Indian medical tourism industry is expected to double to US$ 8 billion by FY2020 from US$ 3 billion in FY2015. With the healthcare costs in developed countries increasing, cost-consciousness among patients seeking treatment and availability of accredited facilities have given rise to many global medical tourism corridors like Thailand, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Costa Rica and Mexico. Among these global medical tourism corridors, India has the second largest number of accredited facilities. Majority of the medical tourists in India are from Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who dominate the Indian Medical Value Travel (MVT) with 34 per cent share. As per the report, Indian healthcare sector needs to explore the large opportunities in Africa, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) regions. In India, Chennai, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh (AP) and National Capital Region (NCR) are the most favoured medical tourism destinations. Currently, Kerala attracts 5 per cent of medical tourists and has the potential to increase its share to a 10-12 per cent, with focussed marketing.
The ministries of health, external affairs, tourism and culture are working to increase the number of medical tourists. The government provides online visas, multiple entries, extensions of stay, and accreditation to more hospitals. Several other measures are under way, according to the Indian Medical Association (IMA). “The government has improved the visa policy to make it patient friendly. There is no waiting time for foreign patients at hospitals,” said Radhey Mohan, vice president, international business development, at Apollo Hospitals. The chain received 170,000 foreign patients from 87 countries during 2016-17.
Medical tourists to India typically seek joint replacement surgeries, heart, liver and bone marrow transplants, spine and brain surgeries, cancer and kidney treatments, and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Patients from Africa and the Middle East access private healthcare in India due to lack of facilities and doctors back home. Medical tourists from Europe and the US come here for cosmetic surgeries that are not covered by insurance. “We do bariatric surgery at $6,000-8,000, while it costs around $15,000 in the US. Almost 15-20 per cent of our surgical patients are from other countries,” said Dr Sukhvinder Singh Saggu, practising laproscopic surgeon at Apollo Spectra New Delhi.
Non-resident Indians, persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and overseas citizens of India (OCIs) prefer to come here for IVF and gynaecology treatments. “They spend only 30 per cent of what it costs in the US or UK. Moreover, they have family support here,” said Dr Kamini Rao, medical director at Milann — The Fertility Centre.
AV Guruva Reddy, managing director of the Hyderabad-based Sunshine Hospitals, said the general standard of hygiene and technology in Indian medical facilities had improved. The number of foreign tourists coming to the country for medical purposes increased 50 per cent to 200,000 in 2016 from 130,000 in 2015. This number is expected to double in 2017 with several new initiatives like easier visas for medical tourists. The medical tourism industry is no doubt an exciting field to invest in due to high rising demand and growth rate.