Neighbourhood Travel Desk
Medical tourism is a growing sector in India. In October 2015, India’s medical tourism sector was estimated to be worth US$3 billion. It is projected to grow to $7–8 billion by 2020. According to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the primary reason that attracts medical value travel to India is cost-effectiveness, and treatment from accredited facilities at par with developed countries at much lower cost. The Medical Tourism Market Report: 2015 found that India was “one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations, it offers wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the United States.”
Foreign patients travelling to India to seek medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 numbered 171,021, 236,898, and 184,298 respectively. Traditionally, the United States and the United Kingdom have been the largest source countries for medical tourism to India. However, according to a CII-Grant Thornton report released in October 2015, Bangladeshis and Afghans accounted for 34% of foreign patients, the maximum share, primarily due to their close proximity with India and poor healthcare infrastructure. Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) accounted for 30 per cent share of foreign medical tourist arrivals. Other major sources of patients include Africa and the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf countries. In 2015, India became the top destination for Russians seeking medical treatment. Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and the National Capital Region received the highest number of foreign patients primarily from South Eastern countries.
Advantages of medical treatment in India include reduced costs, the availability of latest medical technologies, and a growing compliance on international quality standards, Doctors trained in western countries including US and UK, as well as English-speaking personnel, due to which foreigners are less likely to face language barrier in India. According to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the primary reason that attracts medical value travel to India is cost-effectiveness, and treatment from accredited facilities at par with developed countries at much lower cost. The Medical Tourism Market Report: 2015 found that India was “one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations, it offers wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the United States.”
Most estimates found that treatment costs in India start at around one-tenth of the price of comparable treatment in the United States or the United Kingdom. The most popular treatments sought in India by medical tourists are alternative medicine, bone-marrow transplant, cardiac bypass, eye surgery and hip replacement. India is known in particular for heart surgery, hip resurfacing and other areas of advanced medicine.
Quality of care
India has 28 Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals. However, for a patient traveling to India, it is important to find the optimal Doctor-Hospital combination. After the patient has been treated, the patient has the option of either recuperating in the hospital or at a paid accommodation nearby. Many hospitals also give the option of continuing the treatment through telemedicine.
The city of Chennai has been termed “India’s health capital”. Multi- and super-specialty hospitals across the city bring in an estimated 150 international patients every day. Chennai attracts about 45 per cent of health tourists from abroad arriving in the country and 30 to 40 per cent of domestic health tourists. Factors behind the tourist inflow in the city include low costs, little to no waiting period, and facilities offered at the specialty hospitals in the city. Chennai has an estimated 12,500 hospital beds, of which only half is used by the city’s population with the rest being shared by patients from other states of the country and foreigners. Dental clinics have attracted dental care tourism to Chennai.
Ease of travel
The government has removed visa restrictions on tourist visas that required a two-month gap between consecutive visits for people from Gulf countries which is likely to boost medical tourism. A visa-on-arrival scheme for tourists from select countries has been instituted which allows foreign nationals to stay in India for 30 days for medical reasons. In 2016, citizens of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Republic of Korea and Nigeria availed the most medical visas.
Despite India’s diversity of languages, English is an official language and is widely spoken by most people and almost universally by medical professionals. In Noida, which is fast emerging as a hotspot for medical tourism, a number of hospitals have hired language translators to make patients from Balkan and African countries feel more comfortable while at the same time helping in the facilitation of their treatment.