Medical Value Travel in India - Challenges & The Way Forward

Author: ETHealthworld l February 02, 2020 l Image Source: Bookimed
Medical Value Travel is gaining strategic importance given its ability to create employment, encourage cultural exchanges, improve positioning of the country by projecting its ‘soft power’ and earn foreign exchange for respective countries.

With the advent of globalization and the emergence of the culture of consumerism, there is increasing tendency among people to travel in search of better quality andaffordable healthcareoptions, availability of the latest medical technologies and accreditations, facilitation around hospitality services and minimal waiting time.
Furthermore, preferred destinations for Medical Value Travel has moved away from the developed markets of US and Western Europe to developing markets especially in Asia. With an increase in geriatric population and healthcare turning costlier in developed countries, several Asian countries have developed ecosystems necessary to become an MVT hub.
India currently ranks 5 th on the Medical Tourism Index globally among 41 major medical tourismdestinations. India with its ancient and modern heritage, diverse culture and astounding monuments is always an attraction for international tourists. Foreign patients coming to India for treatments, especially minor treatments, explore different tourist spots across the country. The pleasure and luxury coupled with world class treatment attracts patients from different regions of the world.
This portrays a potential opportunity for India in becoming a future leader in medical tourism given the fact that it focuses on building infrastructure, technology & services and a seamless experience for international patients.
However, the potential of the medical tourism in India and making India a hub is still at the nascent stage. The stakeholders and the government have only been able to scratch the tip of the iceberg. Promoting and spreading awareness about the facilities has been one of the major challenges India is facing. India is witnessing strong competition from destinations like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, South Korea with low cost options.
Few countries are entering in capacity building and resisting on allowing patients to travel and in the process creating policies against medical travel which is again a challenge. In India, there is alack of cohesiveness amongst the major players in the industry to come together and representIndia on a world platform to acquire newer geographies. Apart from these, inconsistent feestructure and lack of transparency in billing to foreign patients and absurdly high margins to trade to refer patients are some of the challenges.
In order to maintain the competitive edge, it is important to focus and make necessaryinterventions related to each of the stakeholders in the value chain. The key stakeholders in the MVT value chain include government, healthcare service providers, regulators and accreditationagencies, facilitators and insurers.
The interventions may include:

a. Promoting India as a Medical and Health Tourism Destination at international platforms.
b. Forming institutions for regulation and implementation of MVT.
c. Constituting MVT Facilitators Association to promote self-regulation.
d. Coordinating with source governments to strengthen institutional tie-ups to boost MVT
e. Categorizing healthcare service providers based on extent and quality of services.
f. Framing a comprehensive MVT policy and placing rigorous regulations.
Medical Value Travel industry is thriving in India and receives over 5 lacs medical value travelersannually from different source countries. With a strong target group-oriented branding and marketing “Heal in India” campaign besides having a robust platform for patients to interact withdifferent stakeholders of industry coupled a well-defined code of conduct for MVT business,India stands to elevate its existing position to become the most preferred MVT destination in theworld.