Top Trends in MVT
Teams from reputed hospitals in India have been travelling to countries like Tanzania, Iraq, Oman and Nigeria to offer specialized services locally
The value of the Indian medical tourism industry is currently $3 billion and is going to increase to $7 billion by 2022. There are on an average about 1.8-2 lakh medical tourists who visit India annually and this has been growing on an average of 30-35% year on year. However as year on year the number of patients have been increasing, there have been some changes in the healthcare delivery system in many of the countries. Below are some of the recent changes seen in healthcare delivery and medical tourism in recent times:
SURGERIES DONE LOCALLY
In the recent past, the local Governments in respective countries have been insisting upon procedures and surgeries done locally in the country rather than allowing the person for medical value travel overseas. Five years earlier, people used to travel down to Thailand, India, Turkey for specialised services and the numbers were high. The demand supply gap is huge and hence there is a deluge of medical tourists who still travel down for treatment. The reason for this is a huge waiting period for specialized services in countries like Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, etc. For instance, a patient for oncology has to wait for more than one year to avail either radiation or medical oncology service. At the same time, average life span of the patient diagnosed with cancer is lesser than the wait period. Also, disease basically progresses and in the end when the patient eventually starts treatment, he would have been in the terminal stage. In order to meet this gap, hospitals have started developing local hospitals in the countries for specialized treatments. In return, the staff of the local hospitals needs to undergo specialized training. This is being arranged in the hospitals located in India, Thailand, Turkey and others. Teams from cardiac, oncology, neurosurgery, orthopedics specialities from reputed hospitals in India have been travelling to countries like Tanzania, Iraq, Oman and Nigeria to offer specialized services locally in the country.
TRAINING AND CAMPS
One of the recent trends that you may have heard of is doctors, nurses, medical practitioners, hospital co-coordinators and other quality personnel from overseas medical colleges, teaching hospitals, private establishments travelling down to India, Thailand, Turkey for specialized training purposes. The duration of training varies from 30 days to 1 year. This can be either observer ship training programmes or hands on training programmes. Once the local hospital staff gets trained in patient care and handling in Indian hospitals, the team from India then visits overseas hospitals for medical consultations and onsite surgeries. The duration of visit varies from 7 days to 30 days. For instance, to set up a cardiac surgical camp in Iraq- one doctor, one anesthetist, two ICU nurses, one perfusionist travel to Iraq every month and spend about seven days there. Day one would be to screen the patients and day two and three would be to perform the surgeries and another three to four days would be to follow up and observe the patients post surgery. The local teams in the hospitals 3 would be managing the patients post surgeries and handle them along with the team travelling from India. In this way, there would be effective exchange of surgical skill, talent, knowledge, information and hand holding.OVERSEAS DIAGNOSTIC FACILITIES AND POLYCLINICS
Medical value travel has been largely due to lack of facilities in developing nations and third world countries. Earlier the patients would travel overseas to get the medical treatment. In the recent past, due to the local Government of the countries emphasizing on local developments in medical facilities, several Indian hospitals have been keen to set up diagnostic and primary care centers or polyclinics in countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, etc. The idea is to set up a small diagnostic facility which can cater to services like blood tests and X-rays and provide basic immediate medical attention. Some of the facilities also have CT Scan and MRI. These diagnostic centres and polyclinics also run OPDs for consultants and the doctors from India travel once a month to screen patients and advice appropriately.
ROLE OF TELEMEDICINE AND TELERADIOLOGY
In recent times, Telemedicine, Teleradiology, Tele ICU, Tele- Path have gained importance. A patient in Tanzania, Nigeria or any other country can avail consultation or medical advice from a specialist in India, Thailand or Turkey. Technology has played a major role for this development. Minimum requirement would be tele radiology module with a pusher software and an excellent broadband connection at both the ends. This is the recent trend used by Indian hospitals by appointing strategic partners in overseas locations. Basic information like patient vitals, medical reports, diagnosis are shared real time and the doctor in India, Thailand, Turkey can see the information and a give a real time opinion. Tele ICU is a model where a patient can be monitored remotely by a specialist consultant from another country and give advice to the local staff for any change in management plan of the patient based on current information. Tele Path is a model where the samples of patients are drawn in the local hospital and sent to a strategic partner in India, Thailand, Turkey and the reporting of the same can be done within stipulated times. MACROECONOMIC CONDITIONS EFFECTING MVT Whenever one thinks of travelling overseas, the one important currency that has universal acceptance is dollars. In certain countries, the availability of dollars is easy and in some it is scarce. In some countries, the value of local currency to USD has considerably increased due to local economic conditions and resources. For instance, $ 1 to Naira – Local currency in Nigeria was 200 till mid 2016. After mid 2016, the value of Naira has increased to 380 plus which is almost depreciating by 100%. The current trending value of currency Naira is 360 for a USD. This has automatically led to increase in price for a Nigerian travelling overseas. For a patient quoted with $ 5,000 for medical treatment, he has to arrange $ 9,000 - 10000 in return to avail the same treatment in India. On the contrary there are certain countries in the same continent where the currency is strong and availability of dollars or arranging the same from the banks to take overseas is very difficult. For eg: 1 USD to Ethiopian Birr is 27. But the availability of dollars is difficult in Ethiopia and a patient has to wait for minimum three to five months for arranging the amount. This would lead to delay in travel from the medical tourist once he makes up his mind.