If a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness or a deadly condition, the first thing that pops in our head is to provide the patient with the best possible treatment and care there is, and bring him back to his healthy state. In order to make this happen we make up our minds to pay any price, even if it involves travelling abroad to a different nation altogether.
Medical tourism, in recent times, has actually given a true meaning to the term “Global citizen” since treatment today knows no boundaries, literally. The current trend however puts the developing countries in the spotlight where they are considered to be the ideal hosts or destinations for the said reason. The Indian subcontinent along with its neighbours and a few African nations like Kenya have turned out be medical hotspots in the current scenario. A developing country, which is in a state of continuous growth in every field possible looks at this as an opportunity or as a boost for a number of reasons. A very important one is, making a mark on the world map. Being noticed by fellow developed countries is obviously an advantage as it can accelerate foreign exchange. Primarily, contributing in the sphere of knowledge and shining in the very same field creates a positive image of the nation and forces the others to look at it with increased respect and awe. The trend in medical tourism has transformed itself drastically as superior level of treatment and diagnosis was always associated with the developed countries in the west.
There was a time when people preferred going to a developed country for undergoing a complicated or sophisticated surgery as there was a preconceived notion that these countries were home to the latest equipment, latest medical procedures, the best medical colleges and thus the best doctors in the world. With passing time there has been a distinct reversal in this trend with an increased inflow of western patients from the developed countries to the developing ones. Initially this change was associated with the authentic treatment methods that are offered and are native to a number of these countries like Yoga, Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy methods in India, Massage therapy in Thailand or the ancient Chinese treatment methods of Acupuncture, Cupping and Moxibustion. In other words these countries even while attracting foreigners for treatment were primarily assumed to be using only the primitive native techniques and for a while were not considered to be at par with the west when it came to mainstream treatment methods. But then as evident as it can get the expertise of these developing countries in providing a superior quality of mainstream medical treatment was recognised by the world and from there, there was no looking back. Today India leads in this particular sector and has the Lion’s share in the percentage of patients that travel for medical reasons.
Medical tourism in India has tremendously grown in the last 5 years between 2013 – 2017. A fair share of this growth can be attributed to the ease with which foreign nationals can seek Indian medical visa and medical attendant visa. A medical tourism report published by the Ministry of Tourism of India, indicates that the foreign tourist arrival on medical visa has increased by almost 140 percent between the years 2013 – 2015 of which two thirds hailed from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nigeria. In the year 2013, nearly 50,000 individuals were recorded after which the number increased to 74,000 in 2014 and a whopping 134,000 in 2015. 200,000 individuals were then recorded in the year 2016. During the financial year of 2015 – 2016, ophthalmology attracted the maximum number of patients from abroad. To add to this India is very well known for its media platforms, both print and broadcast and the amount of attention that they give to various stories. Medical tourism and its rare cases have caught the eye of these platforms and are being reported to the world showcasing the diversity of nations from where patients have been noted and the quality of treatment they’ve received.
A very recent one that got a lot of media attention world wide was that of the world’s heaviest woman, Eman Ahmed from Egypt who was admitted in the Saifee hospital in Mumbai. The hospital built a special facility to enable the weight reduction surgery and brought her down to 176.60 kg. Thus, she’d entered this country as a 500 kg Individual but flew out of as a passenger of the business class. There have been numerous cases where Pakistani citizens have also been granted medical visas leaving aside all the tensions between the two countries and overlooking the acts of terrorism. However it is made sure that enough publicity is made of the same, enhancing the global image of India. But then, it’s not bragging if it’s true. In 1997, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development noted for the first time that, “Trade in health care services could be very beneficial for the developing countries. A growing number of these countries have the requisite man power, the investment capital, the know-how and the motivation to supply medical tourist facilities. They are hoping on the highly competitive medical tourism bandwagon. India and Malaysia have joined the already established destinations in Thailand and Singapore. The Philippines is not far behind. In the Western Hemisphere, Cuba has been a medical leader for decades and sets an example for Costa Rica and Argentina with respect to the research and development that is linked to medical tourism. The countries of the former Soviet bloc as well as the Baltic states of the former Soviet Union, are using their highly skilled labour force to lure West Europeans to their health care facilities. South Africa and Jordan have also broken into this lucrative market, and more countries join the list every year. “ The scene is only improving with each passing day. Enclosing it can be said that as far as medical tourism is concerned, it’s a win-win situation for people from both the developing and the developed nations.
The patients receive the treatment they are looking for at a very nominal rate with no compromise in quality; for the host nations, not only does it bring economic stability but also increases the scope of new work opportunities for the local public. Therefore we can assume that people from both the sides end up having the last laugh.