That medical tourism is widely prevalent is yesterday's news. Today's news is that many US insurers and hospitals have taken note of the fact that India is fast emerging as a most wanted destination for elective surgeries. To stem the tide as it were, they are embarking on aggressive marketing strategies to make sure that the average American gets his surgeries done in-house.
It is reported that 1.5 lakh medical tourists went to India last year. This number is expected to surge by 15 percent this year and by 2012 it could net $2.3 billion annually for India. Richard Merli, managing editor, Health Care Insider, KPMG notes that consumers in the low to middle income brackets may be dismissed by American hospitals since they lack insurance, "But industry observers say that the exotic locales and prospect of a vacation is attracting many wealthy patients to have elective surgeries done abroad." But he adds that if a procedure were to fail, Americans have no alternative except to keep quiet and cannot seek legal redress as they can back home. "All the protection afforded by the US health care system — board-certified physicians, the FDA and a legal system that supports patient rights — are void as soon as one steps out of the country," said Saul Helman, Pharmaceuticals Practice, MD, KPMG.
But Anne Marie Moncure, MD, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in Delhi disagrees and says that the same techniques and care are used in India as in the US, "Every year, 98,000 patients die in US hospitals due to medical negligence and three to four times that number is left permanently-disabled," she points out. Indian hospitals feel that if they are getting the same care at a lesser cost, then patients will naturally look at the greener grass, something that American hospitals are noting with concern.