India (2020): Among the Best Countries for Medical Tourism

The world is shrinking. Not in terms of size but surely in terms of availability. No longer are products and services confined to a locality. Technology and travel have initiated a major shift in world economies and how they function.

Worldwide travel and tourism also have changed from recreation only to travel for education or travel for medical purpose among many other reasons.

All this is possible due to the unfathomed progress in information technology, in cloud computing, social networks, mobile technology, etc., that are providing a boost to medical tourism to reach its full potential.

Specialized top healthcare digital marketing agencies are helping hospitals build their best websites. Today doctors and medical specialists also have attractive and informative websites, which increase their visibility. Digital marketing for doctors is becoming a must. Dedicated medical tourism companies are also offering patients abroad, an overview of the medical treatments available in India and facilitating their access to the treatment. All of this has contributed to spearheading global medical tourism in India.

India is a leading destination for medical tourism ranking amongst the top 10 medical tourism destinations worldwide. The other medical tourism countries include Thailand, Mexico, USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, Turkey and Taiwan. Recent statistics show that out of the total global tourist volume worldwide, approximately one percent which is around 11 million people travel annually to seek medical care out of their own country.

What is medical tourism?
Medical tourism is defined as traveling outside one’s own country to seek healthcare services. It is often described as medical travel, health tourism or global healthcare. Medical tourism includes medical surgeries and treatments, overall health and wellness treatments and the use of alternative medicine with modern medicine. The main reason for this growing trend is the better quality of medical aid available at more affordable prices elsewhere.

Medical tourism is a flourishing $30 billion industry, with steady growth over the years. In the last decade, it has risen by around 15%.

In India, medical tourism favors the field of cosmetic and weight loss surgery, cardiovascular ailments and surgery, organ transplants, orthopedics, cancer treatments, and ophthalmology.

Alternative medicine and treatments by the ancient science of Ayurveda are also drawing many patients towards seeking overall wellness in India.

The Government of India is taking significant steps to promote medical tourism in India. Currently the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of AYUSH along with SEPC and NABH are proactively involved to increase the number of patients coming to India for medical assistance. The National Medical and Wellness Tourism Promotion Board has been set up primarily to market and promote Indian wellness and healthcare through its Incredible India campaigns, fairs and medical conferences in foreign countries.

Factors contributing to the growth of medical tourism in India :-
1. Medical Visas: The Government of India has introduced e-Medical Visa and e-Medical Attendant Visa to support medical tourism. This facility is extended to 166 countries to hasten medical aid in India.
2. Top hospital chains: Apollo, Fortis, Wockhardt, Max have doctors on their panel who are at par with the best doctors worldwide. Also, the standards maintained by these hospitals in terms of their digital records, the cutting-edge equipment, cleanliness, etc make them extremely competitive to offer the highest standards in healthcare services.
3. Competent doctors: Indian doctors have made a name for themselves as being highly intelligent and skilled in their profession. They keep themselves abreast of latest innovations in the medical field at par with the best doctors worldwide. Many doctors have also studied abroad, worked in international hospitals or have associations with internationally recognized medical bodies.
4. No language barrier: Most of the large hospitals in India have doctors, nurses and medical staff who speak in English. English being one of the most widely spoken languages, foreign patients find it easier to communicate with the team of medical practitioners in Indian hospitals. Also with so many spoken languages in India doctors do have the advantage of speaking with the foreign patient in their preferred language.
5. Cost of Treatment: Compared to the dollar and other currencies, medical treatment in Indian rupees looks far more affordable to a lot of people living abroad than what it would cost them in their own country. Be it Indians settled abroad who still prefer to come to India for low-cost treatment or for foreign medical tourists, Indian medical treatment is more affordable than in most developed countries.
6. Large number of pharmaceutical companies: With India having a large number of pharmaceutical industries manufacturing indigenous drugs, it is easier to procure these drugs at fractional prices compared to their prices in developed countries.
7. Latest equipment: Large specialty hospitals in India are outfitted with the latest medical equipment, medical technology and network at par with international standards.
8. Luxury amenities: Today hospitals in India are offering not just hospital beds but suites for the affluent medical traveler. A medical traveler seeks not only medical treatment but also luxury amenities for himself and the family while undergoing a medical procedure in India.
9. Less waiting time: In Indian top hospitals, there is no long waiting list for medical aid for life saving treatments. Especially in the cases of organ donations or cardiovascular ailments, treatment can be availed of almost immediately. Patients don’t need to wait for months to get the best medical treatment and post-operative care.
10. Available alternative treatments: Today medical tourists are also seeking overall well being. Many a tourists are drawn to India for treatments in Ayurveda and Naturopathy.. With our honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also instrumental in recommending to the UN General Assembly, to consider Yoga as the root and an integral part of Indian culture, on December 11, 2014, the UN declared June 21 as International Yoga Day. Putting yoga on the world map, has further contributed to attracting tourists seeking yoga practice as an alternative cure to their medical ailments.

Conclusion – India requires more active policies to promote medical tourism. Its initiatives to advertise and promote medical tourism at international medical fairs must continue. Hospitals also need more accreditation from established bodies for medical tourists to view them at par with the best hospitals worldwide. Right from immigration clearance to recovery treatment, it necessitates a smooth transition. Medical tourism in India is not only here to stay but is also on the rise!

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