India’s rise as hub of medical tourism

The Indian medical tourism industry is growing at 18% CAGR year on year and is expected to be worth 9 billion by 2020. Currently, it has nearly 18% of the global medical tourism market and is expected to be 20% by 2020. India received 4.95 medical travellers in 2017.

The country offers a complete bouquet of healthcare services at an affordable price to the world. Highly skilled doctors and medical professionals, world class hospital infrastructure, cost-effective treatment and personalised care are some of the reasons for the fast growth of medical tourism industry in India.

Additionally, apart from the fact that the country has shown the fastest adoption of recent medical technology, it is also one of the largest English-speaking nations.

Medical travel industry has come a long way. A decade ago, a patient used to travel across the border for affordable healthcare. However patients are now choosing a destination which offers the complete package of quality treatment, ease of communication and travel as well as competitive pricing.

Today, people consider themselves global citizens and are accessing services, especially medical treatment services, from across the world. However, current environment in some countries constrains such a practice. Thus, ease of travel and accessibility becomes a key driver for choosing a destination for medical tourism.

There are several factors that influence medical tourism, the critical one being quality of medical care. India has over 500+ accredited healthcare providers (JCI and NABH) and uses world class technologies on a par with the western world.

Indian doctors are known for their excellence across the globe. One study reveals that over 10% of the doctors practising in the UK and US are Indian. Besides the availability of advanced medical technology and modern hospitals, most of the medical care facilities and hospitals are staffed by experienced healthcare professionals who are proficient in the latest medical treatment methods.

Medical travellers visiting India for healthcare can save up to 50% of the cost that they might spend if they travelled to a developed western country to avail the same treatment. Cost of treatment in India is approximately 40% less than that in any developed western countries without compromising on quality of care.

Cost of living in India is 66.54% lower than in the US (aggregate data for all cities, rent is not considered). Rent in India is 85.47% lower than in US (average data for all cities). Patients always travel with attendants and may require to stay for a longer period of time both before and after the medical treatment. This is also one of the important factors that decides the feasibility of a medical travel destination.

Easing the process

Medical visa norms in the country have been simplified to ensure a hassle-free travel, stay and treatment for the medical patient and attendant. The medical visa offers multiple entry and long term stay for medical care. The Union government also recently launched e-medical visa to further ease the process.

India is claimed to be the second largest English-speaking country and also has a good number of interpreters which helps ease the process for medical travellers and their attendants. Moreover, the country is known for offering alternate medicines and has certified and accredited wellness and Ayurveda centres.

Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old system of natural healing with origins in the Vedic culture of India, has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world. The AYUSH Industry is estimated to be worth $10 billion and is expected to grow to $25 billion by 2020.

India is home to foodies and offers a variety of cuisines from across the globe. Getting to eat the food of your choice is today just a click of a button away, thank to food delivery apps. Food is also one of the key deciding factors for medical travellers and attendants.

The country has understood the significance and immense potential for medical tourism to thrive in the global market. Through initiatives such as launching incentive schemes for healthcare providers and promoting them in international events, an effective public-private partnership is emerging in the sector.

This, along with the cost benefits and localised resource advantages, is strengthening India’s position as a high potential hub in the medical tourism market.

(The writer is Group CEO, eExpedise)