Tap India's potential for medical tourism

Tap India's potential for medical tourism

Buried under reams of news reportage of bloody conflicts, armed violence, poverty and loads of other depressing stuff is a story that should bring a smile to otherwise grim faces.

When we mention Afghanistan and Pakistan the images that come to mind are drones, sectarian violence and Taliban-driven attacks.

Bucking the trend is the heart-warming report of an infant from Karachi who was flown in to Bengaluru to be treated for a complicated heart problem. The icing on the cake was that doctors in Bengaluru were able to correct the problem with state-of-the-art surgery.

Why this seemingly innocuous but valuable act gains importance is because of the hope it holds – that two neighbours who constantly bicker with each other facilitate something so positive and inspiring. The surgery on the child is not an isolated instance. A Sikh refugee from Afghanistan moved a court in Delhi to get a free stem cell transplant for his four-year-old son. With the court’s intervention, a Bengaluru hospital sorted out the problem – again not a run-of-the-mill illness, but something so complicated that it could probably not have been done in the best of hospitals a few years ago.

Encouraging people-to-people contact particularly through the export of medical expertise to the benefit of our neighbours, especially Pakistan – even as intense hatred festers across the border due to propaganda and the actions of terror outfits alike – helps trump the pessimism and hopelessness all around. Such acts of goodwill will also help promote better understanding and sympathy between the two rival nations. Also, the mind-bogglingly intricate surgeries are now affordable – something that a middle-class individual can look forward to. No wonder the commercial spin-off is being tapped by the medical community in Indian cities under the umbrella of medical tourism. 

Bengaluru, already the most high-profile city in information technology and software, has gradually emerged as one of the sought-after destinations for people from across the globe to get treatment for ailments that would cost a bomb or are not available in their own countries. Some 15 hospitals in the city are involved in catering to the international demand equipped with some of the best instruments, talented doctors and top of the line nursing infrastructure. Yet, the inflow of patients cannot be taken for granted.

The government needs to step in and do its bit, like rationalising air connectivity. Private hospitals, instead of competing with one another, must form a loose federation. This will help where the intervention of more than one hospital is required. Industry studies say the potential for medical tourism is far more than what is seen now. A focused approach should do the trick, surely.