India is a vast country with its own set of achievements and requirements in various sectors. Its healthcare sector is also among the top reasons why hundreds of thousands medical tourists visit the nation every year for their elective medical surgeries. India’s medical tourism is both affordable and accessible and now with the inclusion of technology and big data, it has increased the influx of tourists to create medical value travel in India. According to data, around 697,453 foreign tourists came for medical treatment in India in the year 2019. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, following which lockdowns were imposed and flights were abruptly canceled between various Asian and African countries, this number saw a dip. But the total tourist inflow can be seen picking up gradually now. With the removal of lockdowns and travel restrictions across borders globally, Indian medical tourism seeks progress in several critical cases like organ transplants and other severe cases. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Amit Sharma, Founder and CEO at eExpedise Healthcare talked about medical tourism in India, health-tech and more. Excerpts:
How do you see Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission connecting travellers across the country through technology will help boost India inbound tourism?
To uplift medical tourism, the Government of India announced a program called Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, a proficient, accessible, comprehensive, affordable, convenient and safe way. ABDM can have many benefits for a medical tourist and will broadly help the travel as well as healthcare industry in the long run. The program will give access to patient’s healthcare records for accurate medical procedures, facilitating the best post-op procedure and subsequent meetups. It has the potential for enabling migrant patients to visit any authorized medical clinic in the country for an examination. It will provide the majority of medical tourists, particularly those visiting for minor treatments to explore the rich cultural heritage of India without missing their post operational care and progress.
What are your views on India emerging as hub of ‘medical Tourism’ with Initiatives Like Ayushman Bharat?
India has been aiding the medical needs of global citizens worldwide with a very well-structured inexpensive provisioning of medical assistance and supervision. India has been a reliable destination hub for over a decade in medical tourism. The various factors that attract medical tourists to India are high-quality treatment, low cost, and English-speaking medical staff. The digital initiative Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will play a crucial role in addressing the challenges of emerging technology. All the components of ABDM conform to open standards, interoperable and based on open source development, and ensure the security, confidentiality, and privacy of health-related personal information.
How do you see growth of the health system of the country? PM Modi mentioned that “Our doctors’ efforts and dedication are admired by people across the globe which has built faith in foreigner’s patients and travellers to visit India for the right treatment and return happily to their counties.”
As a country with a long-pending overhaul of the healthcare structure, we had a firsthand experience of the impact of the pandemic on the medical workforce and society in general. Today India is working on a health model that is holistic and inclusive. We are optimistic that the digital mission will act as a driving force to bring in efficiencies, optimize operations at medical facilities and improve the patient experience. People would share their medical records with caregivers, allowing doctors to provide quality care remotely.
With Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, do you think India can dream big of a high-quality domestic healthcare system that manages scale and convenience and contribute to an international ecosystem where India can become the hub for telemedicine, health tourism and digitally enabled treatment for India and the world?
Soon India can desire a high-quality domestic healthcare system that operates scale and comfort and contribute to a global ecosystem where India can become the hub for telemedicine, health tourism, and digitally-enabled treatment for India and the globe. With access to relevant health records at any time and from any location, the doctor can perform proper predictive diagnosis allowing for on-time treatment. Digital modification of healthcare helps to decrease health imbalances. The essence of healthcare is universal, and the world is on an expedition towards inexpensive healthcare. Technology will enable the sacred relationship between a doctor and the patient. Healthcare is now so central that countries will persuade it as a friendly destination for their policies in ensuring a healthy workforce.
What are the challenges for Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission in India?
It would be beneficial to glance at the contemporary challenges in the Indian healthcare system that are acting as roadblocks.
- Lack of proper infrastructure: For a long time, India struggled with the problem of insufficient infrastructure in the form of the lack of well-equipped medical institutes. The rate of construction of such medical teaching or institutions remains low as to the urgent requirement.
- Shortage of trained workforce: The ratio of doctors to victims remains extremely low. In India, the scale is a mere 0.7 doctors per 1000 people. The process of bridging this gap would necessitate a sustained effort through capacity building of existing medical institutes and the establishment of new ones.
- Privacy of data and Interoperability: While each state government has electronic health systems that could be effective, a final master system for the whole country will need better connectivity and a much more advanced cloud infrastructure.