Economy

Corporate hospitals see big jump in patients from abroad

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 16, 2016

BL16_P15__MEDICAL_TOURISM

Corporate hospitals in India are increasingly attracting foreign patients for treatment which is boosting the country’s image as a hub of medical tourism.

According to data available with industry experts, number of patients from abroad visiting India for treatment has been growing by 23 to 25 per cent per annum.

``Data from eight hospitals of Apollo Group which are entitled to treat foreign patients and informal data we collate from other players show this kind of surge in number of visits to India for treatment,’’ Radhe Mohan, Vice President - International Marketing Apollo Health City told Business Line.

Apollo group alone treated 1.50 lakh foreign patients in the last financial year ended March, 2016 and is expecting a 25 per cent growth in this number this year, Mohan said.

While patients are coming from 125 countries, a majority of them are coming from Africa, Gulf and CIS countries for treating ailments of heart, cancer, liver and other organ transplants, HIV and other life-threatening infections.

While Thailand stands tops as a global destination for medical tourism, India is not far behind in the global market in which cost is a major driver for nearly 80 per cent of medical tourists.

According to Bhavdeep Singh, CEO, Fortis Healthcare Limited, India offers significant cost advantage over other countries. ``However, our biggest draw is the exceptional quality of medical expertise and treatment possibilities we offer at the cutting edge of science. This is true for wide specturm of diseases and will continue to be a differentiator well into the future,’’ he said.

Fortis Hospitals, which had treated 17,000 foreign patients last year, is expecting a 35 per cent increase this year, Singh added.

According to a recent CII- Grant Thornton report, cost factor and availability of accredited facilities are key factors in several global medical tourism corridors such as Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico and Costa Rica.

“Amongst these corridors of health, India has the second largest number of accredited facilities (after Thailand). The Indian Medical Tourism market is expected to grow from $3 billion (2015) to $ 7-8 billion by 2020,” it said.

A point to be noted here is the nature of treatment. ``All patients suffering from life-threatening ailments and require long treatments are preferring to come to India in view of expertise and cost advantage as stay beyond three days is tough in Thailand,’’ Apollo Executive said.

The data available from city-based CARE Hospitals show that Hyderabad is also attracting many patients from neighbouring countries.

``We are receiving patients from Bangladesh (for orthopaedic ailments), Afghanistan (Paediatrics - especially heart problems in children) and Pakistan,’’ said Mahendar Pala, Group Head - Marketing, CARE Hospitals which is treating about 5000 to 7000 foreign patients per annum.

There are some challenges too which need to be address for tapping the potential. ``Multiple entry medical Visas to enable follow up treatment must become easier to procure,’’ Fortis chief.

India should also relax fiscal laws for genuine patients making money transfer easier for medical treatment, he added.

Published on October 16, 2016
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