Medical tourism, also known by the terms medical travel, health tourism, or global healthcare, describes the rapidly growing practice of crossing international borders to seek healthcare. Services typically requested by travelers include electoral procedures as well as complex surgeries etc. According to the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), about 697,453 medical tourists visited India for medical treatment in 2019 alone and by 2023 India will account for 6% of the global Medical Value Tourism (MVT) market share.
India has an advantage as a medical tourism destination as most of the doctors and surgeons in Indian hospitals are trained or worked in some medical institutions in USA, Europe or other developed nations, they (the medical staff) are fluent in English and have top-notch medical and diagnostic equipment from global international corporations are available in many Indian hospitals.
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Even the most budget conscious traveler can afford first class service and luxurious amenities in India. Most patients traveling to India for medical treatment seek highly specialized tertiary care, which includes oncology, neurosurgery, bone marrow transplants, liver and kidney transplants, and pediatric therapies in addition to elective surgeries such as knee replacements. India has also emerged as a center for Robotics and minimally invasive procedures such as TAVI, TAVR and MitraClip. Another example is a form of radiation therapy called proton therapy, which is performed using a pencil beam. Apollo Hospital’s Integrated Oncology Center, JCI-accredited, is able to treat many patients from around the world at a third of the cost and still achieve good results.
The Government of India has introduced various initiatives to promote medical tourism in India. Under the Heal in India program, foreigners or those seeking medical assistance can use an online portal to find a list of hospitals in the country that can provide their preferred medical treatments, along with information on the cost of the treatment package. You can also apply for visas through the same platform. Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, took the lead in setting up the online portal.
Also, AYUSH visa program has been developed with special consideration for foreigners seeking medical treatment in India. The Government of India has created a new visa category called “AYUSH Visa” which can be granted to international visitors traveling to India for medical treatment. Traditional medical procedures and remedies are promoted as part of the AYUSH initiative. To make India the top medical travel destination, practitioners of both conventional medicine and AYUSH will work together to create a holistic medical ecosystem.
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Regarding medical tourism in India, Shaaz Mehmood, director and promoter of Medijourn, told Financialexpress.com that India has emerged as the fifth largest global medical value destination with an estimated market size of around US$9 billion in 2019, which is a huge one Potential for India to become the world’s leading medical tourism destination in the next few years due to the value proposition of experienced clinicians, world-class infrastructure and quality outcomes that India has to offer. “With the support of the Government of India through its ‘Heal in India’ mission, the industry has fully recovered and is expected to grow by more than 22% of pre-pandemic levels,” Mehmood said.
Referring to his company Medijourn, a medical travel company, Mehmood said they streamline and facilitate the patient’s treatment journey, from initial diagnosis through procedures to post-consultation handover to doctors from each patient’s home country. “With hospitals in major cities, Medijourn and its strategic partner Apollo Hospitals provide clinical and wellness support to their patients. It is known for having the only proton cancer therapy center in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. It is a fully integrated treatment suite that offers the most advanced treatment in surgical, radiation and medical procedures.” Medical assistance companies like Medijourn and multi-specialty hospital chains like Apollo hospitals talk about the journey of medical tourism in India.
The world comes to India
India successfully attracts medical travelers from all over the world. There is a large influx of medical tourism from regions such as SAARC, particularly Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, who travel to India in search of quality healthcare services. It has historically been a very strong collaborator with Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Yemen. East Africa, which includes Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, sees India as an ideal destination for medical tourism. Some ASEAN countries, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as CIS countries Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan also favor India as a medical travel destination. Recently, there have been trends in patients traveling from the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and even South America, particularly for proton therapy. Compared to the United States, Australia, Singapore or the United Kingdom, India can achieve cost savings of up to 65-90%, which means significant savings for patients. The medical tourism industry in India is certainly poised for unprecedented growth.