Threats to India’s medical travel rebound

The general view in India is that inbound medical tourism is picking up again. But concerns have been raised by Apollo Cancer Centre, Chennai, suggesting that there are rarely adequate arrangements in place for aftercare.  India’s tourism ministry also points to the lack of effective regulation and monitoring of clinics, hospitals and other agencies in the sector.

No figures are available for inbound medical travel to India for this year, but there are signs that numbers will comfortably exceed figures from the ministry of tourism that 183,000 tourists arrived for medical reasons in 2021, down 73% from 2019.

Apollo Hospitals gets patients from the USA, Africa and Gulf regions. Apart from cancer treatment, patients arrive in India for cosmetic surgery procedures such as liposuction (removal of body fat) or hair grafts.

The hospital group has warned that there is a mushrooming of new cosmetic surgery clinics all around India. This also attracts unqualified and untrained doctors wanting to make easy money.

India’s tourism ministry is concerned that Indian medical tourism lacks effective regulations to govern the sector, which leaves it unorganised and lacking in monitoring hospitals, agencies and other support services.

Many hospitals have restarted their services for international patients. Manipal Hospitals has recently announced it is now able to use its air ambulance services for patients in different countries.