The medical tourism in India is huge, predicted to see a 30% growth in the coming year, it will be worth US$2 billion by 2015. As medical costs, especially in the West, increase, people are more and more attracted to cheaper options in countries such as India and Malaysia. Now, the low costs and good reputation of Indian medical tourism hospitals is attracting attention in the Middle East.
India has witnessed an increase in patients from Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 2012. The number of Indian visas issued to Omani nationals between January and August this year was 61,000, a jump from 3,400 in 2012. These account for all types of visas, with tourist visas being the most popular, closely followed by medical visas, and then business visas in third place.
“The proven Indian clinical competencies give India a huge competitive advantage. We have seen the number of patients visiting us from GCC region growing at a rapid pace. In the last few quarters we have seen a remarkable increase from UAE, Qatar and Oman,” said Dr. K. Hariprasad, CEO, Apollo Hospitals.
India attracts medical tourists with its low cost care, state of the art equipment, and what many see as the deciding factor, less chance of a language barrier. Many health professionals will speak English, and many have also trained or studied abroad. Apollo Hospitals, which is headquartered in Chennai, is accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), the recognised gold-standard for hospital accreditation.
Previously seen as a barrier to attracting patients from the Gulf region, a rule which required a two month gap between consecutive visits has been abolished. In addition, a visa-upon-arrival scheme has been implemented for visitors from certain countries which allows visitors to stay for up to 30 days for medical reasons.
“Comparing global prices for medical treatment, India leads in the race for providing quality healthcare services at affordable prices. A heart bypass surgery in India costs USD 6,500, while in the US it costs between USD 30,000 and USD 80,000. This is a huge, untapped market, not just for therapeutic medical tourism like Ayurveda, but also for curative treatment,” Dr. K. Hariprasad said.
Emirate Airlines, based in Dubai, has recently teamed up with Apollo Hospitals to connect international patients with medical facilities in India. Patients from 19 Middle East and African countries can travel with their attendants on special round-trip fares to visit Apollo Hospital flagship facilities in Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and three other major cities.
“India has the necessary medical talent, soft and hard infrastructure and capabilities to become a major global healthcare destination.”