Opinion

India’s medical tourism advantage

PRATHAP C REDDY | Updated on October 13, 2014

India cures And it means business too R RAVINDRAN   -  THE HINDU

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India’s traditional skills and cost advantage will enable it to become the world’s top health travel destination

Medical tourism is an old concept dating back to ancient Greece. In India, this phenomenon is a multi-million dollar industry today. I am proud that we are the generation that has witnessed an exponential growth of 25 to 30 per cent annually in this field. While I do believe that economical surgeries and cost effective medical procedures are the major reasons for the increase in medical tourist traffic in this country, there are other facets to the Indian medical tourism industry’s development, other than just low cost treatment.

Our wonderful country is a treasury of health, as it had been for thousands of years. India’s history in medicine dates back to the Atharva Veda — the first Indian text dealing with medicine.

India’s medical history is truly awe-inspiring with its traditional treatment therapies such as the Ayurveda and Yunani, which have been passed down through hundreds of generations.

The best of everything

True to its history, our healthcare industry remains one of the best worldwide. In this day and age, our medical and healthcare services are as good as anywhere in the world and in some cases better. We now have the best of everything: best technology, best managers, best specialists and best nurses. A number of hospitals in India, like Apollo, which are accredited by international institutes, offer premiere treatment at a rate almost 40 to 50 per cent less than that of any European or American country.

The high skill level of the medical industry in the country, combined with the lowest medical fee is what makes India such a great destination for healthcare serviceability.

More and more countries around the world are emerging as medical tourism destinations. Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, North America’s Cuba, to South Africa and even some European countries such as Hungary are a few of the top medical destinations in the world. Cuba has been a prominent medical tourism destination for almost 40 years now. From my personal experience, Cuba meets the remarkable reputation of its specialists, low-cost medical services and the facilities.

Medical tourism in Canada is also gaining popularity amongst foreign patients, especially the Americans. In the east, Thailand has zoomed forward with its medical tourism industry. This eastern country has around 33 JCI (Joint Commission International) accredited hospitals with a competent medical army.

This industry in Thailand has been gaining its acclaim for the past decade and it has grown into one of the leading medical tourism destinations in the world. The ascendancy of India’s medical tourism in recent years has encouraged a number of international pharmaceutical companies, NRI and foreign investors to invest in numerous multi-specialty hospitals in the country. Most of these hospitals are equipped with state-of-the art technology, enabling the specialists to tackle the ailments and serious diseases.

Personal touch

Recently, these hospitals began to administer personalised medical tour packages for tourists at highly affordable prices. The tour planner offers services like fixing appointments with concerned specialists at a world-renown hospital, making arrangements for escorting, transportation and accommodation as per the requirement of the patient, helping to obtain medical visa and preparing other documents as required by the health centres and even making arrangements for sightseeing, local transportation, and shopping, if required by the patient or family members.

The Indian healthcare industry is growing rapidly and is expected to become a $280 billion (more than ₹17 lakh crore)industry by 2020. Rise in income standards and an increase in older population, shifting demographics, disease variations and the explosion of lifestyle diseases in India are a few factors that are feeding this growth.

Compared to other medical tourism destinations, India will inevitably take a lead, essentially due to the cost effectiveness of treatment available in this country. For example, a patient from UK who plans to travel to a medical tourism destination has more chances of saving better if he/she decides to visit India than say, its competitor Thailand.

As of today, there is almost a difference of $1,000-2,000 between India’s and Thailand’s medical procedures like bone marrow transplant, heart transplant surgery, knee replacement surgery or even cosmetic body contouring.

Despite the minor stagnancy in the Indian medical tourism industry due to the recession, there is an outstanding scope for this country to move forward. In almost 50 years of my experience, I have never seen an industry so young attain the level of success and popularity that our country’s medical tourism industry has achieved. It’s just a matter of years before India takes over as the world’s largest health travel destination.

The writer is the founder and chairman of Apollo Hospitals

Published on October 13, 2014

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