Centre to ease visa norms to boost medical infra
New Delhi, June 24: The government has drawn up a plan to augment the medical infrastructures of 17 cities, which see an inflow of a lot of overseas patients for treatment and wellness therapies, in a bid to boost medical travel as part of its 'Heal in India' initiative.
Besides, the health ministry is working on easing medical visa norms and other requirements for patients and their companions from 44 countries identified based on the number of patients visiting India, and the quality and cost of medical treatment there, official sources told PTI. These are predominantly African, Latin American countries and also members of the SAARC and Gulf Cooperation Council groupings, they said.
Through 'Heal In India', the government aims at positioning the country as a global hub for medical and wellness tourism, and a destination of choice for quality healthcare services. The Union Health Ministry is collaborating with Tourism, Ayush, Civil Aviation ministries, hospitals and other stakeholders to build a roadmap to connect overseas patients with healthcare facilities in India to boost medical travel. As part of executing the initiative, a nodal agency -- Medical Value Travel Council -- co-chaired by the health and tourism ministries has been formed to create an institutional framework for streamlined integration of all stakeholders, official sources said.
According to estimates, the medical tourism market which was valued at USD 6 billion in 2020 fiscal is expected to more than double and reach USD 13 billion by 2026. Thirty-seven hospitals including 30 in the private sector across 17 cities in 12 states have been identified for promoting medical value travel, a source said. The cities that will be targeted in phase one of the initiative are New Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Gurugram, Bangaluru, Amritsar, Kochi, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guntur, Alappuzha, Guwahati, Chennai, Chandigarh, Vellore and Hyderabad. "Based on target countries, more language interpreters can be provided at airports and hospitals. One-stop centres may be set up at the identified airports for queries related to medical travel, transport, boarding and lodging among others," the official source said.
The health ministry, in collaboration with the National Health Authority, is also working on developing a portal as a one-stop shop for services provided by medical travel facilitators and hospitals with an interface for foreign patients. The portal will display standardized package rates based on the classification of hospitals and different systems of medicines including modern and traditional systems. It will also have a grievance redressal section as well as an option to submit patient feedback and testimonials. There will also be a mechanism to track patient journey by creating a unique health ID under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission framework and monitor service delivery in identified health facilities in India, the source explained.
Elaborating on India's potential and advantages as a healthcare industry, the official source said Indian medical practitioners have high-quality medical training and are fluent in English. "Also the cost of treatment in India is two to three times lesser than in most countries. Medical treatment in India is 65 to 80 per cent cheaper than in the USA. Also, India offers Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy," the source explained. Bangladesh, Iraq, Maldives, Afghanistan, Oman, Yemen, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania account for about 88 per cent of the total international patients visiting India. Bangladesh alone accounts for 54 per cent of the total medical tourists. Treatment for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and kidney ailments are most sought after by foreign patients in India.