4 things to know about India's next crown jewel, Medical Tourism

It is estimated that the volume of medical tourists worldwide could reach up to 5 million by 2016. Future of India's economic and healthcare could greatly depend on this vastly ignored area by the media.

Vijay Ramnath Jayaraman
Published: 16, Oct 2014

Vijay Ramnath Jayaraman is a healthcare management consultant. He helps hospital leaders across U.S. and India in dealing with financial challenges. He is a Global Shaper, a group of leaders under the age of 30 charged with catalyzing positive social change in their respective communities by World Economic Forum (WEF). He was recently chosen as a 2014 Carnegie New Leader by the Carnegie Council, New York. He is also a founding member of an Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) chapter. He has degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology and Anna University. At Forbes, Vijay focuses in the areas of politics, economics, and the business of healthcare in India and U.S. The views expressed on this site are his own and do not reflect those of his employer or clients. Please feel free to contact him directly @vijayramnath

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Image: Shutterstock

India is a huge magnet for attracting foreign patients for medical treatments. With general tourism on the rise, it is estimated that the volume of medical tourists worldwide could reach up to 5 million by 2016, attracting additional visitors to the country.

Medical tourism, more broadly health and wellness tourism, refers to the industry in which people from across the globe travel to other countries to get medical, dental and surgical care, and at the same time, visit the local attractions of that country. I want to share some of the key highlights of medical tourism in India–the next crown jewel–that could shape the future of India’s economy and health care.

1) Medical tourism market is estimated to be valued at $ 4 billion. Health care tourism has been a key growth sector for more than a decade. Growing insurance market, strong pharmaceutical industry, cheap international travel, and quality health care are increasingly making India a preferred tourist destination. India hosts about 1.27 million tourists from countries such as the US, UK, and Canada in addition to visitors from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and China.

This market includes secondary players from the tourism industry who greatly benefit from visitors to India. The government estimates that the growth of health-related services will be more than 5 percent for the next 10 years and that should further attract more such visitors. Major corporations such as Tata, Fortis, Max, Wockhardt, and Apollo Hospitals have made significant investments in setting up modern hospitals and tourism-related services to cater to the new brand of visitors from abroad.

2) Tourists come to India for economic reasons and market attractiveness. Clearly, there are economic advantages for choosing English-speaking India for certain procedures. For example, a heart bypass procedure costs roughly $140,000 without any insurance in the US. The same procedure, however, costs only around $7,000 or Rs 3 lakh at one of India’s leading surgery centres.  Procedures such as hip and knee replacement, face lift, and gastric bypass are far more affordable in India, including the cost of travel and accommodation, compared to the US. Moreover, these cosmetic procedures are not covered by most insurance providers in Western countries. India has many top-notch centres for open-heart surgery and paediatric heart surgeries which are equipped with the latest equipment that are on par with these Western countries. India is also acutely aware of the quality perceptions of its visitors; many Indian hospitals that cater to foreign tourists meet the requirements of US health standards like Food and Drug Administration and Joint Commission Accreditation for hospitals, hoping to fight this notion.

India is also home to a number of alternative medicine techniques such as Ayurveda, Sidha, Unani, Yoga, Acupuncture and Homeopathy which are very popular among foreigners. Such treatment opportunities give India the edge over its competitors like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and UAE.

3) Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi are top destinations for foreign visitors. Based on the government’s statistics of foreign tourists for 2010, more than 55 percent of visitors went to medical centres in these three states alone. Quality hotels, added tourism opportunities, and high-quality hospital care are the biggest reasons for this trend.

table

Source: Madras School of Economics

4) Infrastructure and better health-related investments will decide the future. While all trends point towards an increasing demand for medical services in India, some key factors will determine whether medical tourism becomes India’s next crown jewel, like our Information Technology industry. Here’s a list of some factors:

  •  Infrastructure investment by the government: The health industry as a whole has seen meagre growth as far as infrastructure is concerned. This has been primarily due to investments coming from the private players in the market. The government needs to step in and provide basic infrastructure services which will improve basic access to high quality centres.
  •  Reducing barriers for visiting India for medical purposes: Currently, foreigners need the “M-Visa” to come to India for medical purposes. Obtaining the visa is a huge barrier for medical tourists wanting to come here. India should consider offering visa-on-arrival type of services and partner with medical and tourism providers to streamline administrative processes.
  •  Raise quality standards to meet Western providers: Such partnerships will give confidence to foreign tourists to choose India over competitors like Malaysia and Singapore.
  •  Market health tourism in Western countries: With the ever-growing need for cheaper health care and complex health insurance offerings in the US and UK, Indian hospitals could target the neglected populations of those countries and draw them here to provide a cheaper alternative. This could be a boon for both the Western economies and India’s.

References

  • Government of India (2002), National Tourism Policy 2002, Ministry of Tourism, New Delhi.
  • Mckinsey – CII (2002), Healthcare in India – The Road Ahead, Mckinsey & Company, 2002
  • Government of India (2012), Economic Survey 2010-11, Ministry of Finance.
  • “Health Tourism – Destination India”, India Brand Equity Foundation (2011)
  • nagababu

    nice

    on Jul 5, 2016
  • Ravi Bhatia

    Medical Tourism in India is a Booming Industry, we Indians have really to take care our foreign Visitors in appropriate manner, & in all the aspects, provide them all the facilities which our guests expects from us. Moreover this Industry gave our Economy a big boost & increase our Tourism . Ravi Bhatia.

    on May 28, 2016
  • kiran

    Good blog about India

    on Apr 28, 2016
  • Prof. Pramod Karkera

    Nice blog. India is preferred destination for medical tourism for international travelers. The good thing is that it is adding value to Indian Economy. However the tourist should do good research before selecting the destination and proper planning is required to make your tour successful.

    on Jan 29, 2016
  • Asst Prof. Borse Sudhakar J.

