City hot destination on medical tourism map
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11 June 2003
AFTER religious, aesthetic, spiritual and event tourism, here is something that seems poised to turn the business world on its head. Health care delivery in India is witnessing a paradigm shift, giving birth to medical tourism.
A trend pioneered in India by private hospitals like the Apollo Hospitals Group and the Escorts Heart Institute, medical tourism is catching on fast.
A CII–McKinsey healthcare survey carried out in 2002, predicted the additional revenue contribution by this niche sector for upmarket tertiary hospitals would be Rs 5,000–10,000 crore by 2012.
Pune, too, having woken up to this trend, has been witnessing a corporatisation of its high – end medical centres. Elaborates Bomi Bhote, CEO, Ruby Hall Clinic, “The visibility of India as a destination on the global medical horizon has decidedly improved. There seems to be an ever–increasing influx of overseas patients here at Ruby Hall. We get roughly 100 foreign patients a year. Most of them come in for major surgeries and renal procedures. One major advantage, besides having a highly competent staff, is that our equipment and infrastructure is at par with the best in the world,” he says. A claim that is supported by their foreign patients. Francis Aniebonam, a Nigerian national, is currently hospitalised here and scheduled to undergo a kidney transplant.
PT spoke to his brother, Patrick, who heaped praise on the staff, saying he didn’t for a moment feel he was in an alien land. The overseas catchment areas so far are Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Hospitals today also provide value–added services like boarding, lodging and airport pick–ups for patients and their families. In contrast with medicare costs in the West, which are phenomenal, minor treatments and major procedures in India are cheaper.
A bypass surgery in India costs $2,000–5,000,whereas the price for the same in the US ranges from $15,000–40,000. Notwithstanding the benefits of medical insurance abroad, the waiting period for surgeries like knee replacement and kidney transplants extends to several months.
While some come to India exclusively for surgeries, there are also those who club medical treatment with sight–seeing or a spiritual sojourn. Another prominent player in the Pune healthcare industry that has astutely positioned itself since tie–up with the Apollo Group of Hospitals four years ago, is the Jehangir Hospital.
With top–of–the–line operation theatres and the best amenities and equipment, they too, play host to a sizeable foreign clientele. Marketing manager Sainath Pradhan surmises that what sets India apart is the hospitality.
“In the West, you’re just another cog in the wheel. At Jehangir, we try to create a home away from home, with an informal and friendly atmosphere, not to mention personalised interaction.” Tastefully designed luxury suites in hospitals, at Rs 2,000 per day, are replete with amenities like air–conditioning, flat screen TVs, fancy bedside phones, designer bathrooms, plush sofas, arty lampshades, et al.
Private medical practitioners too are reporting a virtual deluge of treatment–related enquiries as more and more foreigners call in, fax or e–mail. Noted dental surgeon, Prem Nanda, says, “I have had patients coming from Germany for titanium dental implants,which prove to be much more cost–effective here, even if you take airfare into consideration.”
Sancheti Hospital is not left out of the action. With a steady inflow of patients from Spain, Singapore and the Middle East coming in for major hip or knee replacement procedures and spinal surgeries, the hospital also organises airport pickups and boasts a special menu, keeping in mind the requirements of these patients.
“Infrastructural upgradation becomes essential when catering to patients seeking specialised treatment,” says Dr H K Sancheti. There is also a huge untapped market for alternative treatments. Offering holistic herbal treatment are a slew of spas and health institutes in the city.
The Kerala Ayurvedic Research and Rejuvenation Centre (KARE), run by Dr. Prakash Kalmadi, is one such health haven. Located in Mulshi, it offers ayurvedic treatment like herbal massages, steaming and body detoxification.