Medical Tourism

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"Where the cost saved could pay for a return ticket and expenses, medical tourism is bound to boom"

What is medical tourism or health tourism? Medical tourism in India offers both a business and a value proposition.

In countries like India the medical tourism opportunity is unique as it offers holistic medicinal service. With yoga, meditation, ayurveda, allopathy, and other medical facilities, the medical tourist is offered a unique blend of services that will be difficult to match in other countries. They have the best medical talent with ample practice abroad.

Latest equipment in India will be identical to latest equipment in the U.S. or U.K. and Indian Hospitals like IMCL are receiving accredition from Joint Commission International of the US

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Medical Tourism in India

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What is the USP that a country needs, to offer itself as a destination for medical tourism or health tourism?

Medical tourism has to offer a business and a value proposition. Many developing countries are in a position to offer medical services at one-tenth the cost compared to that in many countries in the West, matching the quality at par with developed countries. Thus creating an opportunity in cost-effective treatment and medical tourism.

Certain countries like India or China the opportunity is unique as it offers holistic medicinal service. With yoga, meditation, ayurveda, allopathy, and other medical facilities, they offer a unique blend of services to an individual that will be difficult to match in other countries.

How big is the market for medical tourism?

In United Kingdom, the National Health Service has a backlog of about 2,50,000 cases, which can be a ready market for other countries. If we take the annual medical spends in countries in Middle East, and other countries such United States and United Kingdom.

Can a big inflow of foreign tourists for medical benefits have an adverse impact on local medical services?

In medical tourism, we find there are five-star hotels that cater to high-end customers while there are those that are targeted at budget medical tourists who are looking for affordable cost-effective treatment. Similarly, under health tourism or medical tourism there would be hospitals that will target tourists and patients from abroad. Medical tourism can help to subsidise local medical services as they offer large volumes at better margins.

So, health tourism or medical tourism is a good business proposition by providing affordable cost-effective treatment.

What are the challenges before the countries to develop as health tourism or medical tourism destination?

The biggest challenge is to position themselves as a favourable health care destination by setting high standards and work in association with the government and the medical council to see to it that all hospitals keep up to those standards. There is a huge market for health tourism in Africa. But it would not be possible to reach out to those markets without direct flights.

How is the healthcare industry in respective countries promoting their country as health tourism or medical tourism destination?

Thailand has world-class hospitals, and they are already hot on medical tourism destination. Singapore too has seen this opportunity early and their public health system is being accessed by medical tourists from many countries. Australia has also set up a huge health care infrastructure for health tourism or medical tourism. The Indian Health Care Federation is now working along with different industry chambers to promote medical tourism in the country.

Medical Tourism In India

‘First World treatment’ at “Third World prices”. A CII-McKinsey report.

India offers world class medical facilities in world class hospitals and the doctors are comparable with any of the doctors in western countries. India also offers the most competitive prices.

Medical tourism is the buzzword now. The government as well as private players are keenly assessing the potential and means to tap the same. The boom in state-of-the-art hospitals and well-qualified doctors, have attracted the patient population from neighbouring countries, the Middle East and the West who are looking for quality affordable cost-effective treatment.

India, has many world-class hospitals and medical facilities at its disposal. They definitely have an advantage over others, as apart from the cost factor, most foreign nationals are used to getting treated by Indian nationals abroad. Indian medical professionals settled abroad are associated with high quality care.

"Compared to countries like the UK or the US, minor treatments like those for dental problems or major procedures like bypass surgery or angioplasty come at a fraction of the cost in India, even though the quality of doctors and medical equipment is comparable to the best in the world," says K K Aggarwal of the Heart Care Foundation of India.

The Indian Healthcare Federation, an association of the healthcare delivery sector that includes the Apollo Hospitals Group, Mumbai's Hinduja Hospital, Max Healthcare, the Fortis Heart Institute among others, has also decided to project India as a medical tourism destination with its affordable cost-effective treatment.

Among private players, Apollo has been a forerunner in medical tourism. It has been a choicest destination for patients/medical tourists from Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The group has tied up with hospitals in Mauritius, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Yemen besides running a hospital in Sri Lanka, and managing a hospital in Dubai.

AIIMS is a destination for medical tourists from Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Mauritius, Malaya and Pakistan. Besides regular medical tourists from the Middle-East, an occasional patient/medical tourists from the US drops in for health care. Medical tourists from Pakistan, especially children with heart afflictions, have been regularly coming to AIIMS’ heart centre. According to Dr Gupta, AIIMS was made for the helath care of entire south-east Asia populace and since it is a government institute there are no plans to attract more foreigners.

The attractions for affordable cost-effective treatment at AIIMS include cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, cancer treatment and ophthalmic procedures. “The services are charged on actuals and ours being a government institute we are not angling to make money but are here to serve the people,” - Dr Gupta.

Indian hospitals getting recognition from international insurance companies will bring in more patients/medical tourists from abroad, says Anil K Maini, head, marketing, health care and medical tourism business, Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre. The centre is emerging fast as a favourite destination for patients/medical tourists from neighbouring countries, Africa and CIS. With BUPA recognition, patients/medical tourists from the UK are coming here for treatment. Thousands of medical tourists from abroad are treated in Escorts on an annual basis.

Although only a few hospitals are making conscious efforts to increase the existing inflow of medical tourists, nobody denies the huge potential medical tourism has. And it will not be long before the full potential of medical tourism is realised.

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Medical Tourism In Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a reputation for high standards, but the fees are relatively high.

Though Hong Kong has long been a destination of choice, lower costs are making increasing numbers opt to travel to other countries like India, Thailand and Malaysia.