The Chronicles Of Medical Tourism

The Chronicles Of Medical Tourism

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By Kavita Shyam

Medical science has gone ahead and the sector has made progress like no other! Like all other countries in the world, India too is promoting itself as a haven for medical destination. Thanks to economic growth or boom in the country, we have seen extreme growth in the field of medicine. From state of the art infrastructure, medical advancement or research, skilled physicians and practitioners, the list is endless now. We are at par with the very best that western medical care has to offer. India does fine treatment of most of the medical cases with the highest levels of service, facilities, and professional skills. Indian doctors are doing exceedingly well in the country and abroad, besides our world-famous nurses are also spread across the globe providing the services. As observed, plenty of medical professionals have returned to India to their roots, from the abroad (read U.S, Asia Pacific, Gulf, and UK or Europe) leaving behind their roaring practices and got into private practice or private hospitals, which has been a very motivating factor for us.

Some of the lesser known countries may be looked at as decent alternatives for minor surgical procedures; however India is the only mainstream option that offers a comprehensive solution for most of the medical requirements as per the budget. Easily, today a complicated transplant or even a bypass surgery can be done for half or lesser the cost for the same treatment in the U.S. Even something as minor as a dental treatment or for that matter infertility treatments are being done in India successfully which is welcoming a sea of people to India for medical treatments! And most popular treatments- are chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, implants, neurosurgery and fertility treatment at cost effective prices. Interestingly, the lower cost of treatments includes longer post-operative care in the hospital as compared to the west. An American citizen can save upto 50 percent on his medical bills with treatments done here. Also, the medical costs are surely lesser than the deductable that most insurance firms levy on the patients. Weak rupee sure has spurred medical tourism in the country like never before. India has seen the maximum number of patients from Africa, US, UK, Saarc countries, a 30 percent growth or pick up in patients and dollar flow in the recent past.

As per reports, a coronary bypass artery surgery would cost as much as $ 70000 to $133000 in the US while in India it would cost $7000, and $31,750 in Korea or $22000 in Thailand. Similarly, a knee replacement surgery would cost $30000-53000 in the US, $9200 in India and $11,800 in Korea or $11,500 in Thailand.

Many touring companies have strong working relationships and tie ups with the major hospitals and research centers in India. And the relationship is also in tandem with the top doctors, nurse practitioners going up to the board members and administrators of the top institutions from the country. All this has helped facilitate the best levels of service combined with the very best medical treatment possible to the patients coming to the country.

When a foreign patient/ client contacts the doctors back home, after much research or word of mouth, and he or she tells the doctor about their medical needs, the doctors back home become guide, confidante, source of information, link and coordinator of sorts between the client and the hospital. The patient is then provided the best facilities and staff to handle the patient and his needs. The private hospitals are well maintained, English speaking team and a patient can almost feel home away from home with VVIP units in tow. The quality of doctors and their approach towards the disease or health problem, is of utmost importance which a state of the art plush hospital overseas cannot solve, so India as a healthcare destination is making waves.

The doctors are getting tech savvy, helping in the treatment process. So much so that the doctors use different apps on their smartphone or electronic devices to coordinate with the counterparts in varied locations. This way, the doctor can monitor the progress and send reminders and instructions on a daily basis. Thanks to the advancement in technology, that it has help the medical practitioners to have face to face follow ups unless the case if critical. Besides, today we have the comfort of air ambulances has also eased up the process. And this is what is drawing scores of patients to the country!

Today there are American and Indian staff of specialists who focus on medical tourism, who remain aware of all the developments in the said field. The medical tourism department also works closely with the leisure travel specialists, besides are able to coordinate explorations of India’s major tourism attractions at the same, which can turn out to be a a holiday for the patient and their travelling companion alongside the main purpose!

A very important aspect of medicine is the recovery phase. Patients recover more quickly and with a much higher success rate when they incorporate practices that enhance physical, mental, and emotional well being. Some patients take advantage of optional extensions that include Ayurveda, Yoga, and Meditation, which speed healing and bring the mind and body together as one.

Medical tourism has taken an upscale in the last couple of years, not just as for the fertility boom we also witnessed the most talked about case of the adjoined twins from Nigeria. Our country perhaps cannot forget the story of these girls who were joined at the hip, and the parents of the girls were told that an operation to separate them would almost kill one of them as they shared their veins, nerves and the spinal cord at the base. This sure was a complex and rare operation in medical history. Soon a team of forty doctors, anaesthesiologists and surgeons stepped into the operation theatre at Delhi’s BLK Super-speciality hospital. They had been practising for weeks on dummies to be sure and precise on what each one had to do in the operation theatre. And to the country’s surprise and amazement, after 18 hours of struggle at the operation theatre it turned out a success. And there a success story was written to go down in Indian medical history and marked a milestone.

And thereafter we had millions of foreign patients in the country for varied treatments from the pool of acknowledged doctors. And the medical visas don’t pose any sort of hassles. However, visa extensions can pose a problem and need a speedy process especially for the critical cases. Similarly a Pakistani national who had contracted hepatitis C and after almost a decade of treatments, she was asked to get a liver transplant preferably in UK. However, due to visa delays and issues, she opted for India. She was required to visit the country every six months for a year or two besides her doctor from India would prescribe her medicines on email. As observed, very few medical professionals overseas like to treat a patient for after effects of a procedure done in another country and so it’s difficult to have dental procedure or such other treatments continuation or follow ups down in two different countries. Delhi, Mumbai,Andhra Pradhesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Chennai are a hub for medical treatments as of today.

Indian government needs to market the country as a medical hub, on the lines of Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Philipines, Costa Rica and Turkey. However, word of caution the foreign patients must be sure and have precision on the total costs of the visit, complete with the treatment. For small treatments, the medical tourists use holidays, while the complex procedures require a separate visit. Our government or policy makers must remove several bottlenecks to make full itilisation of the upward movement of medical tourism.

The patients must get help from their country’s embassy or agency so as to avoid any fraudulence, illegal malpractice or unnecessary organ donation sham. Also the patients must be careful of any doctors having financial motives to prescribe extra tests, expensive branded medicines or earn commissions by recommending the patient to another doctor to make some extra bucks. Sometimes, they may also make quick dough by recommending hotels around. The foreign patients must be aware of the doctors, procedures, research medicines and other such important constituents during the visit. Easing of visa extension or norms and reasonable stay for the kith n kin of the patients will also make a huge difference going ahead. Besides the nurses and support staff in the country should be paid well, so that they are enthusiastic about work as much as the well paid doctors are.

Here’s hoping we see medical tourism in the pink of health!

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Somanjana Chatterjee

Somanjan Chatterjee is San Francisco based consulting editor