Will India’s Global Healthcare Ranking affect its medical tourism growth?

<![CDATA[The boom in global medical tourism sector has been perhaps best realized by the Asia Pacific countries with India ranking 5 among the top destinations. The reasons for the dramatic rise of India as one of the prime medical tourism destinations are multifarious with cost factor and the high level of expertise in advanced treatments being the top drivers. 

India’s Global Healthcare Credit certainly goes to the great initiatives taken up by the government that helped in building a brand image of the country through the extensive Incredible India campaign.

  • India’s medical tourism market is estimated to grow from the current size of $3 billion to $7-8 billion by 2020.
  • Foreign tourist arrivals in India on medical visa grew by 140% from 2013-2015.
  • Currently, India is providing e-visa facility to citizens of 161 countries to further boost the medical tourism sector.
  • The Indian Government in coordination with the Tourism Ministry is all set to release newer medical and wellness tourism policies to attract foreign medical tourists. This is to be announced on 21st June, the World Yoga Day.

While the country is leaving no stone unturned to tap the potential of medical tourism market, it is seriously lagging in providing the desired standard of medical service to the average countrymen as evident from the recent Healthcare Index report released by Lancet (2015). India’s ranked 154 out of 195 countries in terms of accessing quality healthcare, which is highly disappointing.

Switzerland tops the list followed by Sweden and Norway. Andorra of Europe has set a benchmark in Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) with a score of 95. Among the richest nations, US showed the worst performance and even Britain’s performance was well below the expected levels.

The report reveals that India also trails behind its neighboring countries Bangladesh, Nepal and even underdeveloped nations like Liberia and Ghana. This picture certainly does not augur well for the future medical tourism prospect of this country for which the government is toiling so much.

 Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) – What is it?

India’s Global Healthcare This a benchmark on healthcare standards set on the basis of Global Burden of Diseases Study (GBD) published by the renowned medical journal Lancet that covers the death rates of 32 diseases in different countries, which can either be prevented or effectively treated by providing quality medical care and support.

This ranking is a performance indicator of the country’s healthcare sector. It gives an idea of the quality medical support accessible to the common people of a country in comparison to the earning per capita. The country taking pride of being the world’s largest democracy, a poor score of HAQ 45 comes as a big embarrassment where the underdeveloped neighboring countries have fared better.

With second highest number of accredited hospitals (next to Thailand), the reasons for India’s dismal performance in Global Healthcare Rankings may be surprising but not unexpected considering the factors summarized below.

The government expenditure on healthcare is significantly low in India compared to other emerging and underdeveloped nations.

Country Government spend on healthcare

(% age of the entire government expenditure)

India5%
Bangladesh5.7%
China10%
Nepal11.2%
Vietnam14.2%
Nicaragua24%

Poor support in child and maternity care:

child and maternity careAs per the Lancet study chart, countries with much lower per capita income fared much better in other healthcare indicators like life expectancy and neonatal and maternal mortality rates.

CountryGDP Per Capita

(PPP Constant 2011 International $) (2015)

Healthcare Access and Quality IndexLife Expectancy at Birth (in years)Neonatal Mortality (per 1,00,000  live births)
India5,733.544.86828
Bangladesh3136.651.77223
Nepal2312.450.87022
Vietnam5667.466.37611
Liberia784.645.46124
Nicaragua4884.264.37510

Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal and even Liberia shows a better ranking in Healthcare Access and Quality Index indicating that people residing in these countries have much better access to quality healthcare than India.

Even comparing the scenario with China back in 1995, when China’s per capita income was much less than India, it scored a much higher ranking than what India scored today.

Widening of socio-economic disparity:

India’s Global Healthcare The range of quality healthcare service available in India is quite striking. On one hand, India proudly houses top level internationally accredited hospitals offering the best medical support in the most complex treatments using state-of-the-art technology at par with the affluent western nations. On the contrary, a huge segment of Indian population, especially the poor and low income group, is coerced to highly unacceptable medical standards.

The huge socio-economic disparity in India is the prime reason for the inaccessibility of quality healthcare by the average Indian population.  As per the analysis cited in Socio-economic Inequality and its Effect on Healthcare Delivery in India (2010), the chances of infant deaths in a poor family is two and half times higher than that born in a well-off family.

Similarly, a child born in poor living standard conditions has four times higher chances of death than a child born in high living standard condition. Almost on a similar note, a tribal infant has one and half times higher chances of death before reaching the age of 5 compared to children of other sectors. Moreover, a female child has higher chances of death before her fifth birthday than the male counterpart in many sectors.

These factors are strong enough to drag India’s position in Healthcare Index. The country being projected as one of the fastest growing economies in the world cannot afford to undermine these serious healthcare issues considering the huge negative impact it is going to have in the near future.

In healthcare, quality is the key. If the country’s huge segment of population suffers badly in this respect, definitely it is not going to present a promising picture to the outsiders who would rely on other destinations for better healthcare support.]]>

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