Kochi, Mar 24: In a major move to promote India as a medical tourism destination, the autonomous Quality Council of India has adopted a set of standards for accreditation of hospitals and treatment centres to assure patients of a minimum quality of services.
Addressing the inaugural session of a conference on 'Kerala Health Tourism 2006' here, Dr Y P Bhatia, chairman of the accreditation committee of the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH), said the Quality Council of India had adopted the set of 100 standards, consisting of 505 measurable requirements, in January this year.
''This is a major step forward towards assuring the people of a minimum quality of service at the hospitals being accredited by the NABH, which has been set up by the Quality Council of India for this purpose. The ultimate goal is to make these compatible with world standards,'' he added.
The standards had been devised by a committee of 45 experts drawn up by the Indian Health Care Federation (IHCF) and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).
The IHCF-CII draft was submitted to the Quality Council of India in July last year and the council adopted them in January this year.
The Central Government is expected to formally publish these standards shortly. The standards are encapsulated under ten chapters. While five of the chapters are patient-centric, the other five are hospital-centric, Dr Bhatia added.
The Quality Council of India was constituted by the union cabinet, under WTO obligations, to act as a nodal agency for accreditation bodies in the country.
Earlier, inaugurating the two-day conference and exhibition, Kerala Tourism Minister K C Venugopal said the state had proven track records in tourism as well as healthcare and was ideally suited to leverage its expertise in both these areas to get a slice of the booming global health tourism industry.
With this end in view, the state government had declared 2006-07 as the 'Kerala Health Tourism Year', Mr Venugopal said. Dr Philip Augustine, chairman of 'Kerala Health Tourism 2006-07' (KHT 2006-07) and managing director of Lakeshore Hospital, said that there was an increasing flow of patients from the Middle-East and western countries to countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and Jordan for treatment.
India too was of late emerging as a healthcare destination for foreigners, especially in the areas of cardiac and cosmetic surgery, dentistry, ENT, orthopaedic and organ transplants besides health check-ups.
This flow of patients had been caused partly by the exhorbitant cost of healthcare facilities in the western countries, all of which were not covered by insurance, and the long wait for certain surgeries, he added.
The conference, organised by the CII in collaboration with the Kerala Government's Department of Tourism, will focus on emerging trends, opportunities and challenges in the Indian health tourism arena. The event is being attended by CEOs from public and private hospitals, hospital administrators, hospital department heads, medical equipment companies, tourism department officials and tour operators, third party administrators and insurance company representatives from India and abroad.