Medical Tourism in India: The Road Ahead

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


According to the Deloitte study, the number of Americans going abroad for treatment was set to double from 75,000 last year to 150,000 this year, before zooming to 600,000 next year. With a heart bypass costing up to US$80,000 (Dh293,840) in the US and as little as $10,000 in India, according to McKinsey, the economics are obvious.

Indian Corporate Hospitals has seen an significant increase of overseas patients in the last 3 to 4 years . Dr Ramakanta Panda, India’s most famous heart surgeon, who has operated on Indian Prime Minister , "Dr Manmohan Singh" operates on more than 400 International patients.

According to Dr Panda Of late there has been a surge in government ministers and senior businessmen, from Africa and the Middle East , out of four or five consultations about one is operated.

We probably do not do more than two or three American or European inpatients in a month,” Dr Panda estimates. “Health is something people are very scared to outsource. It’s very easy to outsource IT Services, but outsourcing life seems very dangerous.”

Sudarshan Mazumdar, the marketing director at Fortis Healthcare, India’s second-largest hospital chain, is similarly circumspect about the long anticipated surge in American and European patients.

“A lot of African countries or Middle East countries who used to look at London and the US are now looking more and more towards India. That’s going to keep on happening. What isn’t happening is Canada, Australia, US and Europe – that belt hasn’t happened at all.”

Estimates of the scale of medical outsourcing vary wildly. Within months of last year’s Deloitte study, a study by McKinsey, using a tighter definition, put the number of medical tourists worldwide at just 60,000 to 80,000 a year, a tenth of Deloitte’s estimate for the US alone. McKinsey estimated the US provided just 10 per cent of medical tourists.

The number of medical tourists coming to India is similarly uncertain. At the Association of Indian Chambers of Commerce’s medical tourism conference in January, a presentation from India’s Institute for Clinical Research said India had treated 300,000 medical tourists back in 2006.

Another study, citing McKinsey, said it had only received 150,000 as of last year. But seeing as Wockhardt Hospitals, the Indian hospital group that has most enthusiastically targeted medical tourism, only treated 3,500 foreign patients last year – of which about half came from the US and Europe – the McKinsey figure seems more likely.

Wockhardt expects the number of foreign patients to rise by 38 per cent this year. But that will still leave it a fraction of the company’s 55,000 to 60,000 domestic patients.

Vishal Bali, the chief executive of Wockhardt Hospitals, one of the few Indian hospital groups to push hard for international business, believes that the long awaited takeoff is finally here. “A lot of work had happened from 2004 to 2007, and that is beginning to show very positive results.”

What could make this happen is if large US companies and insurance companies incorporated a medical tourism option.

Posted by Wockhardt Hospitals at 4:06 AM  


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