How to make India the next skin and hair medical tourism destination
Turkey has become one of the most sought-after plastic surgery tourism destinations for Western countries. In 2022, it received more than 1 million people, who spent over $2 billion only on hair transplants. Affordable prices, efficient and up-to-date facilities, a wide variety of procedures and surgeries, good record of maintaining confidentiality, cultural and historical attractions, warm hospitality management and excellent pre- and post-operative patient care are reasons the country has excelled. India too should make upgrades in these areas and rise up as a preferred destination.
“In the heart of India lies a medical prowess that can shine as the beacon of global healthcare. As the global landscape evolves, let us make India the premier destination for medical tourism, where the healing touch of our doctors meets the rich tapestry of our culture. Through strategic government initiatives, we can not only attract international patients but also provide a nurturing environment for our medical professionals to excel, benefiting not just our nation but the health and happiness of people worldwide. Our doctors can further attract international patients by fostering international medical collaborations and embracing the latest advancements in healthcare, ensuring that India remains at the forefront of global healthcare innovation.”, says Padma Vibhushan Dr (Prof) Purshotam Lal, Chairman – Metro Group of Hospitals.
What India can do
India, according to the Medical Tourism Association, is placed 10th out of the 46 destinations worldwide in the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) for 2020–21. At the second meeting of the G20 Health Working Party in Goa, the Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik called for a cooperative and sustainable approach to global health and claimed that 1.4 million medical tourists visited India in the past one year. Out of which, it is observed that those traveling for cosmetic operations such as hair, skin, weight loss surgeries, etc. have been responsible for a large portion of its growth. Therefore, the government must promote quality in medical tourism and especially in cosmetology with transparency to improve the quality of skin and hair treatments in India.
It must be strictly monitored that permits for any aesthetic tourism treatments and procedures in any clinic or centre across the country be given upon confirmation that therapy centres, hair transplant centres, dental cosmetology clinics, skin and cosmetology clinics, etc. are registered and regulated under the established national laws and norms as stated in the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act (2010). Effective government-led initiatives and their commitment are significant causes of the medical tourism boom in Turkey. India too must commit to already existing goals and strengthen sustainable and steadfast support.
Adequate marketing and visibility support from the government through social media platforms, collaborations with governmental programmes, etc. must be encouraged. The new “Medical Visa” for specific purposes for foreign medical tourists introduced by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs should be made more popular. National-level protocols and guidance for regulations and registrations for medical practitioners as well as for healthcare-providing institutions and clinics must be strictly adhered to. Medical tourists with medical tourist IDs may be allowed a discount on medication. Even airlines can be encouraged to devise discount schemes for such category of tourists. This will encourage these visitors to explore suburban and tier two and three cities.
It can be suggested that selected registered qualified clinics and medical institutes must tie up with the government and work towards arranging for travel and accommodation arrangements for the patients. Additionally, medical tourism including cosmetic and plastic surgery and treatments can be regulated through a pre-booking channel by the government. It can be recommended that a medical tourism cell be set up which should include private doctors as well. The cell will provide the patients with a fixed number of options to rule out confusion and keep fraud elements out.
The cell can also facilitate online appointments of the top doctors across the country and enable hurdle-free bookings for medical tourists. Pre-booking for MVT on a donation basis can as well be arranged which the government cell could facilitate for the upliftment of the clinic or centre providing the treatment.
Overall, to realise the full scope of medical tourism, it is essential for India to maintain and improve the quality of healthcare, ensure transparency, and continue to promote the country as a trusted medical tourism destination. Additionally, addressing infrastructure challenges and maintaining a strong healthcare regulatory framework is vital for sustained growth in this industry.
As a doctor, I welcome all aspiring medical tourists to India and strongly suggest that it is essential to research and choose a reputable healthcare facility for your medical needs. The choice of destination may depend on the specific medical treatment you require and your personal preferences. Always consult with your healthcare provider and check the governmental guidelines and procedures, fulfillment of regulations, required infrastructure, medical records of the clinic, medical visa procedures, etc. before making any decisions to get a rewarding medical tourism experience in India.
Dr Deepali Bhardwaj is a dermatologist, anti-allergy specialist, laser surgeon and internationally trained aesthetician. She tweets @dermatdoc. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)