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Medical Tourism in India

Medical Tourism in India

Foreign patients coming to India can get more than cheaper medical aid — they can now get free holidays, spa treatments, even a sample of adventure tourism and visit India’s rural areas to get first-hand knowledge of life in the Indian villages.

Planning a trip to India to avail of surgery or tackle an ailment? India certainly has some of the best doctors available and comfortable hospitals that will give you the best without charging you the roof. But now, under the Indian Tourism Ministry’s “Visit India 2009” initiative you can also avail of many frills that will turn your medical trip into a unique holiday too. You can recuperate in special spas, avail of the fabled Kerala massages and treatments that leave your body nournished and are a part of an Ayurvedic system of alternative healing that is thousands of years old. Or, once you have recuperated, you can try out some adventure tourism or rural tourism, courtesy the Indian government.

Sujit Bannerjee, secretary, Ministry of Tourism, said: “In 2009 which will be known as ‘Visit India Year’, we are providing medical tourists a chance to explore options like adventure tourism, spa tourism and rural tourism. The cost for these packages will be borne by the government and hopefully will attract more medical tourists to India.”

According to a 2008 study by global market research firm Deloitte, India received 4,50,000 medical tourists in 2007. But this figure, though encouraging, is behind countries like Thailand and Singapore. In fact, the study shows that Singapore received 4,10,000 medical tourists in 2006 while Thailand received 1.2 million tourists. While no official data is yet available for 2007, unofficial estimates suggest Singapore received 5,00,000 medical tourists, and Thailand received 1.3 million tourists for 2007.

The higher numbers of medical tourists in other countries ensure that India’s total revenue from medical tourism is much less than other countries. The Indian medical tourism industry will reach $2.3 billion in revenue by 2012.

Global recession and its impact

Ironically, the global recession may result in more people from Western countries coming in to seek intervention. BK Rao, chairman, Health Committee, Assocham and chairman of Gangaram Hospital in New Delhi, says, “The global recession has resulted in rising healthcare costs for foreigners in their own countries. As a result, India has emerged as an attractive alternative for patients seeking surgery.”

Dr Naresh Trehan, one of the most famous cardiovascular surgeons in India who is setting up his own medicity in Gurgaon (near Delhi), believes that “Medicities provide the highest end of healthcare in India.” He also suggests that the government should set up a separate immigration counter for medical tourists and give them special privileges regarding foreign exchange. Trehan has already done surgeries on five American patients post the Mumbai attacks, he says.


India has many advantages as a medical destination.  Firstly, there is the cost factor. A surgery in India costs 1/10th of what it costs in the US. This rate helps make India more cost effective than most other countries. Secondly, the entry of corporate India into the health sector has created hospitals like Max Healthcare, Fortis, Wockhardt etc. which are of international standard. These super speciality hospitals will ensure that medical tourists keep coming to India. Thirdly, thanks to the government’s ‘Open Skies’ policy, India, for the last few years, has been better connected to the world than it ever was before. It is no wonder then that analysts confidently predict a growth of 30 percent in the number of medical tourists that visited India in 2009. This figure, they add, is likely to increase to 40 percent in subsequent years.

These factors have to be combined with the fact that the world over, foreign nationals will be looking to Asia for medial tourism. The Deloitte study found that the number of Americans traveling internationally for medical care will increase from 750,000 to 6 million by 2010. That’s an eight-fold jump and that’s where Indian expertise will come in. M Srivastava, director of Health at ICRI says, “Our estimates suggest 14 percent Americans will be without adequate health insurance cover. There are also 7 lakh patients in Canada which are a target market.” He believes India has already made the right moves to attract this growing market. “Earlier, the government did not recognize foreign degrees obtained by Indian doctors. But in March this year this government changed that policy. This will help in many ways. Firstly, it will give help corporate hospitals find the right doctors for their international patients. Secondly, it will reassure foreign patients about an   Indian doctor’s qualifications. Thirdly, it will help in   medical outsourcing. For example, a doctor sitting in India can now give his opinion on a CT scan done on a patient in the US.”

The other thing that will help India is the growing number of JCI (Joint Commission International) accreditations   being awarded to Indian hospitals. The JCI is an international body which awards accreditations to hospitals all over the world. Foreign patients now will be doubly assured that they will get quality healthcare in India.


Insurance is a big issue, especially with regard to the US and the UK. As Trehan points out, “The NHS (Britain’s National Health Service) will only insure patients for countries that are three-four hours flying time from Britain even if it is for elective (non-life threatening) health procedures; this means that India is not covered.” Also, popular misconceptions about health and hygiene standards in Indian hospitals still persist in the minds of some foreigners. This, however, is changing fast and now more and more private US insurance companies are signing contracts with various Indian hospitals. This, coupled with positive coverage from the US media, has ensured more and more Americans are aware of India as a good medical destination.

Apart from good healthcare, there is also the tourism angle to consider. Many believe India’s diversity in tourist sites give it the edge over other countries. From viewing the Taj, to having a recuperating holiday on the beaches of Goa and Kerela, there’s plenty for the medical tourist and his family to choose from. And the best thing is it’s cost effective.     A US-based company, Medical Tours International, which organizes medical care for patients revealed a recent case where an uninsured American man came to New Delhi for spinal surgery. The cost, including the five-day hospital stay, airfare and sightseeing cost him $10,000. In the US, the surgery alone would have cost $50,000, approximately. Such figures will ensure that India will continue to remain one of the best destinations in the world for medical tourists.

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5 Responses to “MEDICAL TOURISM in India”

  1. Li Deng says:

    Medical Tourism in countries such as India provides an affordable option for the uninsured or under insured. If you arrange for medical travel through a reputable medical tourism company like WorldMed Assist, the hospitals they partner with are very carefully screened. Most have undergone a rigorous accreditation process similar to the best U.S. hospitals. Often their top surgeons were trained in the U.S. and many have affiliations with renowned US medical centers such as Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical. For more on India, visit http://www.worldmedassist.com/medical_tourism_india.htm.

  2. Syed Hashmath says:


    Iam an indian working in saudi arabia, I had kidney failure 18 months back and on dialysis since then. I want to go for kidney transplant but have no related kidney donor. Is there anyway that your firm arranges a kidney donor for patients who wants to undergo transplants. Please let me know if there is any such package available.

    Hoping to hear your kind reply soon.


  3. We have figures about surgery and health insurance. What about the marketing of relaxation / health / preventing deseases? How many people visit india to do yoga / ayurveda?

  4. Medical Tourism is a growing trend, especially for Americans as the cost of health care continues to rise. I recently came across a list of videos of people who have done the medical tourism thing and have had great success at http://www.apollohealthservice.com/video.html

  5. For those people worried about the situation in Bangkok, let me tell you, don’t go there!