Medical tourism in India
Medical tourism is a growing sector in India. India’s medical tourism sector is expected to experience an annual growth rate of 30%, making it a $2 billion industry by 2015. As medical treatment costs in the developed world balloon - with the United States leading the way - more and more Westerners are finding the prospect of international travel for medical care increasingly appealing. An estimated 150,000 of these travel to India for low-priced healthcare procedures every year.
Advantages for medical treatment in India include reduced costs, the availability of latest medical technologies, and a growing compliance on international quality standards, as well as the fact that foreigners are less likely to face a language barrier in India. The Indian government is taking steps to address infrastructure issues that hinder the country's growth in medical tourism. The government has removed visa restrictions on tourist visas that required a two-month gap between consecutive visits for people from Gulf countries which is likely to boost medical tourism. A visa-on-arrival scheme for tourists from select countries has been instituted which allows foreign nationals to stay in India for 30 days for medical reasons. In Noida, which is fast emerging as a hotspot for medical tourism, a number of hospitals have hired language translators to make patients from Balkan and African countries feel more comfortable while at the same time helping in the facilitation of their treatment.
Confederation of Indian Industry reported that 150,000 medical tourists came to India in 2005, based on feedback from the organization's member hospitals. The number grew to 200,000 by 2008. A separate study by ASSOCHAM reported that the year 2011 saw 850,000 medical tourists in India and projected that by 2015 this number would rise to 3,200,000.
Most estimates claim treatment costs in India start at around a tenth of the price of comparable treatment in America or Britain. The most popular treatments sought in India by medical tourists are alternative medicine, bone-marrow transplant, cardiac bypass, eye surgery and hip replacement. India is known in particular for heart surgery, hip resurfacing and other areas of advanced medicine.
Lower treatment cost does not necessarily mean lower healthcare standards. There are 21 JCI accredited hospitals in India and growing. However, for a patient traveling to India, it is important to find the optimal Doctor-Hospital combination. After the patient has been treated, the patient has the option of either recuperating in the hospital or at a paid accommodation nearby. Many hospitals also give the option of continuing the treatment through telemedicine.
Recently, patients from countries like Afghanistan have started to travel to India for treatment in large numbers and this is expected to grow even further. The Indian healthcare industry is estimated to double in value to $6 billion by 2018. Companies like Surgery Assistance India and other companies and individuals working in this field see growing opportunities and the patients get more option for treatment in India.
The medical tourism industry in India has been hit badly by the political scenario in countries like Iraq which is a big source of patients for the Indian hospitals. The Ebola outbreak in Africa has also served a blow to the industry as India has a huge inflow of patients from the African continent. The political situation in Pakistan has also affected the inflow of patients to India.
The city of Chennai has been termed India's health capital. Multi- and super-specialty hospitals across the city bring in an estimated 150 international patients every day. Chennai attracts about 45 percent of health tourists from abroad arriving in the country and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. Factors behind the tourists inflow in the city include low costs, little to no waiting period, and facilities offered at the specialty hospitals in the city. The city has an estimated 12,500 hospital beds, of which only half is used by the city's population with the rest being shared by patients from other states of the country and foreigners. Dental clinics have attracted dental care tourism to Chennai
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