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India is slowly but surely climbing its way to the top as a medical tourist destination, say experts

India is slowly but surely climbing its way to the top as a medical tourist destination, say experts

Businessman Golam Rabbani travelled over 1,987.7kms from Meghalaya to New Delhi to meet a Vascular Surgeon as his previous surgery in Guwahati (Assam) didn’t correct his medical condition. Explaining his decision to travel to a metropolitan, the 32-year-old tells us, “As Delhi is the capital, the medical services available are far better when compared to the remote place I hail from. Getting a specialised doctor is a distant dream as we still don’t even have basic things like proper roads and electricity.”

International patients look towards India for quality yet affordable healthcare (unsplash)

And not just from within India, several patients make the overseas voyage to come to India to get healthcare services too. Recently, a patient (name undisclosed due to privacy) from Ghana, with a right femur fracture due to a road accident, went to Vadodara (Gujarat) to undergo surgery as he wasn’t able to walk. Upon investigating, the doctors at Bhailal Amin General Hospital, Vadodara, found that he had a broken implant nail and an unhealed fracture.

The majority of tourists visiting India looking to treat cardiology, oncology or orthopaedic issues (unsplash)
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‘India, a place for quality and quantity medical care’

With India ranking 10th in the world on the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) (from 2020-2021), these instances are the norm for Indian doctors and hospitals. Medical tourism can be explained as the journey that patients may undertake to receive affordable and quality medical care in another state or country, explains Dr Arup Kumar Das, Group Medical Director, Marengo Asia Hospital. This kind of travel has grown significantly in recent years and according to data by Crisil (credit rating agency), India will see 7.3 million medical tourists in 2024.

To keep up with these fantastical numbers and encourage more inbound patients, Indian states have been propping themselves as potential medical tourist destinations by developing their infrastructure and regulations. On June 22, Hyderabad Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy said the state government is planning to set up a medical and health tourism hub, spread over 1,000 acres, in Telangana.

Pune is another emerging centre for this kind of tourism, with former Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik also agreeing with the notion earlier this year. “A city like Pune has adequate facilities to be developed as a medical tourism hub. People from different countries come to Pune for tourism and medical tourism. With the state-of-the-art facilities, Pune is growing and has come a way ahead in terms of medical tourism.”

Agreeing with this assessment, Dr Manisha Karmarkar, CEO of DPU Super Specialty Hospital, Pimpri, Pune, says, “Pune’s medical landscape has witnessed a tremendous evolution in the last decade, with a strong emphasis on building world-class healthcare infrastructure led by advanced technology. The city has emerged as one of the leading cities for organ donation in the state and country at large with a total count of 58 cadaver donations during 2023.” Another factor for this city that is brimming with potential to become a viable tourist hub is the connectivity to Mumbai, which is the financial capital.

‘India makes for a great medical tourism spot’

As a country, India sees a lot of inbound visitors for a combination of healthy care services, explains Dr Sanjay Agarwala, Director Professional Services, Section Head – Orthopaedics & Traumatology, P. D. Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai. “The biggest reasons are high-quality affordable care as compared to their country, coupled with the latest technology and renowned specialists,” he adds. According to the Indian Medical Association, the majority of tourists who visit the country are looking to treat cardiology, oncology or orthopaedic issues knee or liver transplants.

Some are also looking for alternative therapy, which is why states like Kerala have created a niche for themselves as an ayurvedic centre, while Rishikesh and Mysuru are spots where people travel to learn and practise yoga.

According to Dr Piyush Ranjan, DM Gastroenterology, Senior consultant, Vice chairman, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, another reason for the growing trend of medical tourism in India is that there might be a “lack of expertise”, especially in lesser advanced economies. Other reasons include access to advanced treatments with shorter waiting times. The appeal of privacy, comprehensive care options, supportive government policies, and cultural considerations also play a significant role in driving medical tourism to many Indian states.

‘India is a place to get beauty and wellness services’

Along with highly qualified doctors and an extensive knowledge of medicine, Dr Meghna Mour, Founder and Aesthetic Dermatologist, Skuccii Supercliniq, Mumbai, believes it is India’s higher number of doctors, who can cater to the large number of NRIs and international patients, that draws people, too. “The quality of medical treatments in our country has advanced that it is on par, and at times, exceeds that of many other countries. India provides affordable medical facilities at a much lesser cost as compared to its counterparts,” she says.

Ask Mour what are some of the most popular treatments that people visiting her clinic look for, she tells us, “We have patients who visit us for several non-invasive treatments that tackle issues like ageing, hair transplantation, Botox and fillers, weight loss and more.”

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