Medical tourism is breathing easy

Medical tourism is breathing easy

Medical tourism is breathing easy

A decade ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Bangalore as a hub for
international patients seeking treatment.

With state- of-the art medical facilities, low infrastructure costs andgood doctors, the industry is thriving here, albeit after NewDelhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

The patients come here tired after a long wait for treatment under the public health
systems and insurance schemes that do not covercertain procedures in their countries.

The cost savings are huge and the services leave no room for complaint. “Patients mainly come from Middle-East, Nigeria, Uganda and Congo.

There are those from Europe, the US and the UK too, who have been in the waiting list in
their countries for long and those who have to pay big insurance,”explains Dr S Venkatesh, consultant cardiologist, Fortis Hospitals.

“Typically, they come for surgical procedures — cardiac, brain and spine and
orthopaedic. There are also those who are here for paedriatic procedures

England, Singapore and Bangkok are expensive for similar cases,” he says. Dr Nandakumar Jairam, chairman and group medical director, Columbia Asia Hospitals Pvt Ltd, points out how India is a popular destination for foreign patients, especially from Africa, the Middle-East and the SAARC nations and some from the United States.

“International patients come to our hospitals for a host of procedures. However, the most common ones include kidney transplants, joint replacements, neurosurgery, cardiac surgery and cancer treatment,” he says.

At present, India is second to Thailand in medical tourism, thanks to the cost factor, quality of healthcare provided and doctors of international repute.

“India is 25 per cent cheaper than Thailand, 20 per cent cheaper than Singapore and 15 per cent cheaper than Malaysia. The cost here is one-third of what it is in USA,” informs Dr Mabel Vasnaik, consultant and head, Adult Emergency Department, Manipal Hospitals, which has seen a steady flow of patients.

“The systems here today are on par with western facilities in reference to clinical talent, technology, quality, care and outcomes.

In addition to the treatment, patients are also provided accommodation out of the hospital for themselves if required and for the relatives.

They are helped with sourcing food, airport transfers and transport inside the City. Most hospitals have travel help desks that these patients coordinate with,” she adds.

Hospital accreditation plays a pivotal role in the patient’s choice of hospital. The Joint Commission International (JCI) is the primary source of accreditation for
international hospitals across the world.

“Accredited hospitals are quality-certified and have the technology,” informs Dr Venkatesh.

What this goes on to prove is that affordable healthcare does not mean inferior healthcare.

“As per the KPMG report dated May 2011, the price of a bypass surgery could vary between US$ 70,000-1,33,000 for patients without insurance in America. On the other hand the same surgery in India can be done at US$ 7000 or less,” says Dr Nandakumar.

While language is a concern for patients coming from non-English speaking countries, most hospitals today arrange for translators.

“Those who come from Nigeria, Iraq etc speak English. Those from the
Middle-East and Congo don’t. So we have a team of translators outsourced. When the doctors do the rounds or surgery, the translators come,” adds Dr Venkatesh.

The hospitality industry too is receiving a shot in the arm, thank to these international patients. While there are hospitals and hotels of international standards, it is the roadsthat leave much to be desired.

“The patients find it difficult while travelling on the roads here,” adds Dr Venkatesh. However it becomes unfortunate when foreign patients have to wait for long for the visa. “The latest move by the government to give on-arrival visa is expected to have some impact for travellers from the Middle East,” adds Dr Mabel.

While all this is good news, for a large section of society in the City and in rural areas, quality private treatment is still a mirage.

The government services are but another story. It’s hard to miss the irony.