Need for Accreditation

There is a need for strategic intervention from the Government to mandate quality not only in treatment process but also in outcomes

Medical tourism

Healthcare delivery models have evolved considerably in the last decade and medical tourism has emerged as a popular model and continues to witness steady growth
globally. As people around the world become aware of healthcare options and as quality healthcare rises as a priority in the minds of the majority, patients are bound
to pursue healthcare across border. India has emerged as one of the most sought after destinations for medical tourists across the globe owing to  its high value proposition in terms of quality healthcare, pool of specialists and availability of alternate treatment
options such as Ayurveda and yoga. However, there are many instances of middle men exploiting patients, and this reflects poorly on our country.

Today, medical tourism is a growing industry and can boost tourism receipts and employment in both medical centers as well as in other sectors. Global medical tourism
is pegged at $ 59 billion in the year 2016 or about 2-3 % of global tourism, and growing at the rate of about 20 % per year. In India, medical tourism is about $ 3.9 billion (about 0.2% of India’s GDP) in 2016 with a market share in global medical tourism of 5%. The growth of
medical tourism in India is accelerating and expected to reach $8 billion by 2020, with significant employment potential.

Reasons for growth of medical travel differ across countries. In regions where quality healthcare is unavailable, the need to access healthcare may lead to medical travel. For others, cost effectiveness may be the reason. The primary reasons for medical tourism growth in India are high quality healthcare, specialised treatment options, immediate service opportunity for travel coupled with affordability. While India is currently a leading medical tourism hub in the world, there is stiff competition from several Asian and other countries. At the same time, there is potential for higher growth both in terms of global
share and in terms of actual volume.

However, realization of this potential and staying ahead of the competition require innovative planning with foresight. Multiple stakeholders are involved in the medical tourism industry. The major factor is the skilled workforce- the doctor. Given the availability of highly trained and experienced doctors across multiple medical centres in India, other factors may also become important. These include medical centre accreditation, insurance coverage and facilitation. To realign with the medical tourism opportunity, which is a strategic objective for several Indian private healthcare providers, many of them (private hospitals) are accredited with the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals &Healthcare Providers (NABH) and Joint Commission International (JCI) to attract tourists. However, there is a need for strategic intervention from the Government to mandate quality not only in treatment process but also in outcomes. NABH has initiated a programme which accredits medical value travel facilitator.

To facilitate good strategies, the Government needs adequate data which is a primary requirement for assessing and designing medical tourism strategies. Existing secondary data on parameters critical for assessing status and potential for medical tourism is inadequate or inaccurate for comprehensive analysis. This was ascertained through the CSIR NISTADS project. This project, attempted to assess the status and potential of medical tourism in India, is based on primary and secondary surveys along with analysis. The goal of the project was to enhance India’s current global medical tourism share of 5% to 10% by 2022. The NISTADS survey was carried out over three cities: Delhi-NCR, Chennai and Bengaluru in six different domains. The survey involved interactions with public and private  clinic/hospital, patients, experts and policy makers.

The NISTADS survey found that the number of medical centres hosting foreign medical tourists is more in the survey compared to those available in the public domain. Also, while comparing average treatment cost for different treatments from the survey to those listed
across the world-wide-web, it was found that the average treatment cost in survey varies from that found in worldwide-web sources.

Based on the analysis of the survey, the following recommendations
were suggested:
⊲ Improved Informatics: The information regarding choices of medical centres and respective treatment costs is not available either from the Government or from the medical tourism websites. This information gap needs to be filled in a credible way to attract more
medical tourists to India.

⊲ Decision Support Facility: Informatics need to go beyond passive information and provide decision support to tourists for customisation of their medical tourism.

⊲ Capacity Building: A pro-active capacity building is required to meet the projected demand. Without ready capacity, the growing market would be lost to others.

⊲ Quality Policy: A quality policy for medical tourist centres should be adopted. This will prevent negative impact due to a few low-quality firms.

⊲ Financial Enabling: Smaller medical centres may be offered tied funding to promote provision of medical tourism related services, especially non-medical services. SMEs catering to medical tourism sector may be extended softer loans. Similarly, skilling agencies
that train workers for medical tourism may extended benefits.

⊲ Policy Enabling: As more countries may allow their citizens to seek medical treatment elsewhere, India as a country destination and/or Indian medical centres could consider a form of empanelment with the health insurers of these countries to ease access to their centres by their citizens.

⊲ Ayurvedic Wellness Tourism: Systematic development of Ayurvedic system aimed at medical tourists may gives India an edge.

⊲ Medical Tourist Visa: Policy for fast-track issue of visa for medical tourism.

The Government through its various departments is already looking at all round development of medical tourism. The National Medical & Wellness Tourism Board, under the Ministry of Tourism, was set-up to offer an institutional sub structure for the growth of medical tourism in the country. The National Medical & Wellness Tourism Promotion Board has been given the task of writing a draft of medical and wellness tourism policy for India. In this regard, AHPI has been given the mandate to engage in intense dialogue with different stakeholders and propose strategies to enhance and sustain medical tourism multi-fold in India. We are confident that the Government will be able to create suitable policy interventions to enable rapid and accelerated growth of quality medical tourism in India.