Expertise, low cost push medical tourism

BANGALORE: 74-year-old Jack Jones from US underwent a complicated bypass grafting procedure without blood transfusion recently at Bangalore’s premier heart hospital, Narayana Hrudalaya. He wen

Published: 17th February 2012 02:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 05:57 PM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: 74-year-old Jack Jones from US underwent a complicated bypass grafting procedure without blood transfusion recently at Bangalore’s premier heart hospital, Narayana Hrudalaya. He went home satisfied at the care and treatment provided by the super-specialty hospital in a third world country.

This is not an isolated case, as many patients from US, Africa, Middle East and SAARC countries are flocking to India for medical treatment and complex  surgeries.

There has been a significant 30 per cent year on year rise in medical tourism in the country in the past decade, as the four major metros including Bangalore and Hyderabad have been treating cardiac, neuro, orthopaedic and cancer patients, and attending to kidney transplants and general surgery patients. “In fact, Bangalore is relatively a new destination for medical tourism compared to other cities in the country,” says Yogendra Rawath, Vice President-International Division, Narayana Hrudalaya.

But, it has now picked up momentum in attracting patients not only from Pakistan and Bangladesh but also from the US. Presently, India is competing with countries like Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Egypt and Jordan in providing cost-effective medical care.

Over the years, Indian doctors have developed the expertise to perform the most complicated surgeries - be it of the heart, kidney, brain or bone. Medical procedures are affordable and the waiting period for open heart surgeries or kidney transplants is minimal.

According to Benny Charles Daniel, Manipal Hospital, the treatment is very cost-effective in India - 80 per cent cheaper as against UK or USA while 30 per cent cheaper compared to Thailand. For example, the cost of a complex heart surgery is around Rs 4.5 lakh in India while the same procedure will be more than double in the US. There is absolutely no waiting period in our hospitals, adds Benny Charles.

Most of these health care facilities have the best professional expertise as well as visiting surgeons and medical consultants from US and Europe who prefer to perform their surgeries in India and not get bogged down by problems of medical insurance and long waiting periods.

These hospitals not only arrange for the patient’s diagnosis, surgery and post-operative care but also travel, accommodation, counselling and even arrangements for city tours.

“Medical visas are generally provided without any difficulties except in some countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq. Visa for the US citizens is tough and time consuming. There is a need for Indian embassies to provide ‘medical visa’ on a priority basis followed by simplification of procedures,” he said.

If our cities have to make a mark in global medical tourism, they have to invest a lot and sustain the cost of running these super-specialty hospitals, along with providing subsidised healthcare to BPL patients.

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