Sunday, November 29, 2009

Medical Tourism in India

Recently I had been to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco to get some work done. I thought my work would be done in about an hour’s time but ended up waiting there for close to 2 and 1/2 hours. During those 2 and 1/2 hours, I was seated for close to 90 minutes and was standing in the line for rest of the period. Anyway, the point is not how long it took me to get my work done there but what did I learn new during that time period.

I reached the Consulate at around 9.30am and was immediately given a number. I was asked to be seated and wait for my number to be called. There were about 20 numbers ahead of me hence I was mentally getting ready to wait for quiet some time. Initially, I was just watching the TV that had an Indian news channel on it. As time went by, I was getting bored of the TV and was looking around some of the magnificent pictures of Indian tourist locations that adored the walls of the consulate. Of course, I cannot keep staring at those pictures for a long time no matter how exotic those locations may look. So eventually my eyes landed on a magazine that was sitting on a shelf in one corner of the room. I reached out to it and the magazine’s name was “India Perspectives” which gets published, I believe every quarter, by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

I started browsing thru the magazine and went thru its table of contents just to get an idea of what articles I can expect inside. Few of them were interesting but one stood out with it’s attractive title that read “East or West, India is the Best”. So I decided to turn to the page number listed and find out what the article is about.

The starting paragraph was talking about an individual who had come from the USA to India to get medical treatment and also had a little vacation time at the end of the treatment. It also had a few photos of foreigners standing next to Indian doctors and nurses. As I read thru the first couple of paragraphs I came across this terminology that said “Medical Tourism”. I said to myself, “Wait a minute, that sounds interesting” and decided to read thru the full article. At the end of my reading I was “Wowed” by this new terminology. Then and there I decided that this is a good topic for me to blog about. That’s how this posting got a seed in my mind. After that day I started to do a little bit of research around this topic and learn more about “Medical Tourism”, in general, with little bit more focus on India, before I blog about it.

So here I am blogging about “Medical Tourism in India” based on the independent research that I had done. Please note that this by no means is any kind of medical advice or recommendation. These are, in simple, what are “My Thoughts” about medical tourism with some statistics pertaining to medical tourism in India.

What is Medical Tourism?

In simple English, combining medical treatment with vacation is referred to as “Medical Tourism”. It is not just patients traveling internationally for treatment but also the other way around where healthcare providers travel internationally to deliver healthcare. There is no rocket science to it. But most often patients traveling internationally for medical treatment is referred to as medical tourism. It does not matter whether the individual is traveling for elective procedures or complex surgeries or psychiatric treatment. As long as they travel for medical treatment and plan to have a vacation along side then we are talking about medical tourism.

Why India for Medical Tourism?

Patients’ traveling for medical treatment has been in existence for quiet some time but has been the privilege of a select few, primarily due to travel constraints. In today’s modern world, with the ease and affordability of international travel coupled with improved standards of quality health care in many countries, medical tourism is a booming industry of its own.

More and more people, from developed countries, realize that medical treatments in there country is either way too expensive or has way too much of waiting time even though it might be an urgent treatment for them but not so in there government’s or insurance companies eyes. Sad but true that this situation does exist. When one can get the same level of treatment that they would get at home but for a far lesser amount and much quicker why would they not opt for it. As a matter of fact, it has been estimated that surgeries done in countries like India or Thailand could cost just one-tenth of what it could cost in USA or Eastern European countries and in some cases even lesser than that. As a result of this people started looking around as to where they could get high quality medical treatment that is affordable and accessible. BANG, they see lot of options across the globe in countries like India, Thailand, South Africa, Philippines etc.,

With respect to India, the advantages that medical tourists get include
  • Superior yet low-cost personalized medical care
  • World class medical equipments
  • Zero waiting period
  • Less likely to face language barrier as English is widely spoken across the length and breadth of the country

India ranks second in the world in medical tourism next to Thailand which primarily focuses on cosmetic surgery as opposed to what Indian medical tourism focuses on. The most popular treatments sought in India by medical tourists are bone-marrow transplant, cardiac bypass surgery, eye surgery and orthopedic surgery. India is known in particular for heart surgery, hip resurfacing and other areas of advanced medicine. It is estimated that India’s medical tourism field has the potential to be a $2.5 billion business by the end of 2012.

Some of the key hospitals in India that offer world-class healthcare treatment include
  • Apollo Hospital 
  • Wockhardt Hospital
  • Fortis and Max Healthcare

Below are a few statistics comparing the cost of some of the surgeries between India and USA
Cost in India (USD)
Cost in USA (USD)
Heart valve replacement
Knee replacement
Gastric Bypass
Metal-free dental bridge
Lasik eye surgery

For more information on medical tourism in India you can visit (I am not affiliated to this site. I just came across this site and found it informatve.)

In the US, it is estimated that about 750,000 Americans went abroad for health care in 2007, and about a million and a half sought health care outside the US in 2008. If this is the case, in the USA, as a result of healthcare insurance companies making healthcare prices sky-rocket by the year, consider the case in Canada where healthcare is totally government run. In Canada, it is estimated that about 783,000 Canadians spent time on medical waiting lists in 2005, waiting an average of 9.4 weeks. On top of it, Canada has set waiting-time benchmarks, e. g. 26 weeks for a hip replacement and 16 weeks for cataract surgery, for non-urgent medical procedures.

With all the talks going on about healthcare reforms in the USA, does it not sound that if US legislators decide not to make any change in the existing healthcare system then eventually US health care insurance companies are bound to lose millions and billions of dollars as a result of the boom in medical tourism. Hhhmmm… hope the concerned parties understand and bring about a change and stop the sky rocketing healthcare costs in the USA.

My Thoughts – End of the day, we all need to have a healthcare system that is affordable and accessible. If for an individual, in a developed nation, such an healthcare system is either not affordable or not accessible (due to waiting period) then the other choice seems to go to developing countries and get treated for les than one-tenth the price and spend a few more dollars in vacation and return back as a healthy and rejuvenated individual with more dollars in the pocket.

Once again, this is just what I came to know about medical tourism, in general, with a little bit more focus on Indian medical tourism. Please treat this as just information that I came to know and wish to pass on. So if you or anyone you know is seeking affordable and accessible medical treatment at a much lesser price then you can refer to them about medical tourism, in general, and may be if the treatment they seek for is something that Indian medical tourism is specializing in then they can think about visiting India for the same.


1 comment:

  1. Nice story! We also do a lot of reading and research in the area.


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