More overseas patients are coming to India for treatment Representational image (iStock)
THERE was a huge increase in the number of overseas patients travelling to India for medical treatment in the recent past, according to a media report.
Between 2016 and 2019, the number of foreign patients to India increased from 430,000 to 700,000, and the sector was estimated to be worth £6.7 billion by 2019, reported the BBC.
However, Covid-19 had impacted the sector badly. According to figures from the ministry of tourism, almost 183,000 tourists arrived for medical reasons in 2021, down 73 per cent from 2019.
Countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, popular for medical tourism, were also affected by the pandemic.
“India has the largest pool of clinicians in South Asia,” Dinesh Madhavan, President of Group Oncology at International Apollo Hospital Enterprises, told the BBC.
“We are uniquely positioned thanks to our hospitality and rich culture, combined with modern as well as traditional medicine and therapy.”
Apart from cancer treatment, patients arrive in India for cosmetic surgery procedures such as liposuction (removal of body fat) or hair grafts for baldness.
“We get patients from the US, Africa and Gulf regions,” Dr Satish Bhatia, a dermatologist and cutaneous surgeon in Mumbai, was quoted as saying by the BBC.
“There is a mushrooming of new aesthetic clinics all around India. Sadly, this also attracts unqualified and untrained doctors wanting to make easy money. So, always research your doctor’s credentials and experience before fixing an appointment.”
According to him, the price of most cosmetic procedures in the US, Europe and the Middle East are at least 50 per cent higher than if done in India.
People in the industry told the broadcaster that medical tourism is picking up again now after the pandemic.
Dr Shankar Vangipuram, senior consultant, radiation oncology at the Apollo Cancer Centre in Chennai, advises to make sure there are adequate arrangements in place for aftercare.
“Post-treatment in India – sometimes due to lack of qualified clinicians and diagnostic tools – we do face difficulty in tracking the responses and toxicities,” he told the BBC.
Rakesh Kumar Verma, additional secretary, at India’s tourism ministry, told the media outlet that Indian medical tourism lacks effective regulations to govern the sector, which leaves it unorganised and lacking in monitoring.
Garima Magu, a director at Medsurge, a medical travel agency, said that there is a strong need to have certain guidelines set by the government which have to be followed by the hospitals, facilitators and other support services… in order to bring professionalism in medical value tourism.