DR SHANKAR NARANG GROUP COO, PARAS HOSPITALS
3. A stringent hospital to government feedback mechanism needs to be worked out
The Indian medical tourism industry is pegged at US$ 3 billion per annum, with tourist arrivals estimated at 230,000. The Indian medical tourism industry is expected to reach US$ 6 billion by 2018, with the number of people arriving in the country for medical treatment set to double over the next four years. India currently ranks fifth on medical tourism index globally and second in Asia as per the International Healthcare and Research Centre statistics. This portrays a potential opportunity for India in becoming a future leader in medical tourism, given the fact that it focuses on building infrastructure, technology & services, and a seamless experience for buyers.
With greater number of hospitals getting accredited and receiving recognition, and greater awareness on the need to develop their quality to meet international standards, India has a great future ahead. The private healthcare players appreciate the initiatives of the government in featuring India as a medical tourism destination in its ‘Incredible India’ campaign and by requesting industry chambers such as CII and FICCI to formulate working groups to suggest policies.
Though the government realises the impact and the scope of medical tourism, its influx of FDI, foreign exchange, exposure and employment opportunities, it is yet to have clarity on a number of aspects. Given below are some points that need to be worked on:
• Central policy needed on medical tourism:
The government needs to work on mechanisms to monitor the hospitals facilitators and the patients. Accreditation systems and the assurance of best medical services is essential. These mechanisms will ensure that quality, service is provided to every international patient. At present, there is no written document or government formulated policy on medical tourism.
Detailing on who can be a medical facilitator, translator and provide assistance for medical treatment is essential.
4. A central policy is needed on medical tourism.
• A robust guideline on facilitator framework:
Detailing on who can be a medical facilitator, translator and provide assistance for medical treatment is essential. This shall help break the monopoly of facilitators and help in providing transparent, quality healthcare to the needy.
• Ease of entry and exit of medical patients:
The government needs to provide certain leverages and ease in applying and securing a medical visa. Taking the aspects of national security into consideration, certain provisions can be worked out for patients coming to India from war-torn countries and neighbouring nations.
• Grading of hospitals:
Robust mechanisms on the grading of hospitals and the eligibility of certain hospitals, nursing homes, treatment centres and wellness facilities need to be worked out to ensure that medical excellence and quality healthcare is delivered. The same can be linked to quality accreditation, yearly checks and assessments.
•Central feedback mechanism:
A stringent hospital to government feedback mechanism needs to be worked out. The same may help the healthcare provider and urge the government in driving policy changes to aid patients and stakeholders associated with medical tourism.
•Focus on the central promotions in potential locations:
The government needs to work on providing platforms of opportunity to healthcare providers to participate in promotional initiatives to highlight India as a preferred medical tourism and healthcare destination. The government can highlight the visa and established policy framework to safeguard the rights of the medical tourist and the healthcare provider can share their medical prowess.
While the central government has consulted various agencies and has given the prerogative to industry thought chambers such as FICCI and CII to suggest a framework for them to follow, the policy and mechanisms formulation and implementation have no deadline.
Today you do see a lot of information about India being highlighted as the best healthcare destination, but the reality and government support in achieving and maintaining the same is different. It is imperative that we as industry players associate with the government policy makers and work together to bridge the gaps.
Dr Shankar Narang