Africa tourism

India to become the biggest medical tourism destination

At the recently concluded Global Investment Summit in Ayush, India’s visionary Prime Minister spoke passionately about India becoming a medical tourism hub for the world, serving and saving millions of lives every year. With all the macro factors favoring heavy investment in the Indian medical tourism opportunity, he said the vision of Heal in India is becoming one of the biggest brands of the decade.

The Indian medical travel industry started to gain momentum at the beginning of the last decade as more and more private hospitals started to look to neighboring countries to serve their patients. Pioneers such as Dr. Reddy of Apollo, Dr. Shetty of Narayana Healthcare set an example by serving patients in neighboring Bangladesh and later expanding their service to Nepal. They were followed by Fortis, Medanta and Dr. Rela establishing deep breakthroughs in the CIS, Middle East and Africa. To complement the effort of these hospitals, an industry of medical travel facilitators has come into operation, marketing these hospitals and setting up offices in these regions to market Indian healthcare.

Today, nearly 2 million patients visit India every year from these regions, generating $4 billion in foreign exchange every year. But the future looks much brighter.

The current leadership of Dr. Mansukh Madaviya under Prime Minister Modi has singled out medical tourism as a champion sector giving it an unprecedented boost. The government is working hard to make India the number one medical tourism destination in the world, tripling it to $12 billion in 4 years, creating a new industry that generates millions of jobs across all states. Never before has an Indian government given such a coherent and comprehensive direction to the sector. But the Modi government fully appreciates its potential as a revenue generator, job generator and brand ambassador for India’s soft power. Today, there are thousands of politicians and government officials from Africa and Asia, who owe Indian healthcare for saving the life of a loved one. It is a valuable asset for us in an ever-changing geopolitics.

However, to become the number one medical travel destination, a lot has to change. Significant investments have already been made to bring Indian hospitals up to par with global excellence in equipment and talent. However, almost no effort has been made to build the ecosystem to attract international patients. Patients spend 80-85% of their time in guesthouses around hospitals, and that’s where they have a bad experience and a high risk of infection. These guesthouses should be standardized and hospitality players should build patient-specific hotels near hospitals. 80-90% of international patients come to India through a medical travel facilitator who acts as a travel agent and health advisor to the patient. Significant investment is needed in these companies which market Indian healthcare in over 70 countries through their offices, digital marketing and regular events. Standardization needs to be introduced urgently in this segment of service providers.

Insurance is another very big opportunity. Indian insurers should actively seek the opportunity to sell Indian health insurance to foreigners. This could potentially generate another $9 billion in bounties and patient influx in India.

Another opportunity in cross-border telemedicine. India has already become the call center of the world given its skill and cost advantage. It could similarly become the telehealth center of the world, healing people in India and across India.

Our unique knowledge and position in traditional Ayurveda medicine is another advantage that needs to be adequately marketed globally. Although we are already well known for yoga, patients are still unaware of the therapeutic potential of Ayurveda in treating diseases such as kidney failure, infertility, eye disorders, etc. Under the leadership of India’s current Minister of Health, Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, a blend of integrated medicine is being created where patients are provided with standardized traditional and modern medicine treatments before, during and after surgery.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.