Health and Medical Tourism: Destinations, Measure to Development

  • Post last modified:28 August 2021
  • Reading time:18 mins read

What is Health and Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is defined as when consumers elect to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment. This treatment may span the full range of medical services, but most commonly includes dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment.

Setting the boundary of what is health and counts as medical tourism for the purposes of trade accounts is not straightforward. Within this range of treatments, not all would be included within health trade.

Cosmetic surgery for aesthetic rather than reconstructive reasons, for example, would be considered outside the health boundary Medical tourism is related to the broader notion of health tourism which, in some countries, has longstanding historical antecedents of spa towns and coastal localities, and other therapeutic landscapes.

Some commentators have considered health and medical tourism as a combined phenomenon but with different emphases Mobility of patients across international borders.


Medical Tourism Destinations

Cost and quality are obviously the most important factors patients consider in choosing specific destinations for treatment. But many patients also consider amenities commonly found in resorts and hotels.

  1. India
  2. Thailand
  3. Bangkok
  4. Singapore

India

Despite the long travel time involved, India is a popular destination for medical tourists. It arguably has the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations, and English is widely spoken.

Several hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) and staffed by highly trained physicians. Prices can be obtained in advance, and many hospitals bundle services into a package deal that includes the medical procedure and the cost of treating any complications.

Hotel accommodations are extra, but hospitals often have hotel rooms or can offer discounts for hotels nearby.

Thailand

This popular destination for medical tourists rivals India in price and quality. Thailand’s large tourist industry is one reason it has a better infrastructure and less noticeable poverty than India. Prices are typically not as low as in India, and Thai hospitals do not offer fixed pricing.

However, food and lodging during recuperation will likely be less expensive than in India due to Thailand’s competitive tourism industry.

Bangkok

Bumrungrad International Hospital is a world-class private health care facility built for wealthy Thais, but foreigners comprise more than one-third of its patients.

Singapore

English is also widely spoken in this former British colony, located approximately 1,000 miles south of Bangkok. Singapore has modern, high-quality hospitals and is home to three hospitals accredited by the JCI.

Prices are higher than in Thailand or India but are much lower than in the United States. Central and South America. Mexico has been popular for some time with American patients seeking primary and dental care.

But to attract cash-paying American patients for surgical services, health care systems are building hospitals and clinics with the high level of service and amenities that American patients have come to expect.

For instance, Americans expect professional medical staff and upscale private rooms in clean, modern facilities. They also expect high-tech equipment that American hospitals would possess.


Opportunities Medical Tourism

After the SWOT analysis on Indian medical tourism and also interviewing the healthcare service providers in India as well as observing the different websites related to medical tourism’s growth and opportunities.

The following marketing strategies may be used by India’s healthcare service providers. They may be based on the 7 Ps of marketing mix: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process, and Physical Evidence:

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Place
  4. Promotion
  5. People
  6. Process
  7. Physical Evidence

Product

India has a number of hospitals offering world class treatments in nearly every medical sector such as cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, joint replacement, orthopaedic surgery, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, transplants and urology to name a few.

The various specialties covered are Neurology, Neurosurgery, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Rheumatology, Endocrinology, ENT, Paediatrics, Paediatric Surgery, Paediatric Neurology, Urology, Nephrology, Dermatology, Dentistry, Plastic Surgery, Gynaecology, Pulmonology, Psychiatry, General Medicine & General Surgery.

Well-trained medical staff with international board certification (US, UK, Australia,Germany, Japan) are considered as a valuable asset of the companies and used as an important tool to promote healthcare services.

Moreover, the cutting – edge technology and equipment available made by each hospital is also used as one of the major products in this industry. Another marketing strategy used by service providers is to create more value through services.

Superior value added services have been created to differentiate themselves from their increasing competitors,increasing its efficiency, creating convenience for the patients, and developing and strengthening the customer relationships.

Major healthcare service providers in India have started expanding their business to other countries by investing in and/or operating hospitals or medical center overseas. These hospitals function as a diagnostic center for screening cases and also for follow-ups in medical treatments.

Price

India ’s healthcare service providers have a competitive advantage among their competitor due to its high standard of medical treatments and services offered to the patients at a very ompetitive price.

In India, complicated medical procedures are being done only at one tenth of the cost in industrialized countries but in terms of infrastructure facilities such as roads, sanitation, power backups, accommodations, and public utility services much more is needed for the country to become a medical tourism destination.

Place

Internet is the main means for disseminating information related to medical and non-medical care services offered by each of healthcare service providers. It is the most effective and inexpensive way to reach the product to its target customers directly, and at the same time helping patients acquire correct and valuable information allowing them to make an informed decision.

Informative online marketing of each service provider creates awareness of the medical treatments available and reassures potential patients. Interactive communication, treatments description, description of services and facilities, quality assurance other concierge services were also presented on the websites to attract the patient who are on medical traveling program.

All the healthcare service providers generally take the help of the agents the in promoting their medical tourism. These agents provide information and recommend the patients regarding their treatments to the hospitals.

They work as a center cooperating between patients and hospitals for screening cases, sending all the necessary medical reports of the patients to the hospitals. And at the same time agents have the responsibility of advertising and doing marketing in those countries for healthcare service providers, spreading word of mouth advertising of service assurance and reliability.

