Dr Harish Pillai : Healing in God’s Own Country

Factors that would propel Kerala to a be major MVT destination : Dr Harish Pillai



















1. Kerala currently attracts only 5-7% of the medical tourists' arrival.

God’s Own Country’ – The three magic words that raised the state of Kerala from obscurity to global recognition as a tourist destination. Kerala which literally means ‘land of coconuts’ possesses a set of unique geographical features, making it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations not only in Asia but also around the world. With the serene beaches of the long shoreline of the Arabian Sea on one side, and the lush hill stations with exotic wildlife of the Western Ghats rising between 500 to 2700 meters, Kerala’s network of over 40 rivers contributes to the tranquil stretches of the famed backwaters. This has led to National Geographic Traveller describing Kerala as ‘one of the 10 paradises of the world’ and ‘one of the 50 must-see places to see’.

However, there seems to be a different side to things when one looks at Kerala as a destination for medical value travel. Currently, Tamil Nadu attracts 40-50% of medical tourists arriving in the country followed by NCR. Kerala currently attracts only 5-7% of the medical tourists’ arrival. The year 2020 would see a revenue footfall of $1 billion being generated in translation to 10-15% increase of medical value travellers arriving in Kerala.

The contributions in the form of increased medical value travel can only be achieved after addressing a few challenges that form a hindrance to Kerala’s healthcare sector. In terms of infrastructure, poor quality of roads and general waste management need to be addressed. From a healthcare perspective, lack of sufficient public facilities to manage the surge of non-communicable diseases is one of the primary challenges faced by the state. A rapid change in demographics has resulted in Kerala becoming India’s number one ‘geriatric state’. Disparity in the training quality of healthcare workers only adds to the agony.
Apart from the general challenges,
specific concerns related to medical value travel can be summarised as follows:

A. Lack of common cohesive representation for medical value travel (MVT) resulting in fragmented approach to common branding.
B. Lack of international health insurance coverage with local hospitals.
C. Shortage of accredited MVT facilitators and consequent cost inflation due to lack of controls.
D. Unavailability of an integrated approach for MVT travel from home destination to state and back, bottlenecks regarding ease of medical visa (M-Visa) by Indian embassies overseas. E. Few number of accredited hospitals – NABH & international accreditations f. Lack of availability of a trained pool of healthcare translators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, Kerala has quite a few attributes working in its favour for becoming a world leader in the health tourism sector.

a. Excellent public health system that produces results better than the national average in indices – an average of 918 patients are served per government hospital bed as compared to 1,833 patients for the country.

b. Leveraging on excellent pool of healthcare human resources. For Kerala, average population per doctor is 792 and per nurse is 138. Whereas, for India, the numbers are 1,319 and 472 respectively.

c. Strong international brand recognition as a wellness hub, as 30% of foreign travellers avail wellness treatment in Kerala. d. Availability of three international airports ie. Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Calicut and the fourth one in the pipeline at Kannur.

e. Lowering of all entry barriers as well as to increase accessibility to Kerala. This can be achieved by constant engagement with the State and Central Government. The above key strengths such as connectivity, human resources, macro health indices, brand recognition need to be marketed both to domestic as well as the international audience in partnership with the state government. The geographies of GCC, SAARC and Africa are the three areas from where Kerala should expect to attract more traffic. The ideal goal is to ensure that any medical value traveller who comes to India will move towards Kerala to avail high quality care at competitive prices.
The growth of medical value travel will help compete and gain a sizeable market share and contribute valuable foreign exchange to the country, create new jobs and attract more investments into the state. This is similar to the experience of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia; and will also reinforce brand Kerala as a destination for high value travel.


















3. Kerala is becoming India’s number one ‘geriatric state’.

The growth of medical value travel will help compete and gain a sizeable market share and contribute valuable foreign exchange to the country, create new jobs and attract more investments into the state. This is similar to the experience of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia; and will also reinforce brand Kerala as a destination for high value travel.

It is imperative that the government of the day focuses its attention to create a macro environment for growth with the growing investments pouring into healthcare. The state already boasts of first world infrastructure which, we believe, will act as a perfect catalyst to propel the state into the big league by 2020.

Dr Harish Pillai is CEO – 
Aster Medcity, Kochi and 
Head – Kerala Cluster, 
Aster DM Healthcare.

 

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