Conference on Medical Value Tourism

(left to right) S. M. Singh, CEO & MD, Fortis Healthcare; Dr. Manjit Singh Bains, Director, Health Services, Chandigarh Administration; Dr. Rana Mehta, Principal Consultant, Technopak Advisors; Pratap K Aggrawal, Chairman, CII Chandigarh Council & Managing Director, IDS Infotech Ltd.

CII Northern Region Headquarters recently organised a one and half day conference on medical value tourism, between 7-8 February 2008 at the impressive office premises of its headquarters in Chandigarh.

The august gathering, comprising eminent healthcare professionals from leading medical institutions and corporate houses across the country, engaged in serious deliberation to take stock of emerging market opportunities, level of preparedness among service providers, best practices, benchmarks and most importantly, the challenges in terms of existing public infrastructure and  government policies.

Pratap K Aggrawal, Chairman, CII Chandigarh Council & Managing Director, IDS Infotech Ltd. delivered the opening remarks of the event, emphasizing the US$ 2 billion medical tourism  market projected for India, by the year 2012.

Powered with an impressive presentation Dr. Rana Mehta, VP-Healthcare Practise, Technopak Advisors, gave a vivid insight into the present and future landscape of medical tourism in India. “3-4 million people came to Asia in 2007 for medical care, and most of them were from US, UK, Middle East and Africa”, said Dr. Mehta. Highlighting the estimated 30% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for medical tourists visiting India, Dr. Mehta said, “nearly 1 million foreign patients are expected to visit India in 2012, considerably higher than 0.175 million who visited the country in 2005”.

In order to facilitate medical value travel, development of proper public infrastructure and sound civic amenities are definite pre-requisites. With the existing ground conditions, both healthcare providers and medical travel facilitators are feeling the pinch. Patients from western countries often find Indian public facilities inconvenient primarily due to poor maintenance of airports, roads and transport facilities. Commenting on this topic, and reassuring the audience about ongoing efforts of Chandigarh Administration to facilitate medical tourism in the UT, Dr. Manjit Singh Bains, Director, Health Services, Chandigarh Administration, laid out an overview plan of the proposed Chandigarh Medicity. Scheduled to get operational in next 2 years, the Chandigarh Medicity is set to provide modern facilities and advanced infrastructural support to become an ideal destination for foreign patients. Enumerating on this, Dr. Singh said “The Chandigarh medicity will be a self-sufficient facility.. having medical, a dental and nursing colleges, a college for alternative medicine, a centre for advanced R&D, along with recuperation and rehabilitation centres, and full service hotel facilities”.

Private providers have indeed revolutionised healthcare service standards in India. Giving a  fillip to the hitherto fledgeling healthcare scenario in the country, and going beyond the ordinary to bring international best practices and quality excellence, corporate service providers are redefining the rules of the game. Reflecting on this, Mr. Shivinder Mohan Singh, CEO & Managing Director, Fortis Health Care & Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre, delivered a scintillating speech laced with his signature flamboyance. Referring to the CII-McKinsey report, Mr. Singh underlined the fact that 80% of healthcare delivery in India currently happens through private sector. The Human Development Index of the country is depressingly low and is primarily attributed to poor public health conditions. Lack of access,   even for primary and preventive healthcare, is increasingly burdening secondary and often, tertiary care facilities. Commenting on ground realities that continues to exist, Mr. Singh said, “All hopes for healthcare in India is as good, as it is bad. Still it is better to say the glass is half-full, rather than half-empty”. However, opportunities continue to exist in the face of adversity.  Commenting on the situation in US he said, “No significant innovation is happening  in US health industry and hospitals are closing down by passing each day”. On a lighter note, he added, “With 38% doctors of Indian origin, the US health system will virtually come to a halt, if Indian doctors call a strike”. Referring to examples of service best practices, he highlighted the case of Bumrungrad International, Bangkok, while emphasising that hospitality need to come hand-in-hand with healthcare in order to make medical tourism a success.

Development of an ideal medical tourism destination is dependent on a number of factors, involving both  private and public sector. The issue was discussed in length in the session titled ‘The Making of a Medical Tourism  Destination’, with an impressive line up of speakers from top-of-line service providers and travel facilitators, including – Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre, Apollo Hospitals, Wockhardt Hospitals, Sahara Medical Worldwide and others.

Availability of skilled professionals and proper expertise are of paramount importance for attracting medical tourists. The session titled ‘Indian Expertise on Medical Procedures’ witnessed some of the best known medical practitioners from select specialities talk about the available talent pool in the industry and also forecast the need in coming years. Speakers of this session included Dr S P S Grewal, CEO, Grewal Eye Institute; Dr Pradeep Chowbey,  Chairman, Minimal Access & Bariatric & Surgery Centre, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi; Dr. Ajay Kashyap, Fortis Healthcare &  Dr. S P Kaushik, Senior Consultant, Silver Oaks Hospital.

While medical value travel promises to be ‘the next big thing’, there are a number of crucial factors pertaining to legal, commercial and cultural issues that demand proper understanding and attention from service providers, medical professionals and health travel facilitators. The session titled ‘Understanding the Protocols for Medical Value Travel’ delved into some of these critical aspects of the industry. While Sumedha Sen (Director Sales & International Business, Fortis Healthcare) talked about activity flow between arrival to departure of foreign patients, Dr. Ashok Chordiya (Medical Director, Fortis Hospital, Mohali) presented on post-op rehab and follow-up care’. Commenting on future facilities for medical value travel, Dr. Vikram Chhatwal (CEO, Reliance Healthcare) delivered an overview of his strategic approach and understanding of healthcare delivery per-se, in the context of medical tourism. IT based systems and processes are increasingly getting prominence in healthcare, more so, web centric solutions are being aggressively adopted for both clinical and business functions. Web marketing tools can prove to be highly effective channels of communication between providers, payers and patients. Some of these possibilities were demonstrated by Dr. Benosh Haris, COO, e-Medsol.

In the final session, an eminent panel comprising of Dr. Azizullah Amir, Managing Director, Afghan Hospital, Kabul; Dr. K M Kapoor, Sr. Consultant-Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery, Fortis Hospital; Dr. R Kumar, Consultant, Medical Value Tourism and Garry Miller, Director, UK Operations, SAHARA Medical Worldwide, along with Cheryl Isherwood – a patient from UK,   discussed the expectations for referral companies and patients opting for overseas medical care. The event concluded on a high note with inspiring words from the conference Chairman – S M Singh, along with Dr. Rana Mehta, and with a common conviction to make India the preffered medical tourism destination of the world.

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