Vacationing for wellness is not at all a new concept; this has been taking place since ancient times when people visited countries like Greece and Egypt for their hot springs, baths and healers. India too, has been a popular wellness destination known for its alternative treatment methods like Siddha, Ayurveda and Yoga. Now, however, India is also emerging as a favored destination for modern medicine, surgeries and treatment too; the medical tourism industry in India is expected to reach a staggering $2 billion by 2015 with over 850,000 people traveling to India for healthcare.
Let’s see what makes India an excellent choice for a medical travel destination-
India is definitely much more affordable than most other peer countries as far as healthcare, surgery costs, hospitalization and expenses on medicines are concerned. In fact, the cost of certain procedures can be as much as 80% less when it’s done in India and this figure is inclusive of travel costs. While an Open Heart surgery costs around $40000 in the US, it’s done for $6000 in India; similarly, a bone marrow transplant that can cost $250,000 in the US is performed for $22,000. Lower costs don’t mean lower quality; the favorable currency value helps achieving this cost.
This cost advantage is especially beneficial to people without adequate insurance cover or for procedures that aren’t covered in medical insurance schemes abroad. For instance, dental treatment, eye related issues and fertility treatment are not covered in most insurance schemes and these can cost a lot in advanced countries. Dental implants, for instance, are not covered in most insurance schemes; but these are necessary procedures that can cost as much as $3500 in the US for a single implant. The same can be done for $800 in India by an equally skilled dentist.
Being a doctor is a gratifying job no matter where you are located because it involves helping others. In India, though the job is tougher, given the high population, the satisfaction obtained from the job is heart-warming. Doctors are revered by people and they in turn, put in their best to help cure patients. Skill levels among doctors are very high along with experience, again because of the sheer volume of patients they see regularly. Several doctors train abroad and return to India to set up their own practice. India has a vast list of achievers amongst its accomplished physicians, some of whom have set world records. With reputed and advanced schools like JIPMER, CMC and AIIMS, there are several places for research and skill development for physicians.
Efficient nurses, among the best in the world
Apart from a doctor with a good beside manner, what’s most important to patients is a nurse who’s reliable and alert. Nurses in India have the much needed combination of compassion and education that makes them efficient as nurses and care-givers. Nurses in India can converse well in English; this is a major advantage to visitors who travel for medical care from abroad. It’s a known fact that Indian nurses are among the best in the world; this explains the demand for nurses in India from major hospitals in countries like Oman and South Africa. All hospitals also have adequate secondary staff to keep the premises clean and hygienic; so nurses are not burdened with these additional tasks and can concentrate on monitoring patients.
Low waiting time
One of the major problems faced by patients in advanced countries like UK is the long wait involved in getting treatment for their ailments. People often have to suffer excruciating pain for months before they can get their knee replaced or hip replacement surgery done. The waiting time in India on other hand, is almost nil. Hospitals like MIOT International, Chennai offer complete packages for knee replacement or joint surgery, which takes care of the needs of patients’ right from airport pick-up and accommodation to post-operative care. Doctor visits are prescheduled and surgeries can be arranged for immediately.
Best of Alternative therapies like Ayurveda, Yoga, Siddha, Homeopathy
The oldest known medical system practiced by mankind originated in India, in Tamil Nadu and is still practiced in a few places today. This branch of Indian medicine is called Siddha. This, along with Ayurveda and Unani form a trio of medication native to India. Ayurveda, known throughout the world for its effectiveness in healing a wide range of ailments, is also from India and has been around for over 5000 years. Apart from these two streams, there’s Unani, naturopathy and homeopathy that are still practiced in India.
Yes, these branches of medicine are not as popular as modern English medication; yet, thousands of people have benefited from the simple healing culture of traditional Indian medicines even if they were just taken as a last resort. Moreover, these are simple to follow and most often, solutions are attained by just a change in diet that’s prescribed by practitioners. Ayurveda, in particular, is popular with visitors to India who seek relaxation amidst their hectic work routine. Wellness resorts offering Ayurveda and classes in Yoga are particularly famous in Kerala and in Rishikesh.
