India spends 1.2% of its GDP on health, but takes care of foreign patients — the country ranks second in medical tourism. In 2007, Indian hospitals treated 4.5 lakh patients from other countries against topper Thailand’s 12 lakh.
A two-year study by healthcare researchers Deloitte revealed there’s always been an inflow of patients from neighbouring countries and West Asia, but now there’s a significant rise in patients from the US, UK and Europe.
Cheaper treatment is a huge attraction and, during recession, that’s a big fact. But other factors, too, have contributed to the growth of medical tourism in India. “Indian clinical and paramedical talent is globally appreciated and with JCI accreditation of some hospitals, international standard is proven. Third-party intervention through health insurance has also given it a boost,” said Vishal Bali, CEO, Wockhardt Group of Hospitals.
“Thailand, which revolutionized medical tourism, is more into cosmetic surgery; India focuses on cardiac, neurological or orthopaedic problems,” Bali said.
Another significant factor is long patient waiting list, especially in the UK and Europe. The per-capita healthcare expenditure in Korea is $720 against India’s $94. Treatment cost is lowest in India — 20% of the average cost incurred in US; in Singapore, Thailand and South Africa, it’s 30% of the US cost.
Medical tourism showcases the potential of Indian healthcare sector to the world which dreaded India for the incidence of AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, malaria and diabetes.