A two-year-old from Russia underwent a successful heart-transplant surgery in Chennai recently. . The family had been facing a five-year waiting period before he could hope to get a match in a hospital in Europe.

Shorter waiting time for organs and quality medical services in India have attracted patients not only from Africa and the Gulf region, but also from Eastern Europe, North America and Russia for complex medical conditions in recent times.

Changing scenario Jithu Jose, General Manager – International Division, Apollo Hospitals, said, “Earlier people came to India for simple procedures such as knee and hip replacement surgeries but the industry is now driven by high-end super speciality treatments like bone-marrow transplant and cosmetic surgery as well.”

Indian hospitals have clinical alliances with doctors across the world, which makes the post-care treatment easier and is one of the reasons for rise in the international patients, Jose added.

Jose said while countries like Kazakhstan and t Palestine have policies that provide financial support to their nationals for treatment, many international insurance agencies also offer coverage for medical expenses abroad.

“These schemes facilitate medical tourism and has good potential to emerge as a new business model,” Jose said.

Steady increase Apollo records 25 to 30 per cent annual increase in medical tourist arrivals, with Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai attracting most patients. Around 30 per cent of patients come from South Asia, 30-32 per cent from Africa, 10 per cent from CIS, Oceania and Europe and the rest from West Asia.

Indian Medical tourism Industry is expected to reach $6 billion by 2018, according to a report published by Punjab Haryana Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The number of tourists is estimated to rise to 4 lakh from the current 2.3 lakh.

A spokesperson of the International Division of Fortis Healthcare said that since patients focus on speciality treatment than cost, one of the challenges is strengthening the higher-end treatment and technology that is unique to our country.

Around 10-15 per cent of Fortis’s revenue comes from the international market.

Medical tourist agencies A Kanchana, Country Head, Mukthi Group, a travel agency in Chennai, said though the industry has a potential, it is still nascent.

“Most of the patients directly contact hospitals rather than going through the agency,” she said. The group has tied-up with Apollo, Fortis and MIOT hospitals in Southern region.

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