CHEAP HEALTHCARE BOOSTING INDIA'S TOURISM INDUSTRY-HOSPITALS TREAT PATIENTS FOR A FRACTION OF AMERICAN COSTS. Medical tourism is likely to be the next major foreign exchange earner for India as an increasing number of patients, unwilling to accept long queues in Europe or high costs in the US, are traveling to the country to undergo surgery, according to a media report. "Medical Tourism" is on the rise with more people from the United States, Europe and the Middle East seeking Indian hospitals as a cheap and safe alternative", says an article in an upcoming issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine. Instead of paying USD 200,000 dollars for a mitral valve surgery in the US, a patient could travel to India and receive the same treatment for USD 6,700 dollars. Similarly, rather than paying 15,000 pounds Sterling for hip resurfacing in the UK, a patient can get the same procedure for 5,000 pounds in India, including surgery, airfare and hotel stay, the magazine says. HEALTH TOURISM DRAWS MORE FOREIGNERS TO INDIA. The fitness bug has caught up with holiday goers too, and the hotspots are those places that cut a healthy deal. India is a land of renewals, rebirths and reincarnation. The ancient Vedic texts of India are rich with the knowledge of rejuvenation. But the Indian tourism industry is just about realising the payback that this USP can offer. Last year, out of 2.5 million visitors to the country, about 12 per cent opted for health tours. This year, the industry expects to double that figure. Says Dr.Dheeraj Bhojwani-CEO of FORERUNNERS HEALTHCARE- "We have tied up with various Travel agents across the globe who send patients to our consultancy on regular basis. Wockhardt Hospital and the Heart Institute in Bangalore started getting referral patients six years ago. According to Vishal Bali, its Vice-President, "We are the only hospital in South Asia to be recognised by the US-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance Company." Which means anyone holding this insurance policy can automatically get into any of the Wockhardt hospitals. During their stay, patients get all the facilities that any ordinary tourist would: Manipal Hospital boasts of a travel desk, a currency exchange facility and accommodation for families of patients. It even offers an escort service for the patient's family for the entire stay period. MEDICAL TOURISM IN INDIA GETTING ORGANIZED. Medical tourism in India is not just growing at 30% a year, it is also luring in people from the West. As a result, the segment is now getting more organised with the emergence of medical tour firms, reports CNBC-TV18.
It is thanks to such firms that Maalim Abdi, a 48-year-old businessman from Kenya, is breathing easy, though he is far away from home. Abdi flew to Mumbai a few weeks ago to undergo a bypass surgery at Wockhardt Hospital.
These hospitals boast the latest diagnostic equipment and surgical techniques. These, combined with a large team of experienced doctors with a high degree of specialisation at a price that is exceptionally affordable make them an attractive proposition for most foreigners. MEDICAL TOURISM-WINNING HEARTS OVERSEAS. IF Noor, the little Pakistani girl who came to India for her operation, caught the fancy of the nation — the healthcare industry is just as delighted, as it has put the spotlight on the emerging concept of "medical tourism". And if the healthcare industry gets its act right, there is an estimated Rs 1,500crore potential waiting out there - besides, of course, winning hearts overseas. Healthcare and tourism may seem quite an odd couple, but it is not an entirely new concept. "People have already been coming for rejuvenation packages to Kerala or Goa. The effort now is to institutionalize and re-route patients from foreign markets to Indian hospitals — it works out to one-fifth the UK rates or one-tenth US prices. A patient can even enjoy the facilities of a hotel, for instance, during the recuperation period or post-operative care," a healthcare official told Business Line. But is it only the 20-million strong Indian Diaspora that flocks back home for treatment? "Indian surgeons are internationally reputed. Initially, it was nonresident Indians who traveled to India. Once the word gets around, trust builds and foreigners would also begin to come over," points out Dr. Dheeraj Bhojwani Chief Executive Officer of Forerunners Healthcare Consultants. Meanwhile, Indian medical institutions are already seeing patients from West Asia, Africa, and European countries. Other countries on the medical tourism radar include Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Mauritius, and Seychelles. According to the McKinsey study on healthcare, the medical tourism industry could generate revenues to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore 100 billion by 2012. UK PATIENT BYPASSES THE NHS WAITING LIST AND FLIES TO INDIA FOR HEART BYPASS. HEALTH TOURISM TO INDIA IS THE FUTURE. Three months ago George Marshall fretted about the choice offered by his doctor in Britain. Diagnosed with coronary heart disease, the violin repairer from Bradford was told he could either wait up to six months for a heart bypass operation on the National Health Service or pay £19,000 to go under the scalpel immediately.
In the end, Mr Marshall chose to outsource his operation to India. Last month he flew 5,000 miles to the southern Indian city of Bangalore where surgeons at the Wockhardt hospital and heart institute took a piece of vein from his arm to repair the thinning arteries of his heart. The cost was £4,800, including the flight. "Everyone's been really great here. I have been in the NHS and gone private in Britain in the past, but I can say that the care and facilities in India are easily comparable," says Mr Marshall, sitting in hospital-blue pyjamas. "I'd have no problem coming again." "Once I knew others had come I thought, why not? In Europe hospitals in Germany and Belgium would do the operation for less than doctors in Britain. But Europe was still more expensive than here. And the staff speak English in India."