Interpreters and special desks at 10 airports, a multi-lingual portal and simplified visa norms are going to be the highlights of the government’s ‘Heal in India’ initiative to boost medical tourism.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce the initiative on August 15 and the Health Ministry is putting finishing touches to its various aspects and measures for ease of overseas patients.
The government has identified 44 countries from where a large number of people visit India for medical purposes, official sources told PTI, adding the cost and quality of treatment in these nations were also taken into account.
These are predominantly African, Latin American, SAARC and Gulf countries, they said.
The 10 identified airports — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Guwahati — see higher footfalls of patients from these 44 countries, the sources said.
“In a bid to boost medical travel and provide end-to-end patient journey facilitation, the government will deploy language interpreters and set up health desks at the 10 identified airports for queries related to medical travel, transport, boarding and lodging among others,” one of the sources said.
The ‘Heal in India’ initiative aims to positioning the country as a global hub for medical and wellness tourism.
According to estimates, the medical tourism market which was valued at USD 6 billion in 2020 fiscal year is expected to more than double and reach USD 13 billion by 2026, an official source said.
The Health Ministry, in collaboration with the National Health Authority, has developed a multi-lingual portal which would be a one-stop shop for services provided by medical travel facilitators and hospitals with an interface for foreign patients. The portal is also likely to be launched on August 15.
The portal will display standardised package rates based on the classification of hospitals and different systems of medicines including modern and traditional systems. It will also have a grievance redressal section as well as an option to submit patient feedback.
There will also be a mechanism to track patient journey by creating a unique health ID under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission framework and monitor service delivery in identified health facilities in India, the source explained.
The ministry has also drawn up a plan to augment the infrastructure at 37 hospitals across 17 cities in 12 states –Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Assam — which see an inflow of a lot of overseas patients for treatment and wellness therapies.
The government is also working on easing medical visa norms for patients and their companions from the 44 identified countries.
The Health Ministry is collaborating with Tourism, Ayush, Civil Aviation ministries, Ministry of External Affairs, hospitals and other stakeholders to build a roadmap to connect overseas patients with healthcare facilities in India to boost medical travel.
As part of executing the initiative, a nodal agency — Medical Value Travel Council — co-chaired by the health and tourism ministries has been formed to create an institutional framework for streamlined integration of all stakeholders, official sources said.
Highlighting India’s potential for a healthcare industry, the official sources said the cost of treatment in India is two to three times lesser than in most countries. Medical treatment in India is 65 to 90 per cent cheaper than in the USA. Also, India offers Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy.
Bangladesh, Iraq, Maldives, Afghanistan, Oman, Yemen, Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania account for about 88 per cent of the total international patients visiting India. Bangladesh alone accounts for 54 per cent of the total medical tourists.
Treatment for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and kidney ailments are most sought after by foreign patients in India. Besides modern medical treatments, several tourists also come for India’s wellness and Ayush offering.