India’s medical tourism boom

“When you’re unwell, you’re supposed to stay home and take rest.” How many times have you heard this line? Well, have you ever heard about traveling because you’re unwell?

Today’s world is becoming increasingly health conscious. It’s a world where people want to cure themselves of anything and everything. And for doing so, they will go half way around the world if necessary!
No, I’m not talking about Indians going abroad; I’m talking about people coming here! For some reason, there are very few Indians who know exactly how advanced India is, as far as medical sciences go. It is no wonder then, that our country is becoming a very popular destination for medical tourism. Our motherland is mainly known for heart surgery, hip resurfacing and other areas of advanced medicine.

The phrase ‘medical tourism’ was initially coined by travel agencies to give a name to the practice of travelling for health benefits. For ages, people have been coming to India, to avail the benefits of yoga and the Ayurvedic branch of medicine, but now it has spread far beyond that. Now, people come here for medical surgeries. The most common treatments are heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery, dental care, cancer treatment and of course homeopathy and ayurvedic treatments.

People from here run abroad, because the mindset is that the more expensive the treatment, the more effective it is! But, the main reason India is rapidly gaining popularity in this field is because of its cheap but effective service. It’s true that sometimes the price does matter, but today, our infrastructure and technology is at par with the same in U.S.A., U.K, and the rest of Europe. It’s not just that, the culture of the place has a lot to do with it too. India is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. When people come here they not only get the advantage of cheap and good treatment, they get to check out a whole new range of treatments for the same surgery or problem, and at the same time, get a glimpse into India’s rich cultural heritage!

Today, we have what is known as tele-consultancy, also known as telenursing, a concept of long distance treatments and opinions. For e.g., a person sitting in the U.S., can consult a doctor in India, regarding the kind of treatments, costs etc. for all his problems. This is becoming increasingly popular since there are many people who have started preferring homeopathy or naturopathy to allopathic treatments. And India is a preferred destination for them.

Indian private and government hospitals excel in cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, joint replacements, orthopedic surgery, gastroenterology (deals with the digestive system and other stomach related problems), ophthalmology (problems with vision, brain and areas surrounding the eyes), transplants and urology to name a few.

There are also diagnostic services such as General Radiography, Ultra Sonography, Mammography (low dose x-rays, mostly used to detect breast cancer) to high end services like Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Digital Subtraction Angiography along with intervention procedures, Nuclear Imaging, etc. The Laboratory services include biochemistry, hematology, microbiology, serology, histopathology, transfusion medicine etc. With such vast coverage, it’s no wonder that we are becoming so popular. Plus, here one has the unique opportunity of combining allopathic treatment with homeopathy or naturopathy or even ayurvedic treatments. One may wonder as to why people would combine treatments. The simple reason is many allopathic ‘cures’ are temporary. One needs to undergo them over and over again. But the other two are more or less long term if not lifetime ‘cures’. So now I’m sure you’re wondering, then why go for allopathy at all? Well, allopathy takes effect much faster than the other treatments.

In fact, many countries have developed links for speedy treatment in India for their nationals on account of the fact that in these countries one has to wait for extended periods of time to undergo operations. It’s not just that, ‘Incredible India’ programme plans to start ‘medical visas’ to promote medical tourism. Due to problems of insurance cover in the U.S.A., U.K. and Canada, people there have a long waiting time. This puts a lot of stress on patients, besides running out of precious time in many, if not most, cases. On the contrary, India fits the bill for its value for money expertise, thus attracting people from world over, be it the ‘developed nations’ or the ‘underdeveloped nations’!!

Some of the most popular hospitals for such purposes are The Apollo Group, Escorts Hospitals in New Delhi and Jaslok Hospitals in Mumbai. These have hi-tech infrastructure and are at par with, if not better than, hospitals abroad. They have earned a reputed name even abroad. Many corporate hospitals such as Global Hospitals, CARE and Dr L.V. Prasad Eye Hospitals in Hyderabad, The Hindujas and NM Excellence in Mumbai, have also started handling a steadily increasing flow of foreign patients.

So if all this is here, then why do we run abroad for the smallest of things? I suggest that Indians, who run abroad to avail ‘advanced’ medical facilities should learn a thing or two from foreigners. Well it works both ways, the people need to think about staying here for treatment and start trusting our doctors. And the government needs to start helping its own people before helping its guests! But, well, we need to at least accept the fact that India is at par with, if not better than, the rest of the world in this field!! After all, we have been practicing medicine since the Vedic age, so it shouldn’t be a surprise we’re great at it!

Priya Ganguli


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