Great Indian medical tourism gold rush is here

Great Indian medical tourism gold rush is here: CII, McKinsey

Indian Express: April 8, 2004

Analysts expect the country’s hospitals to rake in around Rs 10,000 crore from overseas patients by 2012.

NEW DELHI: It’s India’s turn to get rich by caring for the world’s sick and needy. A Rs 10,000 crore opportunity in ‘medical tourism’ lies in wait for up market hospitals in exotic locations around the country, a report from CII and McKinsey says.

Many hospitals are well placed to position themselves as ideal health spots for those who fail to manage expensive healthcare accounts in the developed world, the report says. It estimates a Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore market for ‘‘up market tertiary hospitals’’ by 2012, or 3 to 5 pc of the existing healthcare delivery market.

In a break from tradition, CII and McKinsey do not limit this potential revenue-earning to bio-medicine or naturopathy. Says Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman of CII’s National Healthcare Committee, ‘‘Compared with most developed countries such as the UK or the US, treatments like those for dental problems or major procedures like bypass surgery or angioplasty in India come at a fraction of the costs elsewhere.’’ Cardiac Surgery in India, for instance, costs one-tenth of the bills many foot for a similar procedure in North America.

Medical tourists are already visiting India, the report highlights, but its size is small and largely confined to patients from West Asia and South Asia. It could grow rapidly if the industry re-orients itself to actively attract non-Indian patients.

But growth in the sector depends on infrastructure and fund commitments from the government, the study asserts. ‘‘Growth requires commitments by the government to build infrastructure for hospitals, create specialty tourist packages to include medical treatment, and promote hospital accreditation and standardisation,’’ it says.

These hospitals would have to provide state-of-the-art facilities and improve patient care to make the ‘‘overall experience attractive’’ to foreign tourists, it insists.

India has 1.5 beds per 1000 people while China, Brazil and Thailand have an average of 4.3 beds, the study says, adding that healthcare spending could more than double over 2004-2014. Private providers will be the largest component of this spending — rising to Rs 1,560 bn in 2012 from Rs 690 bn.

Were Indian hospitals to also provide health insurance, an additional Rs 390 billion could be gathered in from the rich and middle classes. Also, public spending could double from Rs 170 billion if the government reaches its target health care spending level of 2 percent of the GDP, up from 0.9 percent today, the report promises.

And if the pharma industry does as well as it is expected to, the healthcare market here could expand to Rs 2,320 crore from Rs 1,030 today, it finds.

Some lacunae exist, McKinsey admits, for instance, qualified nurses and doctors perform complex surgeries, but specialists and paramedics are rare, as are uniform industry standards and accreditations.