Dr Darakhshan Andrabi
Medical tourism refers to people traveling abroad to obtain medical treatment. In the past, this usually referred to those who traveled from less-developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for treatment unavailable at home.
However, in recent years it may equally refer to those from developed countries who travel to developing countries for lower-priced medical treatments. With differences between the medical agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), etc., which decide whether a drug is approved in their country or region, or not, the motivation may be also for medical services unavailable or non-licensed in the home country.
Medical tourism is a thriving sector in India
India as a country has made rapid strides to become top destinations in terms of medical tourism.
An estimated 1.4 million medical tourists visited India in the past one year, according to Union minister of state for tourism Shripad Naik, as the country positions itself as a global health destination. Speaking at the second G20 Health Working Group Meeting in Goa a few months back, Naik called for a collaborative and sustainable global health strategy.
Medical tourism for many years has been a thriving sector in India. Medical Tourism in India, in mid-2020, was estimated to be worth around USD 9 billion which makes India stand at Number 10 in the Global Medical Tourism Index. Approximately 2 million patients visit India each year from 78 countries for medical, wellness and IVF treatments, generating $6 billion for the industry which is expected to reach $13 billion by 2026 backed by the government’s Heal in India initiative.
This not only generates jobs, profits and forex for hospitals but also creates very valuable soft power for India, positioning it as the Healing Center of the world. It also creates demand for high-end equipment, which results in continuous upgradation of Indian healthcare, resulting in a spiral of demand generating quality, generating more demand.
Top three Indian cities for medical tourism
There are top three destinations of India as far as medical tourism is considered.
One of the most well-liked locations in India for receiving medical care. According to research by the Confederation of Indian Industries, almost 40% of patients choose Chennai because of the city’s high standard of care. Chennai, the “health capital of India,” sees foreign patients annually for hip replacements, eye surgeries, cardiac bypasses, bone marrow transplants, and alternative medical procedures.
It is the city with India’s fastest expanding medical tourism industry, and is home to a number of super specialty hospitals as well as a Research and Diagnostic Center for orthopaedic and weight reduction procedures. Mumbai is also well-known for its Ayurvedic therapies and cosmetic surgery.
Numerous outstanding private hospitals, including ones that offer packages for general surgery, eye surgery, heart care, and neurosurgery to foreign patients, can be found in the nation’s capital.
India generated an income of USD 7,400 million through medical tourism over the last decade, and the figure is expected to rise to USD 43,500 million in the next 10 years, officials said.
The health sector in India has seen many private investments in the past five years, they said at the Indian Chamber of Commerce-organised BIMSTEC Health Forum .
We need to bear in mind that Health tourism is a wider term for travel that focuses on medical treatments and the use of healthcare services. It covers a wide field of health-oriented tourism ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment to rehabilitation and curative forms of travel. Wellness tourism is a related field.
All the facts and figures suggest that as an Independent country it is a proud moment for entire India and Indians that we have become a hub of medical tourism.
[Dr Darakhshan Andrabi is Chairperson, J&K Wakf Board with Minister of State (MoS) status]