About Medical Tourism:
a. Meaning of Medical Tourism:
Medical Tourism can be defined as travel of people from one place to another, to seek medical treatment. The underlying reason for such travel is either the cost benefit, which the destination place shall provide; or the technological or procedural advancement offered by such place.
If we go to the history of medical treatments in the world, there have been constant instances for the patients, travelling from their home countries, or places, to places away, seeking treatments. Traditionally, people would travel from less developed countries to developed countries, in order to seek the treatments not available in their countries. But in the past, the trend has reversed, wherein the people from developed countries travel to the destinations in less developed/ or relatively developing countries, so as to get themselves treated, owing to the high medical treatment costs in their countries as compared to the developing countries.
From Surgeries, to dental, to orthopaedics, to cardiac, to fertility, and so on, the list is never ending. The patients from developed countries like U.S.A, U.K., Canada, etc prefer to travel to third world countries like India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand to obtain the treatments, which may range from virtually all types of healthcare including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care and even burial services are available.
Among certain factors that have led to growth of medical tourism, include the high costs of healthcare, long waiting times of certain procedures, ease and affordability of international travel, remarkable improvements in technology and standard of treatment of healthcare in many countries.
b. History of medical tourism:
The story of travelling for treatment dates to ages back. In name of health, wellness and well being, the people have been travelling for centuries. The list ranges from ancient Greeks and Egyptians who flocked to hot springs and baths, to 18th and 19th century Europeans and Americans who journeyed to spas and remote retreats hoping to cure ailments, or for the wellness.
However, travelling for the purpose of surgery abroad is a fairly modern and new phenomenon. The first world countries have seen a phenomenal increase in cost of health treatments, medical procedures over 1980s and 1990s, the off shoring or finding options for treatments at affordable costs in other countries, having similar facilities, but lower cost of treatments, has been eminent, and off shore treatment as an option is being considered on a regular basis. So-called "tooth tourism" grew quickly, with Americans travelling to Central American countries like Costa Rica for dental bridges and caps not covered by their insurance.
The history of medical tourism dates back to its first recorded case when Greek pilgrims travelled from the Mediterranean to Epidauria, a small territory in the Saronic Gulf. It was said that this small territory was the sanctuary of Asklepios, known as the healing God. Thus, it was recorded in medical tourism history that Epidauria is the original destination for medical tourism.
The practice of travelling for health and medical reasons has a long history. Even the ancient civilizations recognized the therapeutic effects of mineral thermal springs and sacred temple baths. For example, the Sumerians constructed health complexes around hot springs more than four thousand years ago, which included temples with flowing pools.
Ancient Romans built resorts with thermal health spas, and therapeutic temples thrived during the Greek domain.
After Thailand's currency collapsed in 1997, with a hope to boost the revenues, and increase the foreign currency inflows, the country was marketed as a hot destination for plastic surgery, by the tourism officials of the country. By loosening the pre surgery requirements for screenings, and counselling, the country quickly managed to become a big name in comparatively inexpensive sex-change operations, where patients faced fees as low as $5,000, along with becoming a hot destination for all types of plastic surgeries, and spa facilities, wellness centres.
History Of Medical Tourism in India:
Medical tourism in India is not a relatively new concept. Long before medical tourists from various parts of the world began seeking medical treatments like surgery and other procedures abroad, there were already yoga and meditation centers in India for medical travellers who were more inclined to alternative medicine.
Since Yoga's birth (more than 5,000 years ago), medical travellers and students have trooped to India to learn more about Yoga and other forms of alternative medicine. India gained reputation as the centre of Eastern cultural, spiritual, and medicinal progress when Buddhism came along 2,500 years later. And even when Western clinical medicine became more popular and credible, India remained the best destination for alternative medicine practitioners from all over the world.
2. India as a Medical Tourism Destination:
a. Global Location:
India boasts of a global location for the purpose of Medical Treatment, for the patients looking to get treated abroad. India holds the locational edge over other countries, as it is strategically placed in the centre of the asia, and the reaching India, from anywhere in the world is possible without any difficulties.
The source of competitive advantage arises from the skillful use of its core competencies. These competencies are used to gain competitive advantage against rivals in the global market. A combination of many factors contributed to competitive advantage and has led to the recent increase in popularity of healthcare tourism in India.
World-class treatment at competitive price: India offers world-class healthcare that costs substantially less than those in developed countries, using the same technology delivered by competent specialists and attaining comparable success rates.
Availability of skills, knowledge and resources: Indian medical education turns around 30000 doctors and nurses every year adding to the existing pool of over 14 lakh doctors and nurses. About a dozen corporate hospitals provide world class treatments across all specialties. Availability of over 15,000 hospitals and 870,000 hospital beds provides adequate infrastructure support to the healthcare tourists.
Strong reputation in the advanced healthcare segment: India have a lot of hospitals offering world class treatments in nearly every medical sector such as cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, joint replacement, orthopedic surgery, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, transplants and urology to name a few. The various specialties covered are neurology, neurosurgery, oncology, ophthalmology, rheumatology, endocrinology, ENT, pediatric surgery, pediatric neurology, urology, nephrology, dermatology, dentistry, plastic surgery, gynecology, pulmonology, psychiatry, general medicine & general surgery.
Indianism: With ayurveda becoming increasingly popular across the globe, this ancient indian therapy can be used as a non-surgical treatment for various ailments along with medication and yoga. This will give help of indianism to the Indian healthcare tourism offerings.
The diversity of tourist destinations availability: Leisure tourism is already very much in demand in India as the country offers diverse cultural and scenic beauty. India has almost all sort of destinations like high mountains, vast deserts, scenic beaches, historical monuments, and religious temples etc, known for its hospitality for tourists.
b. Cost Comparison:
Medical tourism is a multi billion dollar phenomenon worldwide, and is expected to grow considerably with ease in travel and technological developments. As healthcare costs in the US and other parts of the world are excessively soaring, many employers and insurance companies started to view medical tourism as a way to lower them. More and more countries around the globe start to see the financial benefits from this emerging market, so they offer premium medical services at notably lower prices.
The primary reason that clinics and hospitals in the developing countries are able to lower their prices is directly related to the nation's economic status.
The direct correlation with per capita gross domestic product of the country is observed, which is a proxy for income levels. As a consequence, surgery prices are from 30% to 70% lower in the countries that are promoting medical tourism when compared to the US.
The key ‘selling point’ is its “cost effectiveness.” Also, clinical outcomes in India are on par with the world’s best centers, besides having internationally qualified and experienced specialists.
Price advantage is a major selling point. The slogan, thus is, "first world treatment at third world prices". The cost differential across the board is huge: only a tenth and sometimes even a sixteenth of the cost in the west.
c. Doctors Availability:
This is a known fact, that Indians are among the best doctors and health specialists, whether they are engaged in their services in India, or abroad. India has been a consistent contributor, as far as producing quality medical professionals, from surgeons, to physicians, to wellness experts to nurses and attendants.
d. Healthcare in India
e. Local Attractions:
India is a country of varied cultures, and that is what makes it most attractive.