Medical Tourism Industry in India
By Prof Dr Rohan Kesarkar, Assistant Professor, Healthcare Management, WeSchool, Mumbai
Medical tourism, also called medical value travel, can be defined as a visit by overseas patients for maintaining, improving or restoring health through medical intervention. It is basically seeking medical help outside the country of residence.
With globalization and easy access to information via digitization, people have become aware about better healthcare options and quality healthcare facilities across the globe. This has increased their tendency to travel to countries providing quality healthcare options but at affordable cost. The global medical tourism market scooped a revenue of around $58.6 billion in 2018 and estimated to surpass $142.2billion by 2026. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 40% of people desire medical tourism owing to the cutting-edge technology and easy access to medication. However, as per estimates, only ~11 million people travel annually to seek care abroad which is only ~1% of the estimated global tourist volume of 1 billion. Thus, there is immense potential for coupling medical care with tourism.
Rapid development in innovation and technology had made healthcare one of the fastest growing industries in India today. High quality healthcare service delivery, affordable cost, relatively lower language barrier and close proximity to Africa, Gulf countries, west, central and south Asian countries have made India sought destination for medical tourism. The country has the largest pool of doctors with many being of global repute and has shown expertise in highly specialized areas of organ transplant, cardiology and oncology. India also has an unmatched heritage of traditional treatment methods from Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) which makes our country prime destination for seeking alternate medical treatment options along with wellness and rejuvenation.
Over the last decade, India has jumped to 5th position among 41 major destinations across the globe for medical value travel. This has created lot of employment opportunities in India. Since 2015, people coming for medical treatment in India has grown annually at about 55%. According to Ministry of Tourism, India saw a footfall of 6.97 lakh foreign patients to seek medical treatment which was about 6.9% of the total foreign tourist arrivals.
Although coronavirus pandemic has impacted negatively the medical tourism market, the development of Oxford, Pfizer, and other vaccines have raised hopes of recovery in this sector by Q2/Q3 of 2021.
Considering the population density, India has handled the covid19 pandemic very well by keeping the mortality rates low. This has proven our medical ingenuity and raised possibilities of rapid recovery in the medical tourism sector. One strategy, implemented by India to increase medical tourism is the introduction of M-visa that allows foreign national people to enter our country for medical treatments in less time. With proper covid containment norms, India is also opening its skies through air bubble agreements with select countries, while many private hospitals have restarted admitting emergency abroad cases. With the efforts put in by the Indian government, the medical tourism industry is likely to revive faster and better as compared to other developed countries. India will continue to remain as a preferred destination for safest and affordable medical tourism even after the pandemic and develop employees in this sector. A wide range of employment opportunities ranging from customer relations, sales and business development, finance, administration, and medical support services are expected to be generated due to medical tourism.
These are the author’s personal views