Promotion

Most healthcare service providers in India particularly big private hospitals participate in travel marts, travel fairs, trade fair, exhibitions, seminars, conferences, and advertise in travel magazines in countries with the supporting from the government.

In addition, other informative materials such as brochures, booklets, video-cds, paper bags and t-shirt with logos were also used to create awareness of the available healthcare services as well.

Moreover, some healthcare service providers in India build up cooperation with the local institutes, universities, medical schools in other countries to establish collaboration in education, exchange of knowledge and training as well as to promote their alternative healthcare services.

Advertising about medical and non-medical services in both local and international media are used by healthcare service providers. Articles, video, news related to their high quality and standard of medical treatments and services, health issues, latest medical technology equipment, quality assurance / awards / accreditation available on their own websites and also to the international media.

These help to create awareness of the available alternative medical treatments as well as to build up a positive image of the high quality and international standard of medical care in India.

People

Another strategy that Indian healthcare service providers may use to attract the international patients for their low cost treatments in India as well as to get the medical services by its well – trained medical specialists who have qualified from well-known overseas institutes.

It is well acknowledged that having specialized and qualified doctors and staffs gives a competitive advantage for the hospitals. However, shortage of doctors and trained medical staff is treated as the major concern in medical Tourism in India.

Moreover, due to the misunderstanding of the patients’ culture are still considered as problems and challenges for medical tourism business in India.

Process

International patients who seek medical treatments are mostly concerned with the quality of treatments and also want that the service providers preferably be accredited by a recognized international organization that audits medical quality.

India has a large pool of doctors (approx 6,00,000), nurses and paramedics with required specialization and expertise and the language advantage (English speaking skills). The medical education system caters to the ever increasing demand for the delivery of the quality health care services all over the country.

The Joint Commission International (JCI) recognizes and accredits that the standard of the hospital meets or exceeds the standard of medical facilities as compared to the west. India is a popular destination for medical tourists.

Physical Evidence

In India, big hospitals like Apollo Hospitals, Escorts Hospital, Wockhardt Hospitals, Breach Candy Hospitals Lilavati Hospital, Manipal Hospitals, Mallya Hospital, AMRI Hospitals etc. have a good ambience in their Infrastructures with spacious, luxury rooms and excellent amenities same as that of a five star hotel for patients and relatives, and also are equipped with cutting-edge technology.

This is a competitive advantage of India in order to gain the confidence and build up the trust of international patients, making a decision to choose India as their preferred choice.


Suggestive Measure to Develop Medical Tourism

  1. Role of Government
  2. Medical Visas
  3. Holistic Medical and Diagnostic Centers within the Corporate Hospitals
  4. Setting Up National Level Bodies
  5. Integrate vertically
  6. Joint Ventures and Alliances

Role of Government

The government of India must act as a regulator to institute a uniform grading and accreditation system for hospitals to build consumers’ trust. It also acts as a facilitator to encourage private investment in medical infrastructure and policy -making for improving medical tourism.

The government should actively promote FDI (Foreign direct investment) in healthcare sector as well as also enacts conducive fiscal policies providing low interest rate loans, reducing import/excise duty for medical equipment.

It also facilitates clearances and certification like medical registration number, anti-pollution certificate etc. The government should reduce barriers in getting medical visa and institute visa-on-arrival for Patients and also can create medical attachés to Indian embassies that promote health services to prospective Indian visitors.

Medical Visas

A simplified systems of getting medical visas should be developed in order to make travel across borders smoother. Visas can be extended depending on the condition of the patients. The procedures for obtaining medical visa, the subsequent registration and visa extension procedures are complicated and time consuming.

There is a need to simplify and speed up these procedures to make India a more attractive medical tourism destination.

Holistic Medical and Diagnostic Centers within the Corporate Hospitals

Most of the big tertiary hospitals are opening up holistic centers within the premises, with yoga and meditation programmes long with naturopathy, herbal medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy departments. The claim is that these enhance treatment.

However, these services are charged for and add to additional revenues. The hospitals have small spaces for the relatives to pray in, thereby wedding science with religion and traditional with modern medical practices.

Setting Up National Level Bodies

To market India’s specialized healthcare products in the world and also address the various issues confronting the corporate healthcare sector, leading private hospitals across the country are planning to set up a national-level body on the lines of National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), the apex body of software companies in the country.

It is therefore essential to form an apex body for health tourism –National Association of Health Tourism (NHAT).

Integrate vertically

Various added services may be offered to the patients. For example, hospitals may have kiosks at airports, offer airport pickups, bank transactions, or tie-ups with airlines for tickets and may help facilitate medical visas by the government.

With more Arab patients coming in, some hospitals may have hired Arabic interpreters, stocked up on prayer rugs and opened up a kitchen serving the food preparations in corporate hospitals in India.

Joint Ventures and Alliances

To counter increasing competition in medical tourism sector , Indian hospitals should tie-up with foreign institutions for assured supply of medical tourists. Specifically they may tie-ups with capacity constrained hospitals and insurance providers.

The Apollo group has also tied up with hospitals in Mauritius, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Yemen. In addition, it runs a hospital in Sri Lanka, and manages a hospital in Dubai. As a part of this policy of promoting public and private initiatives, the Indian travel industry and tour operators have also design packages that include air travel, hotel accommodation, and surgery expenses, claiming savings.


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