OPINIONS

Changing Landscape of Medical Tourism in India

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

by Swapna Supekar

Medical tourism is rapidly gaining traction in global healthcare industry, wherein costs of biomedical procedures and surgical operations are tied up with travel and tourism spending. While the term “medical tourism” has been coined by mass media and tourism agencies to describe speedily increasing practice of travelling across international borders to avail high quality and effective medical treatment, the growing inclination of patients towards this option has deemed medical tourism a reliable support to a country’s economy. Several Asian economies such as Malaysia, Thailand and India are aggressively promoting medical tourism. The medical tourism particularly in India has been increasing at faster pace and a number of private hospitals are focusing on opportunely exploiting this trend.

Swapna Supekar

Swapna Supekar

India attracts international patients from more than 50 countries including neighbours — Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Malaya, Mauritius, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Developed economies such as Australia, the UK, Canada, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Scotland, Holland, France, Argentina, and the US are also exhibiting a growing influx of outbound medical tourists to India. Flock of patients from Tanzania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Senegal, and Seychelles, are also frequently visiting India to seek effective treatment.

In some countries, medical treatments are expensive and waiting periods for the treatments are very long, while in other parts of the world, access to proper treatment remains nascent. A collective result of these two factors drives patients to India’s healthcare marketplace. Additionally, India is considered as a country that provides first-world medical treatment at third-world prices. Surveys reveal that almost all treatments in India are carried out at one-tenth of the cost as compared to developed healthcare markets such as the US. According to Future Market Insights, the medical tourism market in India touched $6.6 billion value by the end of 2016. It has been forecasted that by the end of 2020, India’s medical tourism market will be worth over $18 billion, reflecting an annual value growth of approximately 28 percent.

Key Offerings of Indian Medical Tourism Industry

India’s medicinal culture dates back to more than 5000 years, and the country is prominently identified for its traditions towards leading a healthy lifestyle. While modern medicine has fairly penetrated India’s healthcare sector, several medical practitioners continue to practice Ayurveda, Siddha and other indigenous healthcare traditions across the country. Growing popularity of these indigenous healthcare traditions in effectively treating modern day ailments continues to attract the attention of patients from different parts of the world.

With respect to medical tourism, India is recognized as key zone for delivering test-tube babies through IVF (in vitro fertilization), and is also famous for surrogacy services. On the other hand, India caters to high-tech paediatric, cardiac, orthopaedic, cosmetic and dental surgical services, and is a key developer of traditional healing systems. Surgical services that are largely provided in India’s medical tourist market include hip replacement (typically orthopaedic), knee joint replacement, bone marrow transplant, cosmetic surgery, and bypass surgery, among others. Relatively cheaper medical costs (compared to other economies), quality care, package treatment deals from the hospitals and tourism sector players, have also emerged as the key attractions of Indian medical tourism.

Factors Influencing Growth of Indian Medical Tourism Market

The growth of the Indian medical tourism market has been attributed to a number of factors such as:

• Availability of skilled specialists and physicians, most of whom have international experience as well as domestic familiarity
• Steadfast application of latest medical technologies, internationally accepted medical supplies, and high-quality implants
• No waiting time for international patients
• Existence of multi-specialty hospitals in key cities of India
• Improved quality of treatment and services as well as strong value proposition on cost
• International banking as well as widespread utilization of cashless money
• Rampant expansion of local insurance market, coupled with rising tie-ups among international travel/medical insurance providers and local insurers

However, some factors are restricting the expansion of medical tourism in India:

• Lack of coordinated efforts to nurture the evolving healthcare industry
• Absence of reliable government initiatives
• No certification mechanism for hospitals predominantly treating medical tourists
• Absence of uniform standards and policies across different hospitals

Key Stakeholders

Some of the leading medical service providers in India’s medical tourism market include Escorts Hospitals, Mallya Hospitals, Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute, Fortis Hospitals, Hinduja Hospital, Arvind Eye Hospitals, Breach Candy Hospital, Manipal Hospitals, Sankara Nethralaya, and Apollo Hospitals. With respect to their intensity within India, a majority of health tourists are treated in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi. These cities are widely observed as medical tourism hubs in India.

Along with India, several other countries are promoting medical tourism by creating a robust healthcare marketplace. Jordan, Thailand, Singapore, Belgium, Hungary, South Korea, Brazil, Bolivia, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Malaysia are among the key emerging medical tourism markets in the world, where private hospitals are attracting foreign patients by luring them with affordable healthcare.

Source: Future Market Insights

Swapna Supekar is Sr Digital Marketing Consultant at Future Market Insights.

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