'Medical tourists' flocking to India
Facebook Twitter google+ RSS Feed

'Medical tourists' flocking to India

By siliconindia staff writer   |   Friday, 22 October 2004, 07:00 Hrs
Printer Print Email Email
NEW DELHI: Three months ago, Howard Staab learned that he suffered from a life-threatening heart condition and would have to undergo surgery at a cost of up to $200,000 — an impossible sum for the 53-year-old carpenter from Durham, N.C., who has no health insurance.

So he outsourced the job to India.

Taking his cue from cost-cutting U.S. businesses, Staab last month flew about 7,500 miles to the Indian capital, where doctors at the Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre — a sleek, aluminum-colored building across the street from a bicycle-rickshaw stand — replaced his balky heart valve with one harvested from a pig. Total bill: about $10,000, including round-trip airfare and a side trip to the Taj Mahal.

"The Indian doctors, they did such a fine job here, and took care of us so well," said Staab, a bicycling enthusiast who was accompanied to India by his partner, Maggi Grace. "I would do it again."


Numbers are growing
Staab is one of a growing number of people known as "medical tourists" who are traveling to India in search of First World health care at Third World prices. Last year, an estimated 150,000 foreigners visited India for medical procedures, and the number is increasing at the rate of about 15 percent a year, said Zakariah Ahmed, a health care specialist at the Confederation of Indian Industries.

Eager to cash in on the trend, posh private hospitals are beginning to offer services tailored for foreign patients, such as airport pickups, Internet-equipped private rooms and package deals that combine, for example, tummy-tuck surgery with several nights in a maharajah's palace. Some hospitals are pushing treatment regimens that augment standard medicine with yoga and other forms of traditional Indian healing.


Globalization helps India
The phenomenon is another example of how India is profiting from globalization — the growing integration of world economies — just as it has already done in such other service industries as insurance and banking, which are outsourcing an ever-widening assortment of office tasks to the country. A recent study by the McKinsey consulting firm estimated that India's medical tourist industry could yield as much as $2.2 billion in annual revenue by 2012.

"If we do this right, we can heal the world," said Prathap C. Reddy, a physician who founded Apollo Hospitals, a 6,400-bed chain that is headquartered in the coastal city of Chennai and is one of the biggest private health care providers in Asia.

The trend is still in its early stages. Most of the foreigners treated in India come from other developing countries in Asia, Africa or the Middle East, where top-quality hospitals and health professionals are often hard to find.


U.S. patients relatively rare
Patients from the United States and Europe still are relatively rare — not only because of the distance they must travel but also, hospital executives acknowledge, because India continues to suffer from an image of poverty and poor hygiene that discourages many.

However, India offers a growing number of private "centers of excellence" where the care is as good or better than that of big-city hospitals in the United States or Europe, asserted Naresh Trehan, a self-assured cardiovascular surgeon who runs Escorts and performed the operation on Staab.

Trehan said, for example, that the death rate for coronary bypass patients at Escorts is 0.8 percent. By contrast, the 1999 death rate for the same procedure at New York-Presbyterian Hospital was 2.35 percent, according to the New York State Health Department.



Experts on SiliconIndia
Santhosh  K
Sr. Soft. Engg.
Oracle India
Nehal Vyas
Sr. Team Lead
Cyberoam Tech.
Rani Malli
Sr. Director
Philips
Sr. Executive
ISB
Vijay Balkrishna Konduskar
Business Consultant
Imans Web Tech
Dr L P  Sharma
Technical Director
NIC
Reena Khanna
Founder
Solitaireworld
Dellas  Asse
sys-network admin
Computer Station
Write your comment now
Submit Reset
SPOTLIGHT