India Poised To Become A Global Hub For Medical Tourism

India Poised To Become A Global Hub For Medical Tourism

by Urvashi Prasad - Thursday, September 29, 2022 05:17 PM IST
India Poised To Become A Global Hub For Medical TourismAn ayurvedic therapy.
  • With heightened demand in the post-Covid world and efforts from the government in making medical tourism a policy priority, India is well placed to become a leading global hub for medical value travel.

Medical tourism is a growing sector in India with several factors making the country a destination of choice for overseas travellers.

Firstly, India offers world-class hospitals and highly-skilled English-speaking medical professionals at a fraction of the cost compared to other countries.

The prices of common medical procedures are significantly lower in India.

For instance, according to the ‘Investment Opportunities in India’s Healthcare Sector’ report published by NITI Aayog in 2021, a heart bypass intervention in India would cost less than $7,900 in comparison with $15,000 in Thailand and $26,000 in South Korea.

As per the report, India has approximately 37 Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals as well as 513 National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) accredited hospitals.

Second, India’s alternative systems of medicine ie, Ayurveda, Yoga and Panchakarma are increasingly gaining popularity across the world.

Popular specialities for medical tourism in India include orthopaedics, organ transplantation, cardiac care, oncology, neurosciences and bariatrics.

Additionally, travellers are visiting India for health promotion, wellness and rejuvenation therapies, a phenomenon which is likely to become more prevalent in the post-Covid 19 pandemic era. 

In fact, several established healthcare players are now setting up wellness centres, with traditional healthcare remedies as a key focus of their offerings.

The government has taken several steps for promoting India as a leading destination for medical tourism.

The e-tourist visa initiated in September 2014 for easing the visa regime was expanded to cover medical tourism as well.

In 2018, the government announced a dedicated fund of Rs 5,000 crore for enhancing 12 ‘champion services sectors’, medical value travel being one of them.

As part of the ‘Heal in India’ initiative, the government is planning a slew of measures including the provision of special desks at key airports, simplified visa regulations and a multi-lingual portal which would serve as a one-stop-shop for services offered by hospitals and medical travel facilitators.

Standardised package rates for hospitals will be displayed on the portal and it will also include a grievance redressal mechanism for seeking patient feedback.

Further, the Medical Value Travel Council has been constituted as a nodal agency jointly chaired by the ministries of health and tourism for facilitating the integration of all stakeholders towards the common goal of boosting medical tourism in the country.

For promoting medical tourism in the AYUSH segment, the Prime Minister has announced plans for India to launch an ‘AYUSH Mark’. This mark will lend credibility to AYUSH products in the country.

He has also announced that an AYUSH visa is in the works and is likely to become available soon. Such a visa will enable overseas tourists to seek various preventive, curative and rehabilitative AYUSH services in India.

The growth potential of the medical tourism sector in India is also evidenced by the entry of a large number of startups which provide end-to-end services for travellers including help with finding the most-suitable hospital and doctor.

Further, they also provide support to medical tourists for additional aspects such as planning their travel and stay in the country as well as securing the visa and necessary financial aid, if required. The startups enter into tie-ups with hospitals, doctors and various other service providers to offer travellers an all-inclusive package.

Given the disruptions to travel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is likely to be considerable pent-up demand for medical tourism services.

It is, therefore, an opportune time for India to invest in and strengthen its medical tourism sector.

Continued investments in building world-class hospital facilities with modern diagnostics and medical equipment are the need of the hour.

It is crucial for such facilities to be made available not only in the large urban centres but also in smaller cities across the country in order to maximise the potential for medical value travel.

Public-private partnerships may be leveraged for the same.

Further, adequate investments need to be made in infrastructure so that tourists have comfortable and affordable places to stay during the course of their treatment.

Standardisation and accreditation of health facilities will also play a key role in building credibility and attracting medical tourists from across the world, including Europe and America.

With heightened demand in the post-Covid world and efforts from the government in making medical tourism a policy priority, India is well placed to become a leading global hub for medical value travel.

This will not only enable India to deliver quality health services for large numbers of people but will also generate valuable employment opportunities in the country.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.

Director, Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office, NITI Aayog.
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