The Indian healthcare industry is at a critical juncture. The possibility of tremendous growth lies ahead, albeit in the backdrop of major handicaps, which need to be overcome.
India has emerged as one of the most cost-effective destinations for medical tourism. It has built strong credibility in curative treatment and is positioning itself as the holistic destination for alternative medicine on account of its strength in AYUSH, i.e., Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathic treatment.
Spearheaded by large corporate hospitals that have created strong global equity areas like cardio surgery and orthopedic surgery, around 225,000 medical tourists travelled to India in 2015, amounting to a medical value travel of Rs.20,000 crore. Most of the travel was accounted for by patients from SAARC and East-African countries.
The Indian medical value travel market has the potential of doubling in size to Rs.53,600 crore by 2020, taking away patients from the current popular destinations of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Mexico. The addressable market is 11 million patients seeking treatment out of their countries, amounting to a tourism market of Rs.315,000 crore, growing at 15 percent per annum.
India would need to focus on taking care of the key considerations of cost effectiveness, regulatory regime, clinical outcomes, accreditation, alternative medicine, and tourist aspects of safety, hospitality, and transportation. This would necessitate coordinated efforts by all key stakeholders - be it government, providers, facilitators, regulators, and insurers - concludes the knowledge paper, Medical Value Travel in India - Enhancing Value in MVT, prepared by FICCI.
This is against the backdrop of an alarming shortage of 3 million doctors and 6 million nurses, the backlog of which may take about 50 years to clear. This is also against the backdrop of an extremely disappointing second draft of the recently released medical devices regulation. It is alleged that if accepted it will pave the way to legalize pseudo manufacturing while enabling importers and traders to pass off as manufacturers, and also deliver a major blow to domestic manufacturing and a fatal blow to the Make in India initiative.
Which way will the cookie crumble is the nail-biting question!