Building Resilient and Sustainable Medical Value Travel in India
Medical Value Travel, also known as Medical Value Tourism, refers to patients traveling abroad for medical interventions. People travel abroad mainly for curative purposes through modern medicine, traditional treatments including ayurveda, and wellness purposes. In effect, Medical Value Travel (MVT) encompasses a holistic approach to health and wellness.
The global healthcare landscape is facing unprecedented challenges, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The MVT sector has been greatly impacted, with many patients facing barriers to accessing high-quality care, and affordable healthcare services and many healthcare providers struggling to maintain the necessary infrastructure and services. Therefore, the resilience and sustainability of MVT have become crucial in recent times.
Need for Medical Value Travel
In the world where patients are facing long waiting times, limited high-quality healthcare services and skyrocketing healthcare costs, patients are turning to MVT as a solution to key healthcare problems, with the industry projected to reach $192.91 billion by 2026.
MVT has become increasingly popular due to factors such as the high cost of healthcare in certain countries. For example, a heart bypass (CABG) in the United States of America costs $1,13,000 whereas it is $10,000 in India. Long waiting times are also contributing to the rise of MVT. Approximately 40 per cent of NHS hospital departments in England have average treatment waiting times above 18 weeks-with average waiting for some of them above 30 weeks. Lack of access to specialized medical treatments in some least developed nations is another major contributor.
By traveling for medical purposes, individuals can access high-quality medical treatments at more affordable prices and receive personalized care from experienced medical professionals. Moreover, MVT stimulates the economic growth of the destination country by attracting international patients, generating revenue, and creating job opportunities.
In 2020, the Indian Medical Tourism industry was worth $6 billion. Additionally, medical tourism enhances healthcare infrastructure and expertise, benefiting local residents and advancing the overall quality of healthcare services in the destination country, leading to improved medical services for both locals and medical tourists. The significance of MVT lies in its ability to provide individuals with greater control over their health and wellness, leading to improved quality of life.
Challenges faced by Medical Value Travel Industry
Building a robust MVT industry requires addressing a range of challenges. Major challenges such as quality and safety of medical services are addressed by establishing effective guidelines and protocols that are constantly updated, keeping patients' welfare as the utmost priority. There is also the need to establish trust between medical tourists and healthcare providers and ensure effective communication and coordination between healthcare providers and travel companies.
To build a sustainable MVT industry, it is crucial to strike a balance between meeting the needs of medical tourists and protecting the interests of destination countries and their populations. Other challenges include a lack of standardization and regulation in the industry, a lack of infrastructure and technology in some destination countries, and a need for awareness and understanding of MVT among potential medical tourists. Addressing these challenges will require a coordinated effort from various stakeholders, including governments, healthcare providers, travel companies, and international organizations.
India as a leading Medical Value Travel destination
With the Indian philosophy of “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah” (May everyone be happy, healthy and no one suffer), India is rapidly emerging as a leading destination for medical value travel. In the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) 2020-21, India secured the 10th position out of 46 global destinations, as recognized by the Medical Tourism Association. Additionally, India ranks 12th among the top 20 wellness tourism markets worldwide and holds the 5th position within the wellness tourism markets in the Asia-Pacific region. NITI Aayog estimates that the Indian economy could earn an additional $9 billion by 2026 from MVT and wellness tourism.
India’s world-class healthcare infrastructure facilities include 40+ JCI (Joint Commission International) accredited hospitals, and over 1600 NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals) accredited hospitals . The country also boasts a vast pool of highly skilled medical professionals, including over 1.3 million allopathic doctors, 0.8 million Ayush doctors, 1.3 million allied health professionals, 1.7 million pharmacists, and 3.4 million nurses and ANMs (Auxiliary Nurses and Midwives). India offers a range of medical treatments and procedures at a fraction of the cost compared to developed countries.
Patients from around the world are traveling to India for a wide range of treatments, including orthopedic surgeries, cardiovascular procedures, cancer treatments, and cosmetic surgeries, among others.
The country's reputation for providing affordable and quality medical care has been further strengthened by the efforts of the Indian government to promote medical tourism. With a rich cultural heritage, diverse tourist destinations, and a warm, welcoming population, India provides a unique and enriching experience for medical tourists.
Approach to strengthen Medical Value Travel in India
To overcome these challenges and build a resilient and sustainable MVT industry in India, it is important to adopt the following comprehensive approach:
Establishing Strong Partnerships with Hospitals and Medical Facilities: Establishing strong partnerships with hospitals and medical facilities is a key pillar to strengthen the MVT industry. These partnerships should prioritize patient safety and security, transparency, and affordability of medical services. Moreover, medical facilities need to be equipped with the latest technology, trained personnel, and strict adherence to medical protocols. Furthermore, medical collaborations between Indian medical institutions and international medical facilities can help enhance the reputation of MVT in the country. Such collaborations can lead to the exchange of knowledge, skills, and expertise and improve the quality of medical services offered in India.
- Offering Comprehensive Service Packages: In addition to high-quality medical services, medical value travel in the country must also provide comprehensive service packages that include pre- and post-treatment services such as visa assistance, travel arrangements, and accommodation. This will enhance the overall experience of medical travelers and make their journey stress-free.
- Emphasizing Patient Safety and Security: Patient safety and security are of utmost importance in MVT. To ensure this, strict adherence to medical protocols and regulations should be in place, and emergency medical services should be readily available. By prioritizing patient safety and security, MVT in India can gain a reputation for reliability and attract more patients.
- Providing Efficient Patient Management Services: Efficient patient management services, such as appointment scheduling, medical records management, and payment systems, are crucial for building a sustainable MVT sector. Streamlining these processes can ensure a seamless experience for patients, making their journey to India for medical treatment more convenient and stress-free.
- Developing a Strong Online Presence: In today's digital age, MVT in India needs to have a strong online presence. This can be achieved by building a website, engaging with potential patients through social media, and establishing an online reputation management system. A strong online presence can help attract more patients and promote the unique aspects of MVT in India.
- Addressing Language and Cultural Barriers: Language and cultural barriers can be a hindrance for medical travelers in India. To overcome these barriers, industry stakeholders should provide language and cultural support services. This will help patients feel comfortable and at ease during their medical treatment in the country.
In a nutshell, building a resilient and sustainable MVT ecosystem is crucial for the growth and development of India's healthcare sector. By addressing the challenges discussed, the country can continue to grow as a world-class destination for medical tourism. With the right policies and investment, India has the potential to become a global hub for affordable and high-quality medical care which includes an amalgamation of modern as well as traditional medicine, providing benefits not only to medical tourists but also to the country and its population. By focusing on these key factors, India can ensure the long-term sustainability of its MVT industry and continue to provide state-of-the-art healthcare services to patients from around the world.