Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism

By Murli Shrivastava

"Medical Tourism"; together these two words sound funny and contradicting. Whereas with the word tourism, what comes to mind is exotic places, beaches, historical monuments, places of religious interests, backwaters, hill stations, landscapes and many more such enchanting thoughts; the word medical goes with something just the opposite...doctors, tests, blood, operation, agonizing people, distressed family...

How can then medical be connected with tourism? But the reality is that, it is. The combination of the two has proved and is proving a great boon for the economic benefit of a country.

What Is Medical Tourism

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The term Medical Tourism also called as health tourism was initially coined by travel agencies and media people to describe the growing tendency of people traveling to another country to get health care for them. Slowly and slowly this practice became wider and wider and caught the attention of the professionals and the government to gather the shape of an industry. Today, Medical tourism refers to an industry in which people from all over the world travel to other countries to get medical care, and at the same time, visit attractive locations of that country for spending time after treatment, thereby contributing a lot to the economic prosperity of that country.


Indian scenario

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India is supposed to be a perfect destination for medical tourism. Why? It combines the visit for medical treatment with the opportunity to witness some of the most attractive and breathtaking places of the world. And that's why today Medical Tourism is turning out to be one of the fastest growing industries in India.

Medical Tourism industry in India is experiencing a remarkable annual growth rate of 30%, and according to the Confederation of Indian Industry [CII] is expected to be worth 4billion US$ by 2017. Since the medical treatment costs in most of the developed world are skyrocketing with the United States heading the list, even the conservative estimates claim that treatment costs in India is 8-10 times lower than anywhere in the world, especially if compared to America and Europe. For example, a heart surgery which costs $6,000 in India, cost $30,000 in the US. Similarly, cost of a bone marrow transplant is $26,000 in India as against $ 2, 50,000 in the US.

But this lower cost of treatment does not in any way compromise with the quality aspect of the treatment. India provides world class medical facilities with hospitals and specialized multi specialty health centers. Besides Indian medical professionals have been recognized and realized for their competence the world over. Also, India has some of the best state of the art Hospitals establishments of great repute, run by some renowned houses such as Tata, Fortis, Max, Wockhardt, and Apollo etc which can be compared with the best in the world.

Therefore, more and more people from all parts of the world are finding the prospect of medical care in India increasingly appealing. It is estimated that about 850,000 of these travel to India for low-priced health care treatments every year. Though the medical tourists are coming to India for a wide range of treatments like coronary bypass, heart surgery, valve replacement, eye surgery, bone-marrow transplant, hip joint replacements, etc, but India is particularly favored for heart surgery, hip joint replacement and some other areas of higher and developed medical treatments.

Why India a preferred destination?

Advantages of medical treatment in India are not only the reduced cost, but various other factors also play a major role in attracting people to India. Some of them might be –avoidance of long wait list, procedure much easier, less language barrier and availability of various other supportive traditional methods of treatment.

Long wait list – most of the foreign patients have to face long waiting lists in most of the western countries. These people find Indian hospitals a much easier and relaxing place to approach and thus avoid the long waiting list in their native countries.

Less cumbersome – patients in most of the foreign countries have to deal with national medical policies and insurance problems in their country. They need not have to go through any of such cumbersome policies before treatment in India.

Less language hurdle – this is another very important point in favor of India. Foreigners are less likely to face a language problem in India as English is widely spoken here. A number of famous hospitals in India have even employed language translators to make patients from non English speaking countries feel more homely while going through their treatment.

Traditional treatment – in addition to these, India also provides traditional methods of treatment such as Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Acupuncture and Yoga etc. These traditional treatments combining modern treatments with traditional experience, just add feathers to the cap.

Govt. initiatives

The Government of India has initiated various measures to address issues that hamper country's growth in medical tourism. It is offering tax breaks and export incentives to the participating hospitals. The government has also cleared medical visas. On tourist visas for people from Gulf countries, the Visa restrictions that required a two-month gap between consecutive visits has been removed to boost medical tourism. For tourists from select countries a visa-on-arrival scheme has been introduced which permits foreign nationals to stay in India for 30 days for medical reasons.

Scope & future

Confederation of Indian Industry reported that 150,000 medical tourists came to India in 2005, which grew to 200,000 by 2008. Another study done by ASSOCHAM reported that in the year 2011, 850,000 medical tourists visited India. They have further added that India has a potential to attract 1 million health tourists per annum, which will contribute US$ 5 billion to the economy. In a survey PHDCCI has revealed that Medical Tourism may make India a major player in $3-trillion global healthcare industry.

It is very clear that with the facilities and services that India offers and with the brand values of Indian healthcare professionals the world over, India is set to capture a major share of this industry in the coming years. A patient who comes to India for treatment can get the best medical and travel facilities together being in India. It will cost him less than what he would have to pay for the medical charges alone, in other European and American countries.