Though earlier it was travelling from less developed countries to major medical centres in highly-developed countries, recently, medical tourism may also refer to the opposite direction of travelling for low-priced medical treatment.
Kolkata: The road for medical tourism in India was opened long back, with people from several countries coming to the country for treatment. However, over the years, the industry has faced a lot of challenges just like normal tourism. While there is a chance of growth, the same is being stunted by lack of proper policies and a death of awareness.
What is medical tourism?
The process of travelling outside the country of residence with the objective to receive medical care is known as medical tourism. Though earlier it was travelling from less developed countries to major medical centres in highly-developed countries, recently, it may also refer to the opposite direction of travelling for low-priced medical treatment. However, medical tourism does not cater to emergency services. People usually sign up for medical tourism for surgeries but sometimes it is also for dental or fertility purposes.
Are medical and health tourism the same things?
Health tourism and medical tourism are not the same. Health tourism refers to travelling to spa resorts or alternative traditional therapies and medical tourism on the other hand is mainly for biomedical procedures.
Common destinations for medical tourism
Asia is one of the most prominent destinations for global medical tourists. In 2007, researchers found that China, India, Israel, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, UAE, Argentina and Bolivia are few of the top medical tourism destinations.
Medical tourism in India
The then Finance Minister Jaswant Singh during the annual budget of 2003 had announced the government policy to merge medical expenditure and tourism. According to him, India was in the stage of being a global health destination. The most common locations where people land up in India as a part of medical tourism are — Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai. The major service providers are the Apollo hospitals, Escorts hospitals, Fortis hospitals, Breach Candy, Mumbai Asian Heart Institute, Arvind Eye Hospital, Manipal Hospital etc. The services catered through medical tourism in India are mainly knee joint replacement, hip replacement, bone marrow transplant, bypass surgery, cosmetic surgery etc.
Why is India a prominent destination for medical tourism?
One of the main reasons behind India’s emergence as a medical tourism spot is the popularity for surrogacy services and its recognition as a cradle for test tube babies. Apart from these, India also offers high-tech cardiac, paediatric, dental, cosmetic, orthopaedic surgical services and the traditional healing systems.
There has been a huge growth in the infrastructure of the Indian health sector, be it private or voluntary. Predictions have shown that India’s healthcare industry of $17 billion a year will grow at 13% each year for the upcoming six years and can be boosted to 30% annually if there is integration with the tourism sector.
Issues and challenges faced by India in medical tourism sector
India is facing a lot of issues and challenges in becoming a tourist destination with a competent medical tourism industry. Lack of connectivity, lack of proper coordinating systems, poor power supply and poor water supply are some of the severe obstacles. Apart from this, majority of the Indian hospitals are not being able to gain trust of the foreign patients. This is mainly because of the poor hygiene awareness among the medical staff, unhygienic food handling, heterogeneous pricing of services and no industry services. Government being responsible for some of the issues like taxation anomalies and bureaucratic roadlocks are lowering out the expectations of it playing a vital role in the upgradation of medical tourism in India.