February 2018

Medical Tourism: A Novel Introduction of India Among Globetrotters

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Medical Tourism

Having become a big gateway to India, medical tourism is drawing people to this land of possibilities for special care across the world. Perhaps, the main charm is to avail medical care without being pinched too harshly on the pocket in one’s native country, observes Rajbala of Elets News Network (ENN).

Apart from opening various avenues of personal growth, Medical Tourism is also adding to India’s economic rise and recognition. Medical Tourism looks all set to create massive array of opportunities not only for healthcare industry but also for supporting ancillary and service providers.

India’s healthcare industry has advanced to much extent and has maintained consistency in developing itself in terms of offering advanced treatment and surgeries like cardiology, orthopaedic surgery, transplantation of major organs, etc.

Undeniably, the Narendra Modi Government is giving a big push and stressing upon key elements which has strengthened healthcare sector in the country. To name a few, it includes building enhanced healthcare infrastructure and facilities, skilling more nurses and doctors, creating medical education institutions, focussing on made in India medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, and integrating latest innovative technology. The steps has fostered Indian healthcare industry which serves the patients with affordable, accessible, and quality efficient services.

Rise of Medical Tourism

Medical tourism refers to rapidly emerging practice of travelling across countries to avail medical services which meets the pocket size and quality as well. It can be a major opportunity for the Indian healthcare sector if tackled in the right manner. The fact that India is able to provide highly subsidised rates for medical services, this opens up a massive door for international patients to be treated in the country.

We also produce some the of most specialised and highly skilled doctors with interventions in medical technology evolving at a rapid pace, this in turn can allure multiple patients from around the world to be treated in India.

Speaking on medical tourism as an evolving opportunity Samara Mahindra, Founder, Carer Program, said, “We work with multiple international patients as we have tie-ups with major hospitals. Our services are provided to them at their homes in India and can also be extended back to their home countries. Again, the prices are highly subsidized comparatively. Also, to enhance industry in the country much more seamless process, better recovery, rehabilitation and stronger health schemes can also be targeted.”

Interestingly, apart from major surgeries dental tourism has also gained trust of tourist patients. India is capitalising on its low cost and well-trained dentists to appeal to the tourists.

Dental tourism now forms over 30% of the total Indian medical tourism which has led India ahead providing greater travel and dental experience, from transport, hotels and sightseeing to the best cosmetic dentists in India, according to Dr Dheeraj Setia, Founder, The Dental Roots. “We aim at providing the highest standards of quality dental care despite comparatively lower cost from other developed countries.”

Medical Tourism in India

Modi Government has been very supportive and played a vital role in terms of developing medical tourism industry. People across the globe can now access to healthcare treatments which are hassle-free and high-tech. As I mentioned above, our country has been focussed and consistent in developing made in India, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, interlinking medical institutions and hospitals for training purposes, and integration of technology to offer latest healthcare services.

On this, Dr Sadanand Shetty, Consultant Cardiologist K J Somaiya Hospital Super Specialty Centre said, “India, has the unique advantage of offering holistic healthcare solutions. From the ancient science of Ayurveda to the latest in Cardiac care; from yoga to minimally invasive surgeries – India’s expertise in healthcare provides solutions through various approaches.” “Hospitals founded by Charitable Trusts, have evolved and are providing quality affordable healthcare. Such an integrated approach sees people from across the world seeking medical advice here.”

Doctors trained in our medical education system can be found across the world. They have shown their mettle and expertise. Their foundations were based through Indian medical education system, the teaching they have been given on human compassion along with medical care is also a demonstration of the care that can be expected.

Healthcare players like Asian Heart Institute has a dedicated international cell with trained staff who are well versed with all formalities pertaining to different countries and their consulates / embassies and look after outstation patients. Patients can get their treatment at Asian Heart Institute at 1/4 or 1/5 of the cost that is needed to go to the US. Moreover, when it comes to a patient’s well-being, Asian Heart Institute has a strict zero- tolerance policy towards compromises.

