India has been long known as the land of snake charmers and spices. Being a culturally rich country has put India on the international map of medicine for its Alternative therapies and remedies for many fatal diseases. Thus, its also one of the favoured destination for Medical tourism. Studies estimate that India could earn a revenue of $1 - $2 billion by the year 2012, for outsourcing its Medical facilities.
India churns out approximately 20,000 to 30,000 doctors and nurses each year apart from computer professionals and engineers. The National Health Policy in India legally considers the services given to patients in lieu of foreign exchange as an "export" and makes the same “eligible for all fiscal incentives extended to export earnings.” It recognizes the flourishing Medical Tourism industry and provides for facilitation of its growth.
Foreign patients from the UK, USA Canada and Middle East come to India for various medical treatments. The doctors in Indian hospitals have the required expertise, technology and research at their disposal. Some of them have also been to foreign pastures and come back to practice in India. Many hospitals are also getting the US Joint Commission International accreditation to dispel doubts in foreign patients and offer them quality service. One can say that Medical Tourism is indirectly promoting better health care facilities in the country.
India also benefits due to the existence of Indian Diasporas across the world. A homecoming is often coupled with medical treatments and surgeries. The benefits on offer, apart from price are getting care at home, support form relatives, known or recommended doctors and the ability to rest in peace in the country one has grown up or is born in.
According to research, every 5th doctor in the world is an Indian, thus acknowledging their expertise and putting patients from abroad at ease. The success rate of some complicated heart surgeries is also higher in India as compared to other countries. India is also considered as a leader in biotechnology research and is also progressing in the area of stem cell research.
The medical care facilities offered by hospitals in India include joint replacements, heart bypasses, cataract operations, gallstone removal, open-heart surgery, pediatric heart surgery, hip and knee replacement, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, bone marrow transplants and cancer therapy.
Complex treatments like hip resurfacing are also on offer, which are uncommon elsewhere. For example, hip resurfacing surgeries have recently been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The doctors there do not have the necessary exposure in such treatments. However, the treatment has been conducted by Indian doctors for many years and they are better equipped to perform complicated hip resurfacing surgeries.
Indian Pharmaceutical organizations meet the strict requirements of U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Indian hospitals are equipped with the latest electronic and medical diagnostic equipment. Reports state that the medical tourism in India is growing by 30 percent every year and its also making a foray into the area of "medical outsourcing".
Alternative therapies like the knowledge of Ayurveda are often combined with Western medicine to offer better treatments and overall well-being.
However, social activists are not too happy with the concept of Medical Tourism. According to them, in the greed of attracting foreign patients and currency, the doctor population has been concentrated to urban developments. The rural sector is neglected and often the costs of treatments soar so high that it’s unaffordable for the Indian patients.
Hospitals receive government subsidies and aid in the disguise of Medical Tourism and ring in more profits, widening the economic gap among different strata’s of the society.
An “internal brain drain” is promoted by Medical tourism, encouraging medical specialists to join corporate run hospitals and make science a profit making business.
The only deterrents to Medical tourism boom in India are poor air connectivity, bad road infrastructure, low quality accommodations facilities and absence of uniform quality standards.
Some of the hospital networks facilitating medical tourism packages are:
One of the biggest hospitals chains in India, it also leads in the area of Medical tourism. The Apollo Hospital Enterprises treated an estimated 60,000 overseas patients in the last couple of years. It provides overnight computer services for U.S. insurance companies and hospitals and is also working with pharmaceutical corporations for drug trials. It’s also making a foray into medical outsourcing and is anticipating tie-ups with Britain's National Health Service and hospitals in Kuwait, Sri Lanka and Nigeria.
In totality they have around 37 hospitals to boast off and is also pioneering remote, satellite-linked telemedicine across India. It provides for free medical facilities to the financially challenged and has also set up a trust for the same.
It attracts patients from East Africa, Gulf (Oman and Yemen) and South Asia (Bangladesh and Nepal) and has a dedicated team catering to the Medical Tourism demand.
It has tied up with the travel company SITA, for a joint project to launch SITA Care and market hospital packages on foreign lands. It has also inaugurated its first international Apollo health and lifestyle Ltd (AHLL) clinic at Doha. It will serve as a telemedicine and information center along with doing initial investigations for patients wishing to avail health services.
Escorts Heart and Research Institute:
A hospital known for heart operations, situated in the capital city of Delhi. It performs approximately 15,000 heart operations every year with a mortality rate of 0.8 percent, which is less than most hospitals in the US can boast off. It has also doubled the number of overseas patients from 675 in 2000 to 1,200 and the count is ever increasing.
According to the CEO of the institution, approximately 1400 overseas patients came to the hospital for various medical treatments. Majority of them underwent complicated procedures like joint replacements, heart or spine surgeries and various elective remedies. Most of the patients traveled from developing countries, however there were also patients from western regions.
The hospital network is also a partner of the Harvard Medical International (HMI) in Boston, USA. They jointly operate a chain of specialty hospitals offering the latest in technology, infrastructure, procedures, specialized doctors, patient care and post surgery follow-up. They have their networks in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkatta, and Nagpur.
B. M. Birla Heart Research Centre:
Located in Calcutta, it is a super specialty hospital for the diagnosis, treatment and research related to cardio-vascular diseases. An advanced heart care centre treats patients from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Mauritius, Hongkong, Kenya and other neighbouring countries. The centre specialises in cardiac surgery, especially promoting research on reconstructive operations on infants.