A combined study by consultancy firm KPMG and industry body FICCI says, India ranks among the top three medical tourism destinations in Asia.
According to the report titled Medical Value Travel, the medical tourism market in India is projected to hit $3.9 billion mark this year having grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 27 per cent over the last three years. The report says inflow of medical tourists is expected to cross 320 million by 2015 compared with 85 million in 2012.
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The study states that the low cost of treatment, quality health care infrastructure and availability of highly skilled doctors helped the country to secure the top spot.
The medical tourism industry in India catches maximum patients for heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery and dental care as the cost of treatment in the country is considered to be the lowest in Asia, much lower than Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong, the report stated.
A major competitive advantage India as opposed to other countries in medical tourism is the cost effectiveness of treatment offered to its patients.
"A person coming to India for his/her medical treatment can have savings anywhere in the range of 30 to 70 per cent. Even if we consider the ticket expenses and accommodation expenses along with the treatment cost, the overall expenditure would be lower than the treatment cost in the UK or the US or many other countries," the study stated.
Amit Mookim, partner and head of healthcare practices, KPMG India, said "The medical tourism landscape in Asia is continually evolving as price no longer remains the only important consideration; focus has now shifted to diversity in offerings, niche offerings and even customised luxury."
He noted that India does face tough competition in the segment from countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. One disadvantage faced by Indian medical tourism industry is the lack of special visa rules for patients but the country counters this with alternative therapy offerings like yoga, meditation, ayurveda, and other traditional methods of treatment that attract tourists from European nations and the Middle East to India.
Stakeholders urged to consolidate their efforts
The report points out that India has a fragmented approach where individual hospitals have been promoting themselves as the hospital destinations. The medical-value-travel stakeholders in India need to consolidate their efforts and strategise on how to leverage the available opportunities, it suggested.
The report says that the country needs to work on increasing efficiency at the immigration to make the travelling experience hassle free for patients and also better infrastructure in terms of highways and roads would add to the overall satisfaction of medical tourists.
Affordable hotels, availability of language interpreters are a few areas, which also need to be given significant consideration to increase medical tourism in India.