India is a recent entrant into medical tourism but has been growing at 30% per annum in the industry, giving a prediction to reach USD 9 billion by 2020 as compared to the USD 3 billion in 2015 (Source: Ministry of tourism). This would contribute aggressively to India’s healthcare sector valued at 17 billion USD, and account for 13% of Industry’s growth. The number of patients travelling to India under medical visa increased from 14,194 in 2013 to 30,723 in 2016 (Ministry of Tourism, OECD & Industry Sources, India).
On an average, 36 million people die annually from the global burden of chronic diseases (63% of global deaths), of which cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of deaths globally numbering to 17.7 million deaths per annum. With the increasing emphasis on universal healthcare access, it is no surprise medical tourism has emerged as a major solution provider for such grave diseases.
Majority of the medical travellers hail from low and middle-income countries owing to constraints of availability of healthcare infrastructure, services and doctors. The most common procedures these patients seek are cardiology, oncology, hip replacements and knee replacements amongst others. Quality of healthcare services complemented with cost advantage has made India an ideal destination. Most of the services in India are at 1/10th of the average cost in US and UK ( Refer to figure below).
India has set its global footprint in the healthcare sector and the country is taking the right steps to increase its impetus in medical tourism. The industry, both on the public and private platform, is all set to enhance medical technology advancements, capacities of bedding by 25% and overall improvement in the quality of healthcare. This is further supplemented by alternative medicines of Ayurveda and Homeopathy by AYUSH ministry.
The government has made it compulsory for hospitals to be ‘National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH)’ accredited if they are empanelled under the CHS (Central Government Health Scheme). As of June 2017, there are four hundred and fifty-eight such NABH-accredited hospitals in the country. This has ensured that in the country, clinical quality and patient safety is a norm than an exception. Furthermore, there are more than fifteen private hospitals in India who have received accreditation from Joint Commission International (JCI*). Some of these include Apollo Hospitals at Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru; Fortis Hospital at Gurgaon, Delhi, Mohali, Mulund and Bengaluru; Artemis Health Institute etc. The Ministry of Tourism has also formed the National Medical & Wellness and Tourism Board in order to promote medical tourism. Medical travel has also been bolstered by the e-visa initiative which has been extended to the nationals of 161 countries and the window for application of e-Visa has also been increased from 30 days to 120 days and duration of stay from 30 days to 60 days with a triple entry on e-Medical visa.
*JCI, Joint Commission International is a USA based non-profit organisation that accredits health care organisations, medical services and programs around the world and also works to improve patient safety & quality of health care in the international community