Aparna Dhar
Lead Medical Geneticist & Genetic Counselor,
Core Diagnostics

The Rise Of Medical Tourism In India

In recent years, there has been an exponential rise in the number of tourists visiting India for medical treatment. A 2015 report on medical tourism states that India was found to be one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations. India, having recognized the opportunity, has diligently been showcasing its strength on the global market through public-private partnerships, thus paving the way for becoming a hub for medical tourism. Indian hospitals, infrastructure, clinical trials, telemedicine, teleradiology, have become the most favored Indian healthcare and wellness centers. The Ministry of Tourism suggests that the medical tourism industry could grow by 200 percent in 2020, hitting USD 9 billion.

Facilitating the growth of medical tourism in India

Low treatment cost. As per FICCI, due to affordability, optimum international standards, and excellence, India has attracted over 500,000 foreign patients’ per-annum for treatment. Some of the popular procedures include heart surgery, knee transplant, and dental care.

Role of technology. The application of technology in various sectors is increasing rampantly. The healthcare industry has also benefited. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in medicine has improved the overall experience of patients and the healthcare system. Innovations like Chabot, facial recognition software, imaging, genetic, EP or EMR, telemedicine, teleradiology promise to improve patient healthcare for all the stakeholders. Digital India has created a hype, thus prompting the government lead efforts to build an infrastructure that has a dynamic health-tech ecosystem.

Hub for alternate treatments. As per the government issued statement on the Make in India report, the wellness industry is estimated to around Rs 490 billion. Traditional Indian medicine like Ayurveda, Yogam, Unani, Siddha, and homeopathy (AYUSH) in combination with herbal oils, acupuncture, yoga, Vedic care, etc., are rampantly increasing in popularity globally. This traditional approach along with India’s reputations in modern, Western approaches is fueling the rise in medical tourism.

Hub for advanced diagnostics. With capital investments and the availability of cutting-edge technology, India is a leader for high-end diagnostic services. The availability of cutting edge technologies has paved the way for a lucrative and growing industry in medical devices. This is widely classified into equipment, reagents, and services. A favorable and cost-effective environment for manufacturing, affordable healthcare package, awareness and patient education drives is working towards ensuring India becomes a powerful hub for quality diagnostics solutions. Another sector that’s showing promise is the in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) market. In the last 5 years, there has been a substantial growth in this segment, thus propelling India into a key player in this market. The caveat, this area is dominated by MNCs, they have got around 65 percent of the market divided amongst themselves.

Government and private players. The government and the private sector has contributed to rapid growth in the medical tourism business. Due to the government’s endeavors to make the process simple, seamless, providing cost-effective medical care that is at par of any developed country, India has an advantage of being a favored destination for medical tourism. For example, introducing m-Visa to ease the medical visa process, extending the e-tourist visa, separate help desk, and immigration counters at major airports. This has aided in the medical tourism business experiencing a good turn over (revenue) in the past 6 years. The NITI has identified the medical value travel as a major source of earnings through foreign exchange. Countries like India, Malaysia, and Thailand etc. are incorporating medical tourism in their economic development strategies. The recently launched Ayushman Bharat is a testament to the government’s active role in healthcare. The private sector is collaborating with the government to help create and improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare. They are also assisting in making it accessible to all. In some areas, private companies are helping patients by providing customized healthcare packages, medical concierge services, scheduling appointments, and emergency care.

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