Think of India, and images of ancient temples, tigers, call centres and the IT boom might jump to mind. Health care is also on the list. India has some excellent medical care providers, and foreign patients have been streaming in over the past decade. Accurate figures are hard to come by, but in 2014 and estimated 150,000 medical tourists were treated in India. Get a check-up and holiday in Goa.
Apollo Hospital: caring treatment/ photo: hospital
Cardiac care is one specialty that is drawing overseas patients to India. The Fortis Escorts Heart Institute (www. fortisescorts. in ) in Delhi, formerly known as The Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, is a state-of-the-art heart institute. At Fortis, open-heart surgery costs around 200,000 Indian rupees (US$4,500), compared to around US$60,000 or more in USA. Like most international hospitals in Asia, the centre helps foreign patients with visa arrangements, airport pick-ups, accommodation, travel arrangements and other logistics. Also look at Fortis Healthcare.
According to the Indian Department of Tourism, the average cost of healthcare in India is about one fifth that of the West, multi-organ transplants are done for a tenth the cost in the West and there is “zero waiting time”. A bone marrow transplant in India would cost around US$26,000 in India, compared to about US$250,000 in the US. Hip replacements are also popular (in the UK, patients often have to wait many months on national healthcare waiting lists before they can have the operation, or pay out of their own pocket at private institutions).
The acclaimed Apollo Hospitals Group (www. apollohospitals. com ) has hospitals across India, including Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata (Calcutta). The hospitals in Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad all have JSI accreditation. Foreign patients are met at the airport on arrival and taken to the hospital or a hotel.
Popular among foreigners living in India is the Max Healthcare group (www. maxhealthcare. in ), which operates several hospitals across North India, including five in the Delhi-NCR (National Capital region) area. The hospital estimates they have received about a million international patients. Foreign patients are offered access to an International Services desk, and the hospital is allied with health insurance providers around the world. While this is considered an expensive private hospital in India, an average executive annual health check or preventative health plan may be just around Rs15,000 (‘Titanium’ plan for males, New Delhi area hospitals) with a vast sweep of procedures ranging from blood and stool tests to treadmill, ECG, echo, abdomen ultrasound, chest x-ray and consultation. The price is cheaper in spots like Mohali or Dehra Dun. Check on rates and procedures for foreigners. If you are booked for around 8.30am you’ll be out by lunchtime. That’s quick for the battery of tests you’ll undergo.
Grab a surgery and a holiday in India/ photo: hospital
Some patients are drawn to India’s holistic approach to healing, where techniques like yoga and meditation are sometimes used alongside the latest medical techniques. Various city hospitals around India now have Ayurveda natural healing centres. One of these is the excellent Medanta Hospital (www. medanta. org ), set up by one of India’s foremost heart surgeons, Dr Naresh Trehan. Each hospital has an ayurvedic health department as well as an offering of other natural healing options, including homeopathy.
The Wockhardt Hospitals Group (www. wockhardthospitals. com ) has a chain of “super-speciality hospitals”, such as the Wockhardt Eye Hospital, Wockhardt Bone and Joint Hospital and Wockhardt Heart Hospital in Mumbai, and others in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Nagpur. The group has an association with Partners Medical International, who also develop programmes for Harvard Medical School affiliated teaching hospitals.
Other Indian hospitals that are treating increasing numbers of foreign patients are Jaslok Hospital (jaslokhospital. net ) in Mumbai, which is highly regarded for heart procedures with a team of excellent doctors; Global Hospitals (www. globalhospitalsindia. com ), under Gleneagles now, a dedicated centre for multi-organ transplants also focusing on cardiology, liver diseases, oncology and haematology, in several locations including Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad; and the well-regarded Dr LV Prasad Eye Institute (www. lvpei. org ), a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for prevention of blindness – headquartered in Hyderabad, but with locations across India.
The Ruby Hospital (www. rubyhospital. com ) in Calcutta, offers extensive services for international patients, and even has an exclusive “lifestyle” floor, The Enclave, housing private apartments with kitchenettes, computers with 24-hour Internet and TV and DVD.
While the Indian medical tourism market clearly has vast potential for growth, some critics say it still has its drawbacks, such as poor infrastructure and challenges travelling in and out of the country.