Medical Tourism is a broad, inclusive term that usually combines international travel for treatment and tourism at one go. Though the determinants in focus are competitive pricing and attractive travel packages, many issues and challenges can mar a country’s prospects.
The present global market is valued at 40 billion USD. More than seventeen million health seekers crossover their borders for wellness therapies, treatments, and surgical procedures.
Through the Internet superhighway, rapid information transmission regarding health care status and travel prospects is taking place globally. As a result, intercontinental medical travel is rising year on year. But the picture is not as rosy, it seems. Countries like India face several issues and challenges that could discourage international travelers from choosing them if not handled properly. To add to the woes, the online platforms transmit negative reviews with lightning speed all over the World.
The Experience Counts
The intercontinental ailing traveler’s experience in a chosen destination has become imperative. Of course, this is nothing new, but the stakes have become high with the increased focus on valuable foreign exchange earned through this service sector.
A negative impression of travel and the medical outcome would bring to the surface issues and challenges the chosen country is embroiled in. Bad reviews from a few individuals may not harm the travel and treatment potential. However, if the negative feedbacks come from a large number of patients, it would impact travel prospects. In cyberspace, news travels like wildfire, and countries need to stem the rot at lightning speed to prevent negativity among prospective medical tourists.
Understanding Issues and Challenges Faced by Overseas Visitors in India
Dealing with issues and challenges is not a flash in the pan solution. Instead, a comprehensive, coherent approach is the need of the hour. This approach should involve both public and private enterprises and the Government at the helm. This approach is needed expeditiously to promote factors that boost health travel. This sector has become a significant contributor to National Economy, and its growth is a significant indicator of our progress.
Fortunately, the issues and challenges the service sector faces in India are not insurmountable and require a concerted effort from all stakeholders. The country boasts of stable and robust health infrastructure. The system penetrates down to three-tier cities and widens the scope of treatments. As one expects, the prices come down in three-tier cities by their size and cost limitations.
Despite impressive medical travel and tourism growth, India remains a difficult place for non-English speaking and religiously motivated foreigners. The degree of satisfaction an overseas visitor experience is far beyond the scope of cost and capability. A country worth mentioning is Malaysia which is organizing medical travel by considering country-specific and ethnic choices. The country has handled various issues aligned with intercontinental travel expeditiously. As a result, they are reaping immense benefits.
Enhancing Comfort Levels – A Multi Dimension Approach
In case of a surge, we have to widen our infrastructure to treat more patients augmented by intercontinental medical tourism. In such a situation, our wellness services cannot remain confined to the metros and big towns. We need to redefine the health care system in mid-sized towns and remote places, especially the gateways to our tiger reserves, yoga centers, and spiritual destinations, which most developed world tourists find attractive.
Poor architecture, lack of sanitation, and under-equipped hospitals often face an extreme shortage of professional surgeons and doctors who define health substructures in distant places. Even accessibility is a significant problem, especially in close-distance airports, railheads, and luxury bus services. In addition, poor accommodation, access to quality food, and lack of banking facilities discourage overseas travelers.
In India, though English is spoken widely, still there are places and establishments with staff who can barely converse in the globally popular language. Matters worsen whence foreigners who do not speak English seek medical care in our hospitals in 2 tier towns with affordable health infrastructure. Outside the domain of major tourism hubs like Agra, Delhi, and Khajuraho, the absence of translators well-versed in foreign languages is discouraging for overseas patients.
Another comfort level is food. Most of the establishments in the country do not serve halal food, although pork is not a major issue. Countries like Malaysia that follow these norms receive medical tourists from Indonesia and Arab countries in great numbers.
The Government of India has created a medical visa to facilitate travel based on health treatments. This was envisaged to expedite the process and reduce the cost, but this has not been the case so far since a major chunk of medical tourists now arrive from the neighborhood, China, Africa, the Middle East, and many of them find the cost high.
To boost medical travel to India, we have to create a country-specific and ethnicity-based framework. The staff has been trained in language skills and familiarized with cross-cultural sensitivities.