Dr Ramakanta Panda, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai shares some factors that determine the selection of a hospital by medical tourists:

Quality of care: Indian hospitals are increasingly adhering to the quality requirements of the global medical tourism industry. Many of the leading Indian private healthcare providers have already acquired international quality accreditations like JCI and NIAHO. These international accreditation standards focus on core aspects of patient care, including fundamental requirements such as an admissions policy that has processes in place for access to and continuity of care, with appropriate measures in place for the discharge, referral, follow- up and transfer of patients.

Cost of treatment: In addition to the quality of medical services provided by hospitals and its doctors, price advantage is another major selling point. Today, within Asia, India, Thailand and Singapore are some of the countries that receive maximum medical tourists owing to low cost of treatment. Procedures such as hip and knee replacement, face lift, and gastric bypass are more affordable in India, as compared to the west. This is the case, even if you add cost of travel and accommodation. Moreover, these cosmetic procedures are not covered by most insurance providers in Western countries.

Clinical outcomes: Some other significant factors include highly qualified and skilled doctors, cutting- edge technology, advanced medical procedures, wider treatment options and no waiting list.

Enhancement of services to revolutionise the industry

As the Indian healthcare sector has witnessed exponential growth in the last one decade or so. Indian doctors and hospitals are no less than any internationally revered healthcare facilities in any part of the world. No wonder, India is fast becoming one of the most preferred destinations for medical tourism, attracting patients from across the world. However, we still can do a lot more in terms of:

Infrastructure investment: The Government perhaps needs to step in and provide basic infrastructure services which will improve basic access to high quality centres. We also need to improve our hygiene conditions to boost medical tourism in the country.

Streamlining the visa process: At present, foreigners need the “M-Visa” to come to India for medical purposes. Obtaining the visa is a huge barrier for medical tourists wanting to come here. India should consider offering visa-on-arrival type of services and partner with medical and tourism providers to streamline administrative processes.

Indian Government is still to recognise and take active steps to promote medical tourism. We have an example of Singapore Government which has taken keen interest in increasing the country’s share in the global medical tourism pie.

We need to invest heavily in the IT infrastructure and Hospital Information Systems in order to further enhance the internal processes and make the processes free from human intervention as much as possible. This makes communication seamless for the patient thus giving him more access to information and relieves them of their anxiety by providing more transparency. This is already being practiced in the US, UK and India needs to quickly adopt such practices, says Dr Rakesh Gupta, Chairman and Medical Director, Sarvodaya Hospital.

Apart from relaxing visa norms, on arrival visa etc we need to aware people across the world about the medical facilities available in India. For this international healthcare and medical tourism seminars, a dedicated website, 24*7 helpline and guidance, testimonials of successful cases,and most importantly Indian Diaspora can help in building positive perception.

Dr Saarthak Bakshi, CEO, International Fertility Centre adds, “India has made significant advances in high end medical procedures and now offers comprehensive treatment across the entire spectrum of medical sciences.”

Today, India hosts world-class medical facilities at the most economic cost but still our share in medical tourism is way below the potential. According to the Government reports, in the next 10 years, health service is estimated to grow more than 5 percent. Exhibitions, trade fairs and associations with international bodies can be an approach to enhance medical tourism.

The healthcare segments can flourish well if hospital managers are directly involved in promoting services globally, leaving no space for further ambiguity in the minds of medical aspirants, explained Dr Dheeraj Setia, Founder, The Dental Roots.

We are “contributing to the medical tourism in a big way by marketing our Indian hospitals at overseas market”. We are “regularly travelling to the countries” that are in need of medical treatment and interacting with them, according to Dr M S Guru Prasad, General Manager – International Marketing, Narayana Health, Bangaluru. “We also advertise and market the specialities that are in need of the patient’s immediate requirement. We do a study on the disease profile and cater to their exact requirements.”

Hence, medical tourism will carry a bundle of emerging opportunities to India’s economy and will push healthcare industry to the newer levels. According to reports, the Indian healthcare is expected to become a $280 billion industry by 2020 which defines the upcoming developing opportunity for Indian economy.

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