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Medical Tourism or health tourism is the new buzzword in countries like India, Malaysia and Thailand.

The Governments in these countries are aggressively wooing potential patients from the developed world. Slowly but surely, health care is being outsourced to the developing world.Cheap medical treatment is readily avilable at all major Indian cities and medical tourism is a big,big business. This is mainly due to the mind-boggling cost of even a simple surgical procedure in the United States. The cost of a Health Insurance Plan in the United States is exorbitant. There is big percentage of Americans who are either not insured or under insured. In the United States, about 50 million citizens are said to be uninsured. Patients from the United States are being sent to India for treatment by their insurance companies who have tie-ups with private hospital chains. These are the people who are boarding planes to the East, seeking cheap but excellent medical care.

 

In the United Kingdom, the crumbling infrastructure in the NHS has made the wait for even simple procedures, as long as six months. In the United Kingdom , some patients have been waiting for over a year for their surgery as the NHS is just not able to cope with the situation.Of late it is the NHS that is often sending patients to India for surgical intervention in emergencies, as it is just not able to cope and deal with the situation.

Many of the corporate employers in the United States fund part of the medical expenses of it employees. Many of them are seriously looking at medical outsourcing in order to cut costs. The reason is not far off to see!. Cheaper Medical Care! According to the TIME magazine, while it costs approximately $175000 to undergo a heart bypass in the US, it costs only $10000 in India,$12000 in Thailand and $20000 in Singapore. India has one more advantage other than being a cheaper medical tourism destination. English is widely spoken and understood by almost everybody, especially in the urban areas. Everything is taken care of by the concerned hospital. Hotel reservations, food, transport and last but not the least a holiday during the recuperating period.

It is nothing surprising to note that India is posed to take giant strides in the field of medical tourism. The population of India is over 1 billion and growing at the rate of 2% annually. The huge Indian Middle Class is over 300 million and demands quality healthcare.

A quick look at the mind boggling of figures and the Indian Healthcare Industry and medical tourism in India:

15000 hospitals

875000 hospital beds

500000 doctors

737000 nurses

170 medical colleges

350000 retail pharmacies

18000 new doctors every year

(Figures courtesy Ernst & Young, India)

In addition, rural and semi urban areas have 23000 public health centers. In spite of this infrastructure, private healthcare dominates the healthcare market and the medical tourism industry in India.

Over the past twenty years, Indian private sector companies have set up corporate hospitals, the chief among them being Apollo, Fortis, Max, Escorts, and Wookhardt. These state of the art corporate hospitals conduct complicated surgeries like bone-marrow transplants, open-heart surgeries, and kidney transplants. Another area of corporate presence is the area of diagnostic services. The important companies which have made a mark for themselves in this field include Metropolis Health Services, SRL-Ranbaxy, and Lister.

Apollo Hospitals, started at Chennai, is one of the earliest corporate hospitals in India catering to foreign tourists looking to the the medical tourism indusrty in India for cheap medical treatment, and this group has its presence in over six countries, and operates about 35 hospitals across India. Escorts Hospital is one of the best hospitals for cardiac ailments in the world and is one of the top hospitals in India catering to the medical tourism indusrty. It is among the few counties in Asia to perform Totally Endoscopic Coronary Artery Surgery, the latest frontier in cardiac surgery. It is a pioneer in the “beating heart” surgery.

India welcomed 180000 medical tourists in the year 2004 when the boom is the Indian medical tourism suddenly took off. The medical tourism industry in India is predicted to grow to US$ 2 billion by the year 2012. There is a sudden surge in medical tourists from Africa, South and West Asia as well as from the developed countries. Some areas in India offer a highly specialized as well as a low cost in a particular branch of healthcare. New Delhi and Gujarat have emerged as prime destinations for cardiac care, Chennai and Tamil Nadu are top medical tourism destinations for quality eye care, Kerala and Karnataka for ayurvedic healing.

The status of eye care in India is highly impressive. India has more than 10,000 eye doctors and there are more lasik centers in India than even is some of the developed countries. Tamil Nadu leads the field as far as eye care is concerned. Shankara Nethralya and Arvind Hospitals at Madurai are renowned. The other famous eye institutions are AIIMS, New Delhi and LV Prasad Eye Hospitals at Hyderabad also well known. Among them, Arvind Hospitals at Madurai conducts the highest number of cataract surgeries in the world.

It is only Thailand that offers stiff competition to India in the field of Medical Tourism. It is only plastic surgery and breast augumentation surgery that are cheaper in Thailand than in India.

A comparative study of costs in the two countries are given below.The costs in India are given in ()

Bone marrow transplant Thailand US$ 62500 India ( US$ 30000)

Liver transplant US$ 75000 (US$ 40000)

Open Heart Surgery (CABG) US$ 14250 (US$ 4400)

Hip Replacement US$ 6900 (US$ 4500)

Knee Surgery US$ 7000 ( US$ 4500)

Hysterectomy US$ 2012 (US$ 511)

Gall Bladder removal US$ 1755 ( US$ 555 )

Source: IBEF research

Cost is not the only factor weighing heavily in India´s favor as far as medical tourism is concerned. Escorts Hospital in New Delhi is among the handful of hospitals in the world specializing in robotic surgery. The success rate of coronary bypass patients in the India is 98.7 percent while it is only 97.5 percent in the United States.

President Obama has introduced the much-needed health reforms amid stiff opposition from many from his own party and the republicians. it still remains to be seen by effective these reforms are in providing critical good health care to the poor and the underinsured in the United States.

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