With the globalisation landscape widening into healthcare consumerism, India – the outsourcing hub of the world – has another opportunity to capitalise. But despite holding all the aces in its hand, can the country be said to be playing its cards well?
The Role of India in Medical Tourism
Globalisation of the healthcare industry has worked wonders for India. Not only has it brought the latest innovative technology to the country, it has allowed healthcare providers to meet international standards and improve the quality of healthcare delivery for patients. This has opened the door for India to become a leader in medical tourism, with prime benefits including cost effectiveness, a personalised level of provision and a dependable healthcare experience. The ‘Incredible India’ tourism factor has slipped another card up the sleeve for the Indian medical tourism industry. Overall, India now plays a significant role in the growth of medical tourism worldwide.
Regional Medical Tourism Activities in India
India offers a wide level of variety within its borders; every state can be said to offer something unique. This feature provides an unsurpassed opportunity for the country to produce rewarding results.
For instance, the state of Tamil Nadu is a good case in point. Enriched with several corporate multi-specialty hospitals, the cities of Chennai, Vellore, Coimbatore, Madurai, along with many others, have helped to launch the now burgeoning private sector. The best healthcare in Tamil Nadu has been augmented by ultra-modern facilities, talented medical and paramedical personnel and support from the Government. Hospitals equipped with world-class treatment options that combine the best of western modalities with long-established Indian herbal and holistic healing techniques form a perfect blend of traditional and modern care; features that have transformed the state into a favored choice for medical treatment from across the globe.
Why India Hasn’t yet Reached its Full Potential in Global Medical Tourism Industry
One major obstacle that is impeding the uninhibited growth of the global medical tourism sector is a lack of PPP and of a one brand initiative. Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and several other countries have established boards formed by tourism authorities, chambers of commerce, ministries of health and private organisations with one shared objective. In India, there is lack of a single, unified body that works towards a common goal. There is also a single brand initiative missing, as can be seen with ‘Singapore Medicine.’
Creating ‘Brand India’ as a whole is essential where regional activities could add flavour to one common purpose. Perception of destination plays an important role and India needs to do a lot to improve the international public’s view of it as a viable healthcare destination. Just having few quality accredited hospitals doesn’t in itself create an overall high impact image.
Another major hurdle is poor marketing strategies. Many small-scale Indian healthcare organisations emphasise India as a cheaper destination, but there is a significant distinction in what is cheap and what is ‘value for money’. India has a long way to go to establish itself as a leading medical tourism brand that can offer high quality healthcare at affordable prices, with an additional pull factor being its attractive tourism activities.
Creating such common objectives is essential and India needs to know exactly what it should be promoting. Residents’ needs should always be a priority and the country should expand its services to international clients only when these have been met. Overproduced services can be actively marketed to overseas patients as an important revenue stream. Services which are less supplied should, in turn, not be promoted, as residents’ needs must take precedence over the tapping into of international market opportunities.
Realising the Potential of Medical Tourism International standard certifications in healthcare can synthesise quality. The Government should actively support the growth of healthcare corporations by offering incentives, creating institutional infrastructures, supporting an accreditation system and promoting the overseas selling of medical tourism through participation in trade missions, global medical tourism congresses and networking events.
Medical expertise should be harnessed by refining education and revolutionising research. Coalition with insurance companies abroad can help tap the database of potential customers. As a source of foreign revenue, the medical tourism industry is now becoming a pledge for prosperity in a country that is already a favoured tourist destination. The country can develop good regional medical tourism activities as well, the position of each individual Indian state in the medical tourism sector depends on the strategies they have utilised to promote their services.
Tamil Nadu has initiated several innovative approaches to attain their high standing. One such example is an exclusive ‘Medical Tourism Desk’ that operates at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Complex, which is manned by efficient and courteous staff. In addition to this, the Government has identified certain hospitals to help showcase medical tourism. There is also a large pool of experienced medical, paramedical, IT, travel and tour operators, which helps make the state a first choice for medical tourism. These are some important ingredients that can make up a successful recipe for medical tourism.
In addition, there needs to be a comprehensive nderstanding of international patient healthcare and non-healthcare needs, with cultural, legal and ethical issues discussed at length.
Why Should India Develop Medical Tourism Initiatives?
One could argue that India should not actively promote its medical tourism industry while its national needs remain unmet. Healthcare is unaffordable to many Indians and targeting new consumers might leads to several issues.
I, however, am of a different opinion; I truly see many positive benefits of medical tourism other than the generation of foreign revenue that could be used to revitalise the healthcare development of the region or rural areas. There are several hidden benefits of medical tourism.
These benefits include the fact that Indian healthcare organisations will be brought in line with International standards, as well as being able to attract innovative solutions and advanced technology. The home-grown healthcare sector will have the opportunity to reverse the ‘brain drain’ trend, as there will be better prospects for Indian healthcare professionals in their home country.
Monitoring the Pulse of Global Healthcare Development
Healthcare systems across the world are facing significant issues arising from a shift in diseases, an increase of non-communicable and chronic disorders, ‘Baby Boomers’ and an ageing population. In addition to these factors, you can add into the mix a fragmented healthcare system, the commercialisation of healthcare and increases in the cost of its delivery at a time when countries are facing shrinking healthcare budgets. Moreover, there is often very little anticipation and a slow response from authorities in tackling such challenges. Many Government bodies are engaged more in the management of diseases as opposed to prevention programmes, which presents another major problem.
The global healthcare struggle for affordability, accessibility, availability and quality of care is apparent. Fragmented healthcare systems, unequal economies, resource shortages, ageing populations, chronic health disorders and a lack of prevention programmes are key factors that have created major global healthcare challenges.
By participating in international healthcare activities such as medical tourism, Indian organisations will learn a great deal from the important medical challenges faced by the developed world. In doing so, they will be better prepared to develop infrastructures which will help guard against future problems within its borders and kick-start the growth of a highly developed and technological national healthcare industry.
About the Author
Dr Prem Jagyasi
Healthcare Marketing & Medical Tourism Consultant Dubai