India to emerge as largest destination for medical tourism
At the recently concluded Global Investment in Ayush Summit, India’s visionary Prime Minister talked passionately about India becoming a medical tourism hub for the world, serving and saving millions of lives each year. With all the macro factors favoring deep investments into Indian Medical Tourism opportunity, he said the vision of Heal in India is becoming one of the biggest brands of the decade.
India’s medical travel industry started gaining momentum at the beginning of the last decade, as more private hospitals started reaching out to neighbouring countries to serve their patients. Pioneers such as Dr Reddy of Apollo, Dr Shetty of Narayana Healthcare led by example in serving patients from neighbouring Bangladesh and then expanding their service to Nepal. They were followed by Fortis, Medanta and Dr Rela establishing deep inroads into CIS, Middle East and Africa. To complement the effort of these hospitals, an industry of Medical Travel Facilitators came into force, marketing these hospitals and setting up offices in these regions to market Indian Healthcare.
Today, almost 2 million patients visit India each year from these regions, generating $4 billion in annual forex each year. But the future is looking much brighter.
The current leadership of Dr Mansukh Madaviya, under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi, has designated Medical Tourism as a champion sector giving it an unprecedented push. The government is pulling out all stops to make India the No.1 Destination for Medical Tourism in the world, tripling it to $12 billion within 4 years, creating a new industry that generates millions of jobs across states. Never before has any Indian government given the sector such a consistent and comprehensive focus. But the Modi government fully appreciates its potential as a forex earner, job generator and brand ambassador of India’s soft power. Today, there are thousands of politicians & government officials from Africa & Asia, who would owe to Indian healthcare for saving the life of a dear one. This is a valuable asset for us in the ever-changing geo-politics.
However, to become the No.1 medical travel destination a lot needs to change. Significant investment has already gone into making Indian hospitals at par with global excellence in equipment & talent. However, almost no effort has gone into building the ecosystem to attract international patients. Patients spend 80-85% of their time in guesthouses around the hospitals, and that is where they get a bad experience and high chance of infection. Such guesthouses need to be standardised and hospitality players need to build patient specific hotels near hospitals. 80-90% of the international patients come to India through a Medical Travel Facilitator who acts like a travel agent and health advisor to the patient. Significant investment is required in these companies who are marketing Indian healthcare across 70+ countries through their offices, digital marketing and regular events. Standardisation needs to be brought into this segment of service providers urgently.
Insurance is another very large opportunity. Indian insurers should actively pursue the opportunity for selling Indian health insurance to foreigners. This could potentially generate additional $9 billion in premium and patient inflow to India.
Another opportunity in cross border telemedicine. India has already become the call centre for the world given its advantage in skill and cost. It could similarly become the Telehealth center of the world, healing people in India and through India.
Our unique knowledge and position in traditional medicine of Ayurveda is another advantage that needs to be adequate marketed to the world. While we’re already well known for Yoga, patients still don’t know the therapeutic potential of Ayurveda in treating diseases such as kidney failure, infertility, eye disorders etc. Under the leadership of India’s current health minister, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, a unique blend of integrated medicine is getting created where patients benefit from standardised traditional and modern medicine treatments, across pre, during and post surgery.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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