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Digitising medical tourism, a continued success story

The Indian government is planning to launch a “wellness and medical tourism policy” to mark International Yoga Day on June 21st, says Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister for Tourism & Culture.

Copyright: niyazz / 123RF Stock PhotoThe policy intends to build upon the success of India’s now thriving medical tourism industry. The key focus of the policy is to further advertise the services available in India. It will coincide with the formation of the National Medical Tourism and Wellness Promotion Board, enlisting the help of cardiac surgeon Naresh Trehan and yoga guru Ramdev, with the intention of developing strategies to advertise the industry.

As part of this advertising campaign, a move to bring the medical tourism online is hoping to create more interest. During the press release Sharma mentioned an online portal in the works that will list all the accredited institutions and the services they provide, as well as the costs for those services.

This online medical tourism portal coincides perfectly with the government’s policy of easing the issuing of medical visas. Increasing the exposure of the industry while easing access to it is likely to bring continued success in the future.

The easing of visa access has even extended to diagnostic services. In response to “humanitarian need”, Prime Minister Modi has agreed with Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to allow medical visas to be granted to Bangladeshis to travel to India for medical diagnosis, in addition to treatment following diagnosis in Bangladesh.

Price may be the most attractive aspect of the Indian medical system to medical tourists. A recent example illustrating this is the situation in Samoa. Typically if a medical service cannot be provided in Samoa the hospital will send the patient to New Zealand, costing the government $10 million USD per year. Recently the Samoan Prime Minister announced the service would be provided at a lower overall cost in India despite higher travel expenses.

Medical tourism to India increased rapidly from many African nations. Now  Indian doctors are setting up medical outlets directly in these countries (eg, Kenya, Uganda). India has made the offer of exporting doctors to Samoa to provide both medical treatments and training in the local hospitals.

With heads of governments commending the cost efficiency of India’s medical services, advertising the cost online may well further boost the number of people travelling to India for these procedures. With reports of more and more countries either sending patients to India, or receiving medical aid in the form of doctors and training it is likely the medical tourism industry will continue to grow at a fast rate over the coming years.

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