Ayurveda, Eggs, Molars & Joints: The Indian Medical Tourism Story

Medical Tourism is a concept where a patient travels to another country for medical treatment in order to save costs, or get treatment faster or even to avail of better medical facilities. Most patients from countries like USA and UK travel to developing countries such as India for treatment because India offers some of the cheapest pricing options of treatment, offers a good holiday, there are no waiting lists or queues to stand in, the doctors are comparable to anyone in the world and finally, language does not pose a problem as most people speak English. In ancient Greece, pilgrims and patients came from all over the Mediterranean to the sanctuary of the healing god, Asklepios, at Epidaurus. In Roman Britain, patients took the waters at a shrine at Bath, a practice that continued for 2,000 years. From the 18th century wealthy Europeans traveled to spas from Germany to the Nile. In the 21st century, relatively low-cost jet travel has taken the industry beyond the wealthy and desperate.
The Indian medical tourism is a developing concept whereby people from the world over visit India for their medical and relaxation needs. Most common treatments are heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery, Donor Egg IVF/Surrogacy and dental care. The reason India is a favorable destination is because of it’s infrastructure and technology in which it is at par with those in USA, UK and Europe. India has some of the best hospitals and treatment centers in the world with the best facilities. Since it is also one of the most favorable tourist destinations in the world, medication combined with tourism has come into effect, from which the concept of Medical Tourism is derived. As health care costs skyrocket, patients in the developed world are looking overseas for medical treatment. India is capitalizing on its low costs and highly trained doctors to appeal to these “medical tourists.” Even with airfare, the cost of going to India for surgery can be markedly cheaper, and the quality of services is often better than that found in the United States and UK. Indeed, many patients are pleased at the prospect of combining their tummy tucks with a trip to the Taj Mahal. Price advantage is, of course, a major selling point. The slogan, thus is, “First World treatment’ at Third World prices”. The cost differential across the board is huge: only a tenth and sometimes even a sixteenth of the cost in the West. Open-heart surgery could cost up to $70,000 in Britain and up to $150,000 in the US; in India’s best hospitals it could cost between $3,000 and $10,000. Knee surgery (on both knees) costs 350,000 rupees ($7,700) in India; in Britain this costs £10,000 ($16,950), more than twice as much. IVF treatments in Western countries cost three to four times as much as in India.
Some estimates say that foreigners account for 10 to 12 per cent of all patients in top Mumbai hospitals despite roadblocks like poor aviation connectivity, poor road infrastructure and absence of uniform quality standards. Analysts say that as many as 150,000 medical tourists came to India last year. The reasons patients travel for treatment vary. Many medical tourists from the United States are seeking treatment at a quarter or sometimes even a 10th of the cost at home. From Canada, it is often people who are frustrated by long waiting times. From Great Britain, the patient can’t wait for treatment by the National Health Service but also can’t afford to see a physician in private practice. For others, becoming a medical tourist is a chance to combine a tropical vacation with elective or plastic surgery. And more patients are coming from poorer countries such as Bangladesh where treatment may not be available. Countries that actively promote medical tourism include Cuba, Costa Rica, Hungary, India, Israel, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia and Thailand. Belgium, Poland and Singapore are now entering the field. South Africa specializes in medical safaris-visit the country for a safari, with a stopover for plastic surgery, a nose job and a chance to see lions and elephants.
India is considered the leading country promoting medical tourism-and now it is moving into a new area of “medical outsourcing,” where subcontractors provide services to the overburdened medical care systems in western countries. India’s National Health Policy declares that treatment of foreign patients is legally an “export” and deemed “eligible for all fiscal incentives extended to export earnings.” Government and private sector studies in India estimate that medical tourism could bring between $1 billion and $2 billion US into the country by 2012. The reports estimate that medical tourism to India is growing by 30 per cent a year. And I believe that gynecologists will just watch this opportunity rush past unless we intervene & interact with the government.

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One response to “Ayurveda, Eggs, Molars & Joints: The Indian Medical Tourism Story

  1. I’m an uninsured U.S. senior citizen and had to seek affordable medical care for my severely injured rotator cuff. My search and it’s result in using a medical concierge service is too long to post here, but is described near the bottom of the page in this link to my testimonial: Rotator Cuff Repair.
    Please be aware that I’m not an employee of, or being compensated in any way by the organization that assisted me so well; I only want to inform those hapless uninsured citizens like myself that there’s hope for finding quality, affordable medical care.
    Sincerely,
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