'Affordable, Not Cheap': To push 'Heal in India', Modi government to reposition medical tourism sector

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The Narendra Modi government is set to reposition India as an “affordable” and “not cheap” medical tourism destination globally as the country launches its big-ticket project Heal in India, a top government official told News18.com.

In an exclusive interview, Dr Abhay Sinha, head of Services Export Promotion Council, set up by the ministry of commerce and industry, told News18.com that while India has been known as a sought-after destination for critical care medical procedures, some other countries are emerging as competition, such as Thailand.

“Now, India is looking at new positioning where the country will promote itself as an affordable but not cheap destination,” he said, while adding that the government has designed a journey for medical tourists in India in terms of what best it can offer and how best their visit can be facilitated.

“From the very point of the thought process of receiving medical treatment in India to the point of departure from India after completing the medical procedure – everything will be delivered in the best possible way, minus middlemen,” he revealed.

Sinha said that the entire process has been revamped where NABH-accredited hospitals and reputed medical value tourism agencies have come on board along with the central government.

“The government aims to create awareness across the globe about the quality and responsible healthcare ecosystem in India under the project called ‘Heal in India’,” Sinha said.

Under Heal in India via an online portal, foreigners will be able to locate the list of all hospitals in the country available to provide their choice of medical treatments.

The dashboard will provide the detailed cost of treatment packages and tourists will also be able to apply for visas from the same platform. Hospitals and visa offices will get in touch with the patients once they receive the request through the online platform. This removes the extra expenditure incurred by the patients on the charges levied by the middlemen and, also, the government plans to create a strict vigilance mechanism over the hospitals.

Apart from chronic illnesses, India will also promote its wellness dimension under the alternative medicines vertical of AYUSH – an acronym for ayurveda, yoga, unani, siddha, and homoeopathy.

“It will widen the scope of medical tourists in India as a destination known not just for treatment but also for preventive therapies and the buzzing concept of wellness,” said Sinha.

What is the plan?

According to Sinha, medical value travel is among the very important services that are exported which not only includes treatment for chronic illnesses but also includes wellness, meditation, and cosmetic procedures.

Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the demand and supply of these services got hampered because of travel restrictions where the revenue to medical value tourism companies dipped to zero.

“Now the sector is bouncing back amid which the hospitals have started witnessing a jump in patients coming from CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) regions,” he said.

The ministry of commerce and industry, he said, has already begun the promotion of India as a unique destination for medical tourists under the programme “Sanjeevani” under which 600 medical tourism companies or business visitors are expected to participate from overseas.

Also, the government plans to focus on building healthcare infrastructure in other states as well, he said.

“Why should medical tourism only come to top metros such as Delhi or Mumbai? Why cannot Vizag be labelled as an important destination for a particular kind of medical procedure? Now every state wants to promote itself as a destination for medical tourists,” he said. “That’s how India can wholly establish itself as a credible and responsible healthcare destination.”

The ministry of commerce is also planning to unveil an exhibition called “Atithi”, in which all hospitals and tourist companies will participate.

Govt efforts paying off: Industry

According to industry experts, in recent years there has been unprecedented growth in the sector where approximately 70per cent of the total medical services inbound forex in India has been churned from medical tourism.

According to Rajeev Taneja, CEO, Global Care, an MVT company that brings medical tourists to top hospitals across India including Fortis, Max Healthcare, Manipal Hospitals, Apollo hospitals, Aster Group, and Artemis among others, “Medical value tourism has been one of the most rapidly growing industries in India, especially after the government’s initiatives to position India as a holistic wellness destination.”

Gaining a strong foothold worldwide as a global medical destination, India is garnering much interest and trust in the global healthcare service industry because of its cost efficiency as compared to the other nations, highly skilled medical fraternity, and minimal language barriers with fluency in English being commonplace in the country, he said.

“We make sure that the treatments are of the highest quality and are cost-effective as compared to countries like the USA and Europe,” Taneja said.

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'Affordable, Not Cheap': To push 'Heal in India', Modi government to reposition medical tourism sector
'Affordable, Not Cheap': To push 'Heal in India', Modi government to reposition medical tourism sector
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