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Medical tourism in India to grow

Medical tourism projections for India are looking rosier.

25 April, 2008

More and more from tourists from abroad are visiting India for medical treatment, giving a tremendous boost to what has come to be known as medical tourism.

In all, 150,000 medical tourists visited India in 2002, which earned the country close to $300 million. And, since 2002, the number of medical tourism guests to India has been rising each year by 25%. (Related story: Medical tourism in Kerala)

What is more, a report prepared by CII-McKinsey has projected medical tourism to earn India $2 billion in revenues by 2012.

The Planning Commission of India has appraised that India is attracting a large number of tourists not only from countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) but also non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the United states and the United Kingdom, thanks to the low costs as well as better quality of medical services offered.

A report prepared by the Planning Commission, in which costs of various medical procedures in various countries have been compared, says: “A heart bypass surgery would cost a patient $6,000 in India; the same surgery would cost the person $7,894 in Thailand, $10,417 in Singapore, $23,938 in the United States and $19,700 in the United Kingdom. While a heart-valve replacement surgery would cost a patient $10,000 in Thailand, $12,500 in Singapore, $200,000 in the United States and $90,000 in the United Kingdom, in India, the same procedure would cost just $8,000. A bone-marrow transplant would cost $30,000 in India – the cost for the procedure is anywhere between $250,000 and $400,000 in the United States and $150,000 in the United Kingdom. As for cosmetic surgery, the cost is $3,500 in Thailand, $20,000 in the United States and $10,000 in the United Kingdom; but in India, it costs only $2,000.”

“The hospitals established by private corporate players in India are world-class,” the Planning Commission’s report adds. “They not only have the latest medical technologies but also the services of Indian doctors and nurses with high degree of proficiency. The hospitals are completely equipped, upmarket and proficient and can measure up or even outshine any hospital in the West.”

The government of India, according to the report, is planning to provide visa facilities on priority basis to medical tourists. However, the unwillingness of insurance companies to cover treatment in India is the foremost hindrance to those coming from Britain and the United States for major surgeries.

Despite the insurance obstacles, the huge savings in costs involved in medical treatment in India is a great attraction for tourists. In fact, many hospitals are entering into agreement with international insurance companies so that foreign patients would still prefer medical treatment in India.

The Planning Commission’s report has highlighted the competitiveness India has in the field of medical tourism, thanks especially to the availability of alternative systems of medicine – in particular, Ayurveda.

“A large number of tourists, both domestic and foreign,” stresses the report, “undergo Ayurveda treatment not only for improving their fitness and well-being but also for curing many kinds of chronic diseases.”

The report singled out Kerala for commendation for the Ayurveda treatment the State offers.

The report was released by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, on April 9, 2008.

The Planning Commission has set up a high-level group to help the medical tourism sector sustain the growth by suggesting both short-term and long-term policies.






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