    Medical Tourism is one of the most powerful industry in India This indeed is one of the strongest pillars of the commercial healthcare system of India. Developed infrastructure, Improved quality of medical treatment will be the prime expectation of the expats coming to India under the umbrella of medical tourism.

    on Jan 19, 2016
  • krishna

    Medical tourism may make India a major player in $3-trillion global healthcare industry, concludes an analysis by PHDCCI. It has been estimated that due to the facilities and services India offers, and by leveraging the brand equity of Indian healthcare professionals across the world, the nation is poised to pocket a major chunk of global healthcare industry in the coming years. And as per union minister, the Government will set up Medical Intelligence Tourism Board to facilitate inbound tourism and to generate new ideas for attracting more tourists including medical tourists. With greater number of hospitals getting accredited and receiving recognition, and greater awareness on the need to develop their quality to meet international standards, many states in India are preparing themselves on a mission to become India’s healthcare hub. In these progressive efforts, soon India is going to be a good hub for medical tourism. I have a good blog that well describes need and future of Medical tourism in India, sharing with you all.- https://www.wiwigo.com/blog/medical-tourism-in-india/

    on Jan 9, 2016
  • Affordable Dental Crowns In Windwood Ga

    [...] 4 things to know about India’s next crown jewel, Medical Tourism – dental and surgical care, and at the same time, visit the local attractions of that country. I want to share some of the key highlights of medical tourism in India–the next crown jewel–that could shape the future of India’s economy and health care. [...]

    on Oct 30, 2015
  • Rohit

    This indeed is one of the strongest pillars of the commercial healthcare system of india. Developed infrastructure, Improved quality of medical treatment will be the prime expectation of the expats coming to india under the umbrella of medicaal tourism. rohit www.healthoncall.in

    on Sep 10, 2015
  • Bhuwesh kumar

    I appreciate you for this article.....please share more information with us..

    on Jul 29, 2015
    • Rohit Sharma

      Nice article Bhuwnesh. But why there is a need of medical tourism in this era where almost all the facilities are available at our door steps. http://mewarorthopedic.hubpages.com/hub/WHY-THERE-IS-A-NEED-OF-MEDICAL-TOURISM

      on Sep 16, 2015
  • anil

    Hi Vijay, can you please guide me regarding this more. I want to enter in this area with a dedicated portal launch however i am not aware as how to start with and what preparations are required, if any approvals are reuired from govt. Regards

    on Jul 22, 2015
  • priyanka rawat

    i really liked your article.....the aspects were really good ..basic things builds the block so ...i will give it 8 out of 10...

    on Jul 11, 2015
  • Sasi

    Vijay, You are incorrect in classifying Medical Tourism as a combination of Health and Wellness Tourism. Wellness Tourism is an entirely different category of tourism which focuses on pro-active measures taken for wellness

    on Jun 11, 2015
  • Urvashi Sharma

    Hey Vijay, Thanks for the information. I was trying to look for more information and got this link. It has helped me to know more about this sector. I would appreciate if you can help me to understand it more and how to begin with. I will be very much thankful to you if you can provide me with your email address. Thanks again.

    on May 21, 2015
  • India emerges global hub for medical tourism | Creative India

    [...] touted as India’s crown jewel. And with very good reason. India is also home to a number of alternative medicine techniques such as Ayurveda, Sidha, Unani, Yoga, Acupuncture and Homeopathy which are very popular among [...]

    on Feb 22, 2015
  • Gavin McKinsey

    I am happy that someone talking about it. I know this is one of the under represented topics in the media today. Thanks for the update.

    on Oct 17, 2014
  • Sudhir S Rathore

    The article does not throw light on the subject in detail. It appears that the writer is writing an assay to be presented in a secondary school. The reference taken are too old 2002-2011, this is end of 2014. The industry is quite big in real and most of the patients who travel to India are not from developed world but developing nations. Hence the "Medical Tourism" is often named as "Medical Value travel".

    on Oct 17, 2014
    • Vijay Ramnath Jayaraman

      Sudhir, I think it is important to point out that the blog was written with a general audience who may not know much about the industry in mind. The idea came about after having multiple conversations with friends and colleagues who were genuinely curious, but did not know where to begin. The Mckinsey, CII, and Government of India articles are highly cited as a great starting point for someone who wants to dig a little deeper into the topic. I'd highly recommend it as it tries to propose how the industry will be shaped moving forward. I also think a general reader would benefit from exploring them as a next step. I do agree with your point on the visitors to India. It also appears that India attracts more heart related procedures than any other country. Each tourist destination appears to have its own specialty depending on economic advantages. Good luck and thanks for visiting us.

      on Oct 17, 2014
      • Gurbir S Khera B-School educator

        Cheers! Vijay...Great reply & it definitely gives a starting point to think & stragize to leverage & monetize the economic potential of medical tourism to India.

        on Oct 28, 2014
  • B.K.Singh

    The title of this blog has excited me to read with utmost care, mainly due to the reason that how medical can be connected with the tourism. But, the points and reationale provided in for sure very well connect the both. It make me proud to know that India is doing better and growing very fast to attract foreginers for medical treatments and health care services.

    on Oct 16, 2014
    • Vijay Ramnath Jayaraman

      Thanks for visiting us Mr. Singh.

      on Oct 17, 2014
      • priti doshi

        good Article. proud to know foreigners come to India for medical treatment. As per my Knowledge people come for dental treatment which is very costly in foreign countries. medical tourism should be encouraged as it is booming

        on Aug 9, 2016
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