Sunday, August 10, 2008

Health Tourism: India Marching Ahead

Health tourism can be broadly defined as provision of 'cost effective' private medical care in collaboration with the tourism industry for patients needing surgical and other forms of specialized treatment. This process is being facilitated by the corporate sector involved in medical care as well as the tourism industry - both private and public. It is a developing concept whereby patients travel from one country to another country for medical treatment in order to save costs, or get treatment faster or even to avail of better medical facilities. It has become a common form of vacationing, and covers a broad spectrum of medical services. It mixes leisure, fun and relaxation together with wellness and healthcare. People desirous of seeking such treatments need to contact either the medical centers of such countries or the travel agencies who work in conjunction with some medical centers to provide healthcare tourism services. Among the various healthcare tourism destinations, India, Singapore and Thailand have emerged as most the popular ones. With cutting edge technology in the health care sector at disposal, India now has the wherewithal to offer comprehensive medical solutions to the world and is poised to become the preferred global healthcare destination. The Apollo Group, Escorts Hospitals in New Delhi and Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai are to name a few which are established names even abroad. Corporate hospitals such as Global Hospitals, CARE and Dr L.V. Prasad Eye Hospitals in Hyderabad, The Hindujas and NM Excellence in Mumbai, also have built capabilities and are handling a steadily increasing flow of foreign patients. In fact, India has much more expertise than Thailand or Malaysia. India's healthcare industry is growing at 30 per cent annually and the Apollo group alone has so far treated 95,000 international patients, many of whom are of Indian origin. If estimates are to be believed at, the medical tourism industry will be worth US $2 billion by 2012. India is providing “first-class service at a third-world price”, citing the low death rate for coronary bypass operations as evidence of quality healthcare. The immense potential of the industry has resulted in more healthcare investments in such countries offering the service. The Indian government is leaving no stones unturned to make it a global healthcare destination. The government is offering one-year medical service visa as an incentive to international patients who come to India for treatments and plans to collaborate with private sector to promote “Internationally Competitive” doctors and make India the medical service center for the world.

Undoubtedly the medical tourism industry in India has had a brilliant run in the past and is expected to maintain the momentum, but the market of health tourism still lies highly unveiled and is still in a very nascent stage. Apart from countries like Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, etc who are offering their services, some of the Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, Philippines are all big players in the market. India however has some distinct advantages which guarantees preference above many of its’ competitors in the continent. Prospective consumers are still not very clear on what exactly is on offer and at which destinations. Efficient marketing techniques and awareness can create a favorable environment for the medical tourism sector and provide an opportunity to avail superior quality medical treatments at fair rates.

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