Among the Asian countries, India has become a major medical tourism destination, as it offers not only cheap but also sophisticated healthcare services, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said Wednesday.
"We are getting people in thousands from various parts of the world with most of them coming for bypass surgeries, dental and orthopaedic treatment, and even for plastic surgeries," Ramadoss told IANS here.
The Indian government would soon identify a number of multi-specialty hospitals and expert doctors to cater to the increasing flow of overseas patients.
"The task of identifying hospitals and specialist doctors would be entrusted to a new body called the Accreditation Foundation of India," the minister said.
"The foundation would be of immense help to foreign patients to get treatment as per their needs," he added.
The decision to set up the foundation was taken after India witnessed a rush of patients from the US, Britain, Africa, and the Middle East countries seeking advanced healthcare facilities.
"Medical treatment in India is comparatively very cheap and fast, besides the country today having some of the best doctors in the world and also advanced technologies available," Ramadoss maintained.
"The cost of a bypass surgery in India would be just about one-sixth of the expenses if the same was done in the UK or other countries," he added.
The minister was here to launch the National Rural Health Mission for the region.
"Bypass surgeries apart, hip and knee replacements are fields where we are getting lot of European patients," Ramadoss said.
There are, however no official estimates to the number of foreign patients visiting India. The cheap healthcare facilities apart, people from abroad, especially the US and Britain, are flocking to hospitals in India as there is virtually no waiting time involved.
"For instance, a person in the UK needing a dental check-up needs to remain in the queue for 14 months, eight months for a bypass surgery, and about 75 days for an MRI," Ramadoss said.
"But here in India one can get the best of treatment as and when it happens without any waiting time. Healthcare is a priority sector for us," he asserted.
The boom in overseas patients has prompted scores of Indian doctors working abroad to return home.
"Doctors are so well paid here that many of them have since returned from the US and other places. They are getting even more than what they were earning in say places like Australia, New Zealand, the UK or even the US," the minister said.
To cash in on the boom, the Indian government has decided to further encourage the concept of medical tourism.
"We have seen many people coming to India for treatment and then travelling to places of interests soon after their medical checkups," Ramadoss said. "The country is bound to benefit as it is expected to generate lot of direct and indirect employment opportunities. The government would facilitate and help both tourists and the hospitals to make medical tourism a huge success," he added.