India has been a medical tourism destination for over a decade now as a lot of people come to India every year for medical treatment. Most of the people coming are generally from Asian and African countries. A small number of people also come from so-called bubble countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. 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 cancelled 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 a number of critical cases like organ transplants and other severe cases.
According to Amit Sharma – Founder and CEO, eExpedise – India stands on 6th rank in the medical tourism industry, the quality of its medical services has catapulted its image immensely as a developed nation.
“The statistics show the year 2017 was remarkable for Indian medical tourism as it was able to generate Rs.1,77,874 crore foreign exchange earnings. Medical industry giants are making financial investments to extend a dedicated institutional framework to promote wellness tourism in the country,” Sharma said.
Things are now likely to change for good in terms of medical tourism for India in the post-Covid era. This is because of the way India handled the pandemic. During the current pandemic, the doctors, hospitals, and paramedical staff have performed their duties diligently because of which the ratio of the total number of cases over the deceased cases has been less than 1.5%. Another important factor is that large numbers of health workers have received COVID-19 vaccines. This means that medical caregivers are safe and they will not be spreading the infection.
According to Prof. Ravi Mehrotra – Chief Executive Officer, ICMR-India Cancer Research Consortium – India can be the number one medical tourist destination in the coming days because it not only offers all the complex transplant surgery at a very affordable price but it also has to offer a traditional ayurvedic system of medicine which is effective in various chronic diseases.
“Recently around 21 patients from Myanmar and Burma were flown in on a charted flight for either kidney or liver transplant at Apollo Hospital. This shows that gradually the number of people coming for treatment is increasing. But unfortunate thing is that not all people can afford charted flights and this is why the number is relatively small. So this is the situation right now. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of interest among people regarding the traditional medicines of India – including the Ayurveda, immunity-boosting natural products, and yoga. People have an interest in naturopathic treatment. We should highlight the fact that these are helpful in treating people suffering from chronic illnesses,” said Prof Ravi Mehrotra.
Echoing the same view, the eExpedise CEO said, “One can easily corroborate the strength of alternative medicine system, Ayurveda, having its ancient roots in the Indian subcontinent. Significantly cultivated during the Vedic Period, the demand for India’s Ayurvedic medicine and treatments is soaring.”
How COVID is going to help India in becoming the No.1 Medical tourism destination?
Soon after the strike of COVID-19, India managed to manufacture its vaccination to defeat the pandemic instead of importing it from other countries. This shows the advancement in Technologies and Genetic Sciences that India has achieved so far.
Rajeev Taneja – Founder and MD of Global Care – said that India has a service-driven industry pattern and has everything to offer the patients will need in the post-pandemic era.
“COVID has given learning to everyone which is self-assessment and self-care. It is true that the medical industry had a huge impact because of Covid. However, India will be steadily growing again at a much higher pace as there is a large number of patients waiting for their treatment which is not available in their country. These patients can be chronic cases of kidney, liver, cardiovascular diseases or may have been waiting for organ transplants,” Taneja said.
What India Can Do To Boost Medical Tourism?
“There are three things that India can do to boost medical tourism in the post-COVID scenario. The first one is that we need to advertise in a better way about the facilities present in some of our major hospitals, which are on par if not better than facilities present in our target countries and that too at just about 10-20 per cent of the cost of what it would be costing in Europe and the US. So there needs to be more awareness. Secondly, just like we have COVID-19 Vaccine diplomacy, we should have medical tourism diplomacy and there we need to make out the high commission in various countries more sensitized about the medical tourism is not only a potential revenue earner but also a goodwill earner. Thirdly, but not of least importance, there should be some public-private partnership between hospitals for providing medical treatment will definitely be of great help. This is because there are several government hospitals where treatment is at par with private hospitals. Better coordination can be of great help,” said Prof Ravi Mehrotra.