Medical tourism is a growing industry in India, with several factors making the country a top destination for foreign travelers.
First, India offers world-class hospitals and highly qualified English-speaking medical professionals at a fraction of the cost compared to other countries.
Prices for common medical procedures are significantly lower in India.
For example, according to the “Investment Opportunities in India’s Healthcare Sector” report published by NITI Aayog in 2021, a heart bypass procedure in India would cost less than $7,900, compared to $15,000 in Thailand and $26,000 in South Korea.
According to the report, India has about 37 hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) as well as 513 hospitals accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH).
Secondly, India’s alternative medicine systems i.e. Ayurveda, Yoga and Panchakarma are gaining more and more popularity across the world.
Popular medical tourism specialties in India include orthopedics, organ transplantation, cardiac care, oncology, neurosciences and bariatrics.
Additionally, travelers visit India for health-promoting, wellness and rejuvenation therapies, a phenomenon that is likely to become more prevalent in the post-Covid 19 pandemic era.
Indeed, several established health players are now setting up wellness centers, with traditional health remedies at the heart of their offerings.
The government has taken several measures to promote India as a hot destination for medical tourism.
The electronic tourist visa launched in September 2014 to ease the visa regime has been extended to cover medical tourism as well.
In 2018, the government announced a dedicated fund of Rs 5,000 crore to improve 12 “champion service sectors”, medical value travel being one of them.
As part of the “Heal in India” initiative, the government is planning a series of measures, including the provision of special offices at major airports, simplified visa regulations and a multilingual portal that would act as a one-stop shop. for services. offered by hospitals and medical travel facilitators.
Standardized flat rates for hospitals will be posted on the portal and will also include a grievance mechanism to solicit patient feedback.
In addition, the Medical Value Travel Council has been constituted as a nodal agency jointly chaired by the Ministries of Health and Tourism to facilitate the integration of all stakeholders towards the common goal of boosting medical tourism in the country.
To promote medical tourism in the AYUSH segment, the Prime Minister announced his intention for India to launch an “AYUSH brand”. This mark will give credibility to AYUSH products in the country.
He also announced that an AYUSH visa is in the works and should be available soon. Such a visa will enable foreign tourists to seek various preventive, curative and rehabilitative AYUSH services in India.
The growth potential of the medical tourism sector in India is also highlighted by the entry of a large number of startups that provide end-to-end services to travelers including help in finding the right hospital and doctor. more appropriate.
In addition, they also provide support to medical tourists for additional aspects such as planning their trip and stay in the country as well as obtaining the necessary visa and financial assistance, if required. Startups are forging ties with hospitals, doctors, and various other service providers to offer travelers an all-inclusive package.
Given the travel disruptions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that there is considerable pent-up demand for medical tourism services.
So now is an opportune time for India to invest and strengthen its medical tourism sector.
Continuous investments in building world-class hospital facilities with modern diagnostics and medical equipment is the need of the hour.
It is essential that such facilities are available not only in major urban centers but also in smaller towns across the country to maximize the potential for medical value travel.
Public-private partnerships can be leveraged for this purpose.
In addition, adequate investments must be made in infrastructure so that tourists have comfortable and affordable accommodation during their treatment.
Standardization and accreditation of healthcare institutions will also play a key role in building credibility and attracting medical tourists from all over the world, including Europe and America.
With increased demand in the post-Covid world and government efforts to make medical tourism a political priority, India is well positioned to become a global hub for travel with medical value.
This will not only enable India to provide quality healthcare services to a large number of people, but will also generate valuable job opportunities in the country.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are personal.