Medical Tourism: Healing Holidays

Medical tourism allows you to heal your ailing body and your tired mind on the same trip

woman getting a massage on the waterfront

With healthcare costs skyrocketing across countries, patients are looking at overseas markets like India that offer highly trained doctors and cost-effective medical treatment. Healthcare costs in India are 30 per cent of international budgets as a norm. Indian hospitals are known internationally for standards of healthcare delivery, comparable to the best in the world. India has the technology and skilled specialists coupled with sound infrastructure and professional management, nurses and paramedical staff to take on international competition. The wide variety of services offered, cultural warmth and natural beauty are other reasons why international patients often combine medication with tourism [medical tourism] here.

Did you know?

Medical Tourism in India produces an annual revenue of USD 300 million. It is projected to touch USD 2 billion by 2012 [2002] as per a report by The Confederation of Indian Industry [CII] in consultation with McKinsey.

India offers unique modes of treatments like ayurveda, yoga, spa treatments, spiritual tourism, unani and homoeopathy to heal the mind, body and spirit. People travel across the globe to India for dental work, orthopaedic surgeries, cardiac treatments, plastic surgery and even infertility treatments. Heart surgery and hip resurfacing are among the top draws.

Effective cost of treatment is the foremost reason for attracting health tourists from all over the world. When compared with developed countries, treatment costs in India start at around a quarter of the price. For instance, an open heart surgery that would cost approximately USD 18,000 in North America can be availed for approximately USD 4500 in India. Similarly, dental implants which cost about USD 3500 in North America cost about USD 800 in India.

The success rate of procedures done at private hospitals in India is significantly higher than those performed elsewhere [98.7 per cent in cardiac surgeries against 97.5 per cent in the US].

Immediate attention with almost no waiting period to get treatment and surgery puts India at an advantage. More importantly, there is a large English-speaking population in India. Hence, language doesn’t pose a hurdle when an international patient seeks treatment here. Availability of internationally-accredited hospitals; good connectivity; ease of online diagnosis and post-procedure consultation; large pool of highly skilled doctors, nurses and paramedics; a booming pharma sector; a choice of alternative treatments; and a diverse basket of tourist destinations serves as an additional incentive to the medical tourist. Kerala, Manipal, Madras, Mumbai and Delhi are emerging as top international choices.

With the emergence of private players, medical tourism in India has become more structured. A number of agencies cater to patients who require offshore medical and surgical care. They assist patients in selecting a country, hospital and doctor. They also assemble and transmit medical records, arrange travel and accommodations, offer translators, and may even organise for post-operative follow-up in the patient’s own country after they return. This eases the patient’s anxiety and allows him to attend primarily to his health. Some organisations provide one-stop-shop healthcare solutions to international patients.

travelRight from booking the flight tickets, carefully selecting accredited hospitals, selecting highly qualified and experienced physicians and surgeons, coordinating comprehensive correspondence with surgeons/physicians, arranging for medical and surgical consultations, procuring the best cost estimates to facilitating the visa process and even planning a short post-operative holiday, they plan a patient’s entire schedule and ensure that the patient has a single point of contact. This ensures that any person travelling to India for medical treatment runs a lesser risk of being swindled by unrecognised organisations thus instilling confidence in the medical tourism services India has to offer.

Owing to recession along with the advancement in technology and infrastructure, Indian medical tourism is the pot of gold for India. Recession has led to a surge of international patient coming to India for high-end treatment at an affordable price.

To support the efforts of Indian private hospitals, the government has also introduced a new category of medical visas for patients travelling to India for medical care. Tie-ups between with Indian and international insurance companies and hospitals along with the presence of medical tourism agencies is helping build the credibility of India as a lucrative healthcare destination.

As a medical tourism destination, India is a combination of modern treatments with traditional experience. India offers at its own doorstep, a range of world quality hospitals and treatments at a fraction of world costs and service levels directly in proportion to the high value system and natural caring that comes with its millennia heritage.

Still, India is an untapped market that has plenty of resources essential for supporting the development of medical tourism.

Questions to ask your medical tourism agent

  • Have you handled a case before that is just like mine [a person of the same age and sex, who required the same procedures]?
  • Who is legally responsible in case of a mishap? Who will take the financial liability?
  • What is the basis on which you select the medical facilities that you suggest to clients?
  • Will I be able to speak to the surgeon before my procedure?
  • What is your plan about combining the treatment with tourism?
Bharat Bharadwaj is the president of a leading medical tourism services company.


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