Will Coronavirus Outbreak Impact India’s Medical Tourism Business?

Pankaj K. Choudhary

New Delhi: As of February 17, India had only three confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Finance Minister has already announced that it is going to take measures to help ease the manufacturing and supply squeeze caused by the Covid-19 outbreak in China. As far as new infections are concerned, situation is well under control in India.

But the economic impact of COVID-19 virus is going to be severe. Indian tour operators fear that they are going to lose up to $500 million revenue as more and more tourists are cancelling their visit to India.

Overall trade across the globe has been impacted. India is no exception. Will the virus outbreak also affect medical tourism in India?

“Overall travel across the globe has been impacted specially to and from the affected countries. However medical travel to our hospitals has not been impacted and the numbers continue to be steady. We are educating people travelling to us for treatment about the precautions to be taken during travel and providing them information on how to stay safe. We have also taken up a huge awareness campaign in social media and in airports across the country”, says Dr Hari Prasad, President, Hospitals Division, Apollo Hospitals Group.

FICCI had released a report on the status of India’s medical tourism in November 2019. The report titled ‘India: Building Best Practices in Healthcare Services Globally 2019’, predicted that in healthcare services, India would become an affordable alternative to developed countries in the coming years.

The report also quoted Medical Tourism Index Overall ranking, released in 2016. This index ranked India at the fifth position among 41 major medical tourism destinations.

Commander Navneet Bali, Regional Director, Narayana Health, does not think that the ongoing situation in the east will have any serious impact on the medical tourism business of India.

“With reference to the ongoing situation in the East pertaining to Coronavirus, our patient flow and revenue is normal. We continue to educate and inform people on the precautions and general hygiene to stay safe”, says he.

Many hospitals in India are equipped with the latest technologies which can handle situations like this. Tele robotics is one such technology.

Talking to us, Dr. Sai Satish, Cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals Greams Road Chennai, said: “While the hospital owners are best equipped to give insight into this. The rapidly developing field of “Tele robotics in coronary and Peripheral angioplasty” has limitless applications during times like this. Right now while performing robotic procedures, I’m 30 feet away from my patient. Imagine what we can do with a good internet connection even from miles away. ”

Medical Tourism Market in India
  • Medical tourism is fast becoming a major reason why tourists visit India. According to Ministry of Tourism’s data, India’s medical tourism will become a $9-billion industry by the end of this year.
  • India’s healthcare service providers give state of the art facilities, advanced care, skilled doctors at far lower costs than what the developed countries provide.
  • Yoga and Ayurveda have emerged as two big attractions for foreigners.
  • In 2015, size of India’s medical tourism was $3 billion.
  • The number of foreign tourists coming into the country on medical visas increased from 234,000 in 2015 to 495,056 in 2017.

To promote medical tourism, India has eased visa rules. India’s medical tourism has benefited from the  e-tourist visa regime. e-tourist visa now covers medical visits as well.

Who are Medical Tourists?

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development describes medical tourists as those who “travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment.”

People travel across international borders mainly for dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery and fertility treatment. India’s healthcare provides attract foreigners for cancer treatments, transplants and cardiac surgery.

In India, patients receive quality healthcare at far lower costs than the developed countries as well as its competitors from Asia. In India, the savings can start from 65% and go up to 90% with patients receiving quality care.

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