.

Pointing out the case of General Motors, which had recently sacked 20 per cent of its workforce primarily to reduce its annual healthcare cost of over $5 billion, he said that there is a huge demand coming from the US corporates for cost effective healthcare solutions that could be met by low-cost healthcare destinations like India.

LOW COST TREATMENT

Dr Augustine, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Lakeshore Hospital & Research Centre, said the US corporates have the opportunity to reduce the healthcare cost by one tenth by partnering with hospitals in India, where, for instance, a bypass surgery or kidney transplant costs around 20 times cheaper. The joint-knee replacement in India costs Rs 2 lakh, whereas it is Rs 20 lakh in the US.

In order to tap the US market, he said India has to create world-class corporate medical tourism centres with world-class technologies and adopt international healthcare service standards. There is a conducive economic environment to create such capital-intensive healthcare facilities in India.

However, the biggest challenge for the Indian hospitals lies in adopting the international healthcare service quality standards. Though the country can boast of the best brains in medicine, it has to upgrade its service standards even to serve the local population effectively. Hospitals should have antibiotic policy and follow standard processes in all their clinical and administrative functions, he said.

MEDICAL TOURISM

He also called upon the Union and State Governments to promote India as a corporate medical tourism destination, especially in the US by organising healthcare events.

Locally, the State Governments should replicate successful social insurance projects like Yeshaswini, a rural health insurance scheme of Karnataka, to reach health insurance to the public. The State Governments could also think of emulating the social insurance model of Government of Goa that has covered the medical expenses incurred by its citizens during their stay in hospitals outside the State.

He said that CII is conducting awareness programmes promoting international standards in the medium and large hospitals and on health tourism.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 14, 2006)
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