Packages for medical tourists
Since treatment also involves time for recuperation, post-operative check-up and rest, it’s important for visitors to get comfortable accommodation where they’ll be treated with care and have additional conveniences to help them recover. Several large hotel chains like Hyatt, Ramada, Leela and Hilton have customized packages for medical visitors with accommodation that’s not only comfortable, but also personalized to support their health condition. Facilities like ramps, long elevators, customized diets, stretchers and wheelchairs are offered at these hotels. It’s not just the big hotels that cater to the needs of patients; each major hospital also has several smaller hotels and guesthouses close-by that offer relaxing, yet budget-friendly accommodation especially for patients.
Good English Fluency, affordable language translators
India has several English-medium institutes and even those schools that teach in the local language have English as an auxiliary subject. So while doctors are definitely fluent in English, you can expect nurses and support staff also to understand and communicate in the language. Special translators for other languages like German and French are also available at affordable rates on a regular basis. These translators can be arranged for even before you land in India.
Latest medical technologies and quality standards
Technology in healthcare is given a lot of importance in developing India; the Government as well as private hospitals acknowledge that technology is one of the four pillars of healthcare, others being education, healthcare services and pharmaceuticals. Several big private players in the healthcare industry have embraced technology as an important means to innovation; for instance, Apollo group of hospitals, MIOT International and AIIMS have always been trendsetters in using latest expertise in making the process of healing as comfortable as possible.
Stringent quality standards also keep a check against malpractices and prevent deterioration in quality. Diagnostics equipments and facilities are state-of-art in large medical institutions and completely reliable. These services are manned by experts who specialize in that field.
Relaxed Visa rules
People traveling to India for medical treatment can get through the M Category Visa which is allotted to patients and their attendants. Patient records and hospital letters are required to obtain the visa. The Government of India has now recognized the need to expedite visas for patients who cannot wait for long to get their ailments cured. As a first step, the Government has declared that immediate medical visas will be granted to patients and their attendants in SAARC countries.
Visa on arrival has been permitted for visitors from 43 countries wherein the visas are allotted online and the visitors are permitted to stay in the country for 30 days; this includes visitors who plan to visit the country for small medical procedures.
Where in India?
While there are several options of where to get healed and recover in India, some cities and hospitals dominate the scene and are favorites with medical tourists.
Chennai, in South India, is considered the hub of medical tourism in India and attracts about 40% of the total medical tourists who visit India. About 200 foreign patients land here every day to get treated in Chennai’s super-specialty hospitals. Hospitals like Apollo, Fortis Malar, Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre and MIOT International are pioneers in different medical specialties like cardiac related issues, orthopedics and neuro-surgery. The hospitality industry in the city joins hands with hospitals to provide comfortable facilities for stay and transport of patients. Apart from Chennai, major cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Goa and Ahmedabad are popular with foreign visitors seeking medical treatment.
The above mentioned are for medical tourists, i.e, people with conditions that have to be treated with modern medication or surgeries. India is also popular as a Wellness destination. Places like Kerala, Rishikesh, Mysore and Bangalore have multiple options of resorts where wellness and good health are packaged and offered to visitors. From ayurvedic massages to yoga classes, organic food, meditation and even laughter therapy, a wide range of solutions are offered to ensure good health and wellness.
Heart related surgeries and joint replacement surgeries are most popular among medical tourists, probably because they are very expensive in most countries and patients can’t bear the discomfort of a long waiting time. Mumbai is a popular destination for people who want to get cosmetic surgeries done. Other procedures like LASIK treatment and dental implants are also quite common not just among medical tourists, but also general tourists who visit India for a holiday and opt to take one of these services since these are often not covered in medical insurance.
Of course, another important reason to visit India is just to see the beauty and diversity of the country. The culture and splendor of the country has its own healing powers. There’s also spiritual healing for which Indian sadhus are famous. So make enough time to absorb the other healing aspects of the country if you plan a medical vacation here and get well soon!