A growing number of tourists are turning to India for good quality medical treatment at affordable prices. The cost of medical treatment in India is quite cheap as compared to Western Europe, North America and some other Southeast Asian countries. India currently has around 18% of the global medical tourism market. In an industry estimate, the Indian medical tourism market can be a $9 billion worth medical tourism destination, enjoying 20% of the global market share by 2020. Patients from Bangladesh and Afghanistan have always topped the charts as far as international patient arrivals to India are concerned. Other than these two countries, a large number of medical tourists from Oman, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen also visit India regularly. In a written reply to Lok Sabha, K.J. Alphons, Tourism Minister of India had stated, “The total number of patients visiting India in the year 2017 was 4.95 lakh.”
Medica Superspeciality Hospital in Kolkata and Medanta, a multi-speciality medical institute in Gurugram in the National Capital Region (NCR) are among the top destinations of international medical tourists.
Medica Superspeciality Hospital, located on the eastern fringes of the city, has tied up with several Bangladeshi doctors and clinics for referral cases. According to an official in Medica, though the total quantum of the visitors from neighbouring countries could not be ascertained, an unofficial estimate suggests that the hospital treats more than 1000 Bangladeshi patients a month. A hospital official said, “The Bangladeshi patients visit the hospital for various services, ranging from regular health check-ups to super speciality surgeries.” This contributes to nearly 15-20% of the total patient traffic. The lack of quality healthcare in Bangladesh, the geographical proximity of West Bengal and a common culture between the two places, have made Kolkata the preferred location for medical tourists from Bangladesh. Moreover, the medical services in Kolkata are cheaper as compared to other Indian metropolitans.
Like Medica in Kolkata, Medanta in Gurugram also deals with several international patients. A hospital official from Medanta confirmed that there are more than 20,000 international patients per year on an average from 15 different countries. Majority of the patients are from Afghanistan. Dr. Naresh Tehran, Chairman and Managing Director of Medanta said in an interview in 2018, “India has moved up the scale and become totally international in some of the institutions. We are offering the highest level of healthcare in this region.” Medanta claims that the hospital has some of the most cutting-edge technology in the world. According to many industry insiders, it is one of the few centres in India with a wide array of technologically advanced medical solutions.
Technology has penetrated medical tourism to provide the best of the facilities for the patients. Apart from Web 2.0, cloud computing, mobile technology, India has better access to advanced medical technology devices. This happened due to the increase in potential and various government schemes like 'Make in India' and the expansion of hospitality spending in the Union Budget. These external factors are bolstering medical tourism indirectly.
Technologically advanced hospitals, specialised doctors, low-cost treatment and e-medical visa facilities have contributed to help India in becoming one of the fastest growing medical tourism destinations in Asia. According to FICCI-IMS report, over 500,000 foreign patients seek treatment in India each year.
Rashmi Varma, Secretary, Tourism, Government of India said, “All National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) approved hospitals now put up the charges and the lists and the facilities which they are giving are now visible on the website. Any patients who are coming to India can go on that website and understand what are the kinds of facility being offered and at what prices. So, they choose where to go and how to go, we also have certain facilities like counters set up at airports like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and others to help those people, who are coming for medical tourism.”