Update on Medical Tourism in India

I just ran across an article from last week about medical tourism in India, “India Medical Tourism in Troubled Times,” from August 21. As I’ve noted before, medical tourism can be a great value for uninsured self-pay patients as well as those with alternate forms of health insurance like a fixed benefit or critical illness policy.

The article discusses some of the current opportunities and challenges for both patients and providers. One thing that medical tourists to Indi will benefit from is a falling rupee:

“The current downward slide and expected collapse of the Indian rupee creates fresh opportunities for medical tourists to consider India for their medical treatment. 

For the next year, many people may have a window of opportunity to save even more money for particularly costly medical procedures such as open heart surgery…”

…The cost of having a medical treatment in India, for most medical tourists, is now less than it was a year ago, and much less than it was five years ago.

A medical procedure that cost a medical tourist US $10,000 in 2009 would today cost $7,000 – a 30 per cent difference.”

On the downside, getting a visa to travel to India as a medical tourist is apparently a bit of a hassle. The article notes:

“Getting a medical visa to India is a cumbersome process that is invasive of patient privacy, is more expensive, and is not even available to many people who come to India for treatment, specifically to many who come from Africa.

Prathap C Reddy, founder of the Apollo Hospitals chain gave an interview to the Economic Times in which he held nothing back. The medical visa, valid for one year, requires patients to register with the Foreigner Regional Registration Office within two weeks of their arrival, a process that is “insulting” and physically taxing for people suffering from serious health problems, Reddy said.

Reddy sees his business opportunities lie outside India, in Indonesia, Cambodia and Tanzania, because India’s visa policies are driving medical tourists to other countries in the region like Singapore and Thailand.

Finally, and probably most concerning, medical tourists to India (and elsewhere, obviously) need to make sure they’re dealing with reputable operators who hold to high standards of quality.

There continues to be little growth of professionalism among medical tourism companies and the hospitals that treat medical tourists.

Many individuals and businesses with little understanding or appreciation of the complexity of the medical tourism industry solicit customers from abroad.

Understanding of marketing principles that apply to medical tourism is limited. False advertising, lack of patient privacy, and ignorance of safety of medical tourists are widespread.

Care management of medical tourists that protects their safety and good treatment outcomes is virtually non-existent.

On the last point, the Medical Travel Quality Alliance has put together some questions for medical tourists to consider when looking to become a medical tourist.

7 questions medical tourists must ask
1. Who is brokering the deal, and what are their credentials?

2. Is the facility accredited or otherwise distinguished professionally?

3. What verifiable information do I have about the surgeons?

4. Who wrote the testimonials?

5. How was the doctor recommended to the company?

6. Is the procedure I am seeking illegal at home?

7. How do I cancel?

I’m generally a fan of medical tourism (there are domestic options as well, such as those facilitated by MediBid and North American Surgery), but there are some obvious downsides as well. If you are considering traveling to receive treatment, do your homework!

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2 Responses to Update on Medical Tourism in India

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