Medical Tourism: is it fit-to-fly?

Medical Tourism in the country will never reach its potential unless regular tourism facilities are improved to match international destinations, as they can greatly contribute to medical tourism apart from hospitals, says Dr. M. M. Begani, a proponent of daycare health services.

We, at Abhishek Day Care Nursing Home have a large influx of patients from around the world with the main inflow coming from the Gulf countries such as UAE, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but also Africa, Europe and the Americas.

The estimated number of days that they stay back in India ranges from a minimum of five days to maximum two months, depending on the treatment they are here for. On an average, their spend per trip is estimated to be anywhere between `1,00,000 and `3,00,000 for regular procedures and even higher for major surgeries and procedures. To assist us with such high numbers at Abhishek Day Care Nursing Home, we have Dr. Dheeraj Mulchandani.

It is no longer true that medical tourism in India is an untapped potential. I think it is better to say it is still unorganised and being run at random. The challenges we face are regularisations, visa approvals, bed strength of our private hospitals, and having too many middlemen still trying to figure out the business.

Can India become a hub?

The government must ease the issuance of visas for genuine medical tourists. There are many people who apply for a medical visa and face challenges even when they get here, right from having to register at the FRRO office, stamping their medical documents, requiring a fit-to-fly certificate to exit the country, delays in extensions of visas if required. All these can be made more patient friendly.

Apart from hospitals, even day care clinics such as ours can greatly contribute to medical tourism. Now, how can day care clinics help or collaborate with travel agents/ tour operators/ travel fraternity to facilitate this?

Day care clinics are the best thing to happen to medical tourism. Day care centres have the fastest turnaround bed-times, so we can really help taking the load of our hospitals. The patients too are happy with day care treatment as they are more relaxed in their hotels after procedures rather than staying at the hospital. Quick in and quick out surgeries are now possible with newer medical and surgical innovations as well as short acting anaesthesia. Not to mention, that most day care procedures have an excellent safety record.

Collaboration is key

As of now, we do have a tie-up with some travel groups that bring their patients exclusively to us because of the assured quality of care they are able to obtain at short notice. The way it works is that we issue an invitation letter to the patient that facilitates their visa approvals. Once they get their medical visas, they can come into the centre, get their treatment and we issue them a medical report and certificate with a fit-to-fly certificate as well, so their exit is without hassle.

We need to harness the power of international tourism into the medical tourism field. Medical tourism will never reach its potential unless regular tourism facilities are improved to match international destinations. Cleanliness, hygiene, world-class hotel rooms, budget-friendly accommodations, patient-friendly services, politeness and courtesy are paramount. We have the advantage of having the best doctors in the world who are still able to provide relatively affordable world-class care. We are in the unique position to take complete advantage of this and the next 10 years are full of promise.

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