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Medical Tourism in India

Medical tourism, as the name suggests involves traveling across the border for urgent or elective medical surgeries and other specialized treatments. This is a modern 'cost effective' term coined by healthcare and tourism industries across the globe, although the phenomenon is not new as such.

Traveling across the border for medical assistance has happened for centuries. Pilgrims and patients across the Mediterranean traveled to ancient Greece to stay in the shrine of the healing god, Asklepios. Similarly, Europeans traveled from Germany to spas around the Nile in the 18th century. Today the low-cost jet rates combined with affordable health care in developing countries like India has enabled people to go beyond borders for elective procedures and complex surgeries.

Medical tourism in India

More than 50 countries including India, Costa Rica, Cuba, Hungary, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Belgium are actively promoting medical tourism. However, India stands as the preferred choice in terms of accreditations, government policies, cost, climate, culture and tourist destinations.

Like many countries, India also promotes medical tourism through government's official policy. According to the formulation drawn from the 'Policy Framework for Reforms in Health Care', drafted by the Prime Minister's advisory council on Trade and Industry, the National Health Policy 2002 of India states that the treatment of foreign patients/expatriates is legally an 'export' and the same is 'eligible for all fiscal incentives extended to export earnings.'

Medical tourism in India is a billion dollar industry. A CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) study indicates that 150,000 medical tourist visited India in 2005. According to FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) the health-care market covering health insurance, is expected to expand up to $ 69 billion by 2012. The research also states that the Indian health-care industry boosted by medical tourism is growing at 30 per cent annually.

Factors promoting Medical Tourism in India

Although cost plays a major role, the reasons for medical tourism vary from patient to patient. For instance, people from US seek medical treatment that would cost one tenth of this treatment cost at home. People from other parts of the world like Canada and Great Britain are often frustrated by long waiting times at public health services.

Few like to combine their surgeries with a beautiful vacation in India that offers them scenic beaches, high mountains, religious temples, historical monuments and vast deserts. On the other hand, medical tourism in India is also a boon for poor nations like Bangladesh, where treatment options are limited.

Cost Comparisons

Cost plays a major role in promoting medical tourism in India. Using competent technologies, hospitals in India are able to perform high-end treatments like liver transplantation and heart surgery at a substantially lower rate. The following figure indicates the cost of certain treatments in US and India.


Procedure Cost (US$)

United States


Bone Marrow Transplant



Liver Transplant



Heart Surgery



Orthopedic Surgery



Cataract Surgery



Accreditations/Legal Issues

Indian government has adopted an accreditation system (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals, NABH) that ensures a guarantee of service for medical tourists. The accreditation process also recommends prices for services.

In order to attain NABH's certification for medical tourism, the member hospitals must agree to dual pricing system enabling limited charges for foreigners and lower prices for domestic patients. So far, the body has approved 30 of its 120 hospital members.

International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQUA) approves India's accreditation process. ISQUA is an international body that grants approval to accreditation bodies in the area of healthcare.

There are also international accreditations like JCI and TRENT that assure quality healthcare for medical tourists. Joint Commission International (JCI), is an US based accreditation group that evaluates hospitals outside United States since 1992. Trent International Accreditation Scheme is a trusted source for British and European medical tourists.

The India's State and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission generally handle any legal disputes arising from treatments for medical tourists or Indian nationals. Currently CII is making efforts to draw standards that would address any litigation arising from such treatment to be dealt within Indian Courts.

Medical Tourism Process

Contact the medical tourism provider in India if you are seeking medical treatment here. As an initial step, the medical tourism provider will ask for your medical report covering the nature of your ailment, local doctor's opinion, medical history and diagnosis. Upon receipt of your medical report, the provider helps you get in touch with a certified medical doctor or consultant in India. He/She will advise you on the treatment/surgery required.

Later you can discuss with the medical tourism provider on expenditure, choice of hospitals and tourist destinations, accommodation and duration of the stay. Ensure to sign consent bonds upon agreement. Remember to collect the recommendation letters from the consultant or medical doctors that are required for the application of medical visa.

Once you arrive as a medical tourist to India, the concerned provider will assign an executive, who takes care of your treatment and accommodation.

Medical Tourism Packages

Today, most Indian private sector hospitals are very well equipped to handle a big mass of medical tourists. Backed by the strong pharmaceutical industry these private hospitals are estimated to handle a volume of 75-80% medical tourism services year on year. India is a leading drug manufacturer that exports drugs to more than 180 countries.

There are a number of medical tourism providers that offer medical packages coupled with a vacation to experience the rich and glorious culture of India. Listed below are few medical packages offered by the medical tourism providers in India.

  • Bone Marrow Transplant
  • Brain Surgery
  • Cancer Procedures (Oncology)
  • Cardiac Care
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Dialysis and Kidney Transplant
  • Drug Rehabilitation
  • Gynaecology & Obstetrics
  • Health Checkups
  • Internal/Digestive Procedures
  • Joint Replacement Surgery
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Neurosurgery & Trauma Surgery
  • Preventive Health Care
  • Refractive Surgery
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spine Related
  • Urology
  • Vascular Surgery
  • Dental Care

Medical Institutions

India has many hospitals offering excellent and effective treatments nearly in all major medical sectors like cardiology, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, urology, neurology, oncology, endocrinology, paediatric surgery, nephrology, dermatology, dentistry, plastic surgery, gynaecology, pulmonology, psychiatry, general medicine & general surgery.

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Medical Tourism in India
Medical Tourism in India