India eyeing share in medical tourism pie

India eyeing share in medical tourism pie A NICE blend of top-class medical expertise at attractive prices is helping a growing number of Indian corporate hospitals lure foreign patients, including from developed nations such as the UK and the US.

If a liver transplant costs in the range of Rs 60 lakh-70 lakh in Europe and double that in the US, a few Indian hospitals, such as Global in Hyderabad, have the wherewithal to do it in around Rs 15 lakh-20 lakh. Similarly, if a heart surgery in the US costs about Rs 20 lakh, the Chennai-headquartered Apollo Hospitals Group does it in roughly Rs 2 lakh.

As more and more patients from Europe, the US and other affluent nations with high medicare costs look for effective options, India is pitted against Thailand, Singapore and some other Asian countries, which have good hospitals, salubrious climate and tourist destinations.

While Thailand and Singapore with their advanced medical facilities and built-in medical tourism options have been drawing foreign patients of the order of a couple of lakhs per annum, the rapidly expanding Indian corporate hospital sector has been able to get a few thousands for treatment.

But, things are going to change drastically in favour of India, especially in view of the high quality expertise of medical professionals, backed by the fast improving equipment and nursing facilities, and above all, the cost-effectiveness of the package, said some of the hospitals Business Line spoke to.

The Apollo Group, Escorts Hospitals in New Delhi and Jaslok Hospitals in Mumbai are to name a few which are established names even abroad. A list of corporate hospitals such as Global Hospitals, CARE and Dr L.V. Prasad Eye Hospitals in Hyderabad, The Hindujas in Mumbai, etc also have built capabilities and are handling a steadily increasing flow of foreign patients. "India has much more expertise than say Thailand or Malaysia. The infrastructure in some of India's hospitals is also very good. What is more significant is that the costs are much less, almost one-third of those in other Asian countries," says Dr K. Ravindranath, who returned from abroad to start Global Hospitals, which has facilities for liver, kidney and heart transplantations.

As Indian corporate hospitals are on par, if not better than the best hospitals in Thailand, Singapore, etc there is scope for improvement, and the country may become a preferred medical destination. This can be done through an orchestrated effort by the Centre, airlines, travel houses, insurance companies, tourism sector and healthcare providers, says Ms Anjali Kapoor, Head-International Marketing of Indrasprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

While accreditation from an international body such as the Joint Commission International (JCI) facilitates better response from Europe and the US, recognition from the National Health Services (NHS) ensures international standards in terms of patient care, quality improvement and patient safety. The Apollo Hospitals Group is in the process of getting accredited with JCI, she said.

Indian corporate hospitals excelled in cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, joint replacement, orthopaedic surgery, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, transplants and urology to name a few, said Dr Ravindranath.

The CARE Hospitals, which has specialised in heartcare, has concentrated on drawing patients from the Gulf and at least 50 were treated last year, said a hospital spokesperson.

In addition to the increasingly top class medical care, a big draw for foreign patients is also the very minimal or hardly any wait list as is common in European or American hospitals. In fact, priority treatment is provided today in Indian hospitals.

Business Line