Visas need to be issued faster, and infrastructure upgraded to international standards for India to tap the medical tourism market, which it stands to lose to Singapore, says Rajiv Verma of the Indian Clinical Research Institute (ICRI), “Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Middle East and Africa, especially Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sudan are the biggest markets for India for medical tourism.”
Visas need to be issued faster, and infrastructure upgraded to international standards for India to tap the medical tourism market, which it stands to lose to Singapore, says Rajiv Verma of the Indian Clinical Research Institute (ICRI), “Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Middle East and Africa, especially Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sudan are the biggest markets for India for medical tourism. As far as Bangladesh is concerned, which constitutes 50 per cent of the medical tourism market for India, the issue is the medical category visas. It takes 15 days to get MVisas here whereas in Singapore, you get it overnight. We are losing a number of Bangladeshi medical tourists to Singapore because of this, despite scoring high in quality and affordability. The other overriding factor is that we need to develop more good roads and more airports of international calibre. Above all, the government needs to play a pivotal role in promoting India as an attractive medical tourist destination, just like Singapore Tourism Board. 80 % of medical tourists from Bangladesh get split between Chennai and Kolkata, Bangalore gets 20 %.”
Dr. Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya hospitals, adds that India needs to tap the Middle East and South African markets,” Visa regulations have to change. A person, when he or she is a patient, has to be treated differently. We must not only have more airports, but more direct flights and more airline operators. For India to become a top medical tourism destination, the hospitality sector needs to gear up in a big way like Thailand, which has 10,000 five-star hotels.”
According to Vinay Luthra of Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, state governments have to realise the importance of wellness tourism and include it as part of their tourism master plan the way Karnataka has done, “The onus also lies on the national medical authority to lay down guidelines for accreditation of hospitals. The tourism department can then promote such accredited hospitals.”
The Medical Council of India (MCI) ‘s main objectives are to maintain uniform standards of medical education, recommending the recognition/de-recognition of medical qualifications of medical institutions in India or abroad, maintaining a permanent registry of doctors with recognized medical qualifications and ensuring ethical practices in the medical profession. Following the arrest of president Ketan Desai and others on corruption charges, the government has formed an interim board of governors as a stopgap measure to carry out the functions of the MCI, with the intention of dismantling it. The cloud over the medical system in India has come at a time when medical tourism is picking up in India. This needs to be sorted quickly to restore credibility in Indian doctors.
A National Institute of Health & Family Welfare study ‘Satisfaction Levels of International Patients in India may have only interviewed 49 medical tourists in 6 hospitals in New Delhi, but it comes up with some useful suggestions. Although satisfied with the overall level of service, there is a need for improvements in nursing care, room facilities and food. While medical care is generally excellent, in other service areas, hospitals are not meeting patient expectations of an acceptable standard of service; what may be acceptable to local patients is often seen as inadequate by international ones.