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Foreign Nationals Traveling To India For High-end Procedures: Danish Ahmed

In an interaction with BW Healthcare World, Danish Ahmed, Founder, healthtrip.com speaks on the key imperatives to develop medical tourism in India, medical tourism for Ayurveda, high end procedures, challenges facing the industry and on Heal In India initiative

What do you think are the key imperatives of the booming medical tourism sector in India. Do the cost differences in treatments shifting the weight in India's favour? 

The key imperatives for developing the medical tourism sector in India is adding more flights to potential countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Myanmar and Mongolia, among others. The absence of a direct flight to these countries is a disadvantage for us. 

In addition to this, it is also crucial to organise the industry by bringing standardisation not only in the treatments but also in the whole ecosystem offering services to the tourists. This includes setting up desks at the airports, providing solutions on forex, providing complication insurance etc. 

Cost is not the dominant factor when one is choosing better health, but it does help when the patient has two equally good options. For example, when a person in Bangladesh is choosing between treatment in India and Thailand, at equally good hospitals, then India benefits with 60 per cent lower costs. 

Do you think foreign nationals are travelling to India for higher end treatments like transplants and robotic surgeries? If yes what has led to this transition? 

Yes, a lot of foreign nationals are travelling to India for complicated high-end treatments including cancer, transplants, robotics and MICS surgeries, because the surgeons performing these surgeries are one of the best in the world. Over the last 5 years, India has become especially strong in the transplant and robotics surgery space, giving it a strong edge over other geographies. 

This transition has been led by consumer preference for the less infectious, quick healing and scarless treatments that robotic surgeries offer. Our surgeons have adopted these new technologies better than others, and are continuously adding to their skill sets. Moreover, these surgeries are done at affordable prices. 

Ayurveda has gained prominence in recent times in medical value tourism. Ayurveda and its core has always been in the country what do you think explains its recent growth? 

Ayurveda is still a very latent opportunity in India and I believe this sector can grow 500 per cent in the next few years. Ayurveda is unique to India and its nature-inspired health and wellness treatments are gaining a lot of preference among patients. The missing piece in Ayurveda was always its standardisation. 

The Modi Government, by establishing the Ayush ministry, has created much-needed standardisation in the Ayurveda industry and we now have over 500 NABH-accredited Ayurveda clinics. 

With better marketing and promotions, Ayurveda can serve 10 million international patients each year, taking India to the No.1 position in Medical Tourism globally. 

What challenges do you think the medical tourism sector is facing currently? 

Indian medical tourism industry was never given a lot of importance by the earlier government, and so the sector remained highly unregulated and disorganised. For the first time in decades, the government is now looking at Medical Tourism as a Champion Service Sector, allocating budgets to promote it and putting resources to solve its problems. As the industry becomes more organised and our government actively reaches out to develop trust in Indian Healthcare, millions more people will travel to India for its high-quality affordable treatments. 

This will help us compete with Turkey, which has quickly gained market share during the last 3 years to become the largest medical travel destination, generating over $9 billion in medical tourism. The Turkish government has created excellent policies to promote the sector, demonstrating the significant impact of positive government initiatives in the space. With India being much better at delivering better healthcare outcomes, a similar initiative by our government would quickly take us from $6bn to $13bn in annual medical tourism. 

Do you think the Indian model needs to be branded to create awareness globally, how do you think can this be done? 

Absolutely, Incredible India demonstrated the success that a national tourism campaign can have, in bringing more tourists to the country. A similar initiative, to promote the Medical Tourism sector is going to create more trust, and more awareness about Indian healthcare in the global audience. 

This requires coordinated efforts between different ministries in promoting Indian healthcare through embassies, business delegations, airports, national missions, advertising and other mediums. 

How do you think the Heal in India Intiative will help and change the way medical tourism sector is operating currently? 

Heal In India is a very big step towards organising the medical tourism industry in India. It will bring standardisation, trust and awareness to the Medical tourism industry. It will facilitate the patient experience from the airport to guesthouses, hospitals and teleconsultations. 

With the government monitoring the experience of foreign patients, it will significantly reduce the malpractices in the space, bringing much needed relief to the patients. 



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