There are very significant differences between various countries and the availability of medical facilities and expertise. While the North American, Western European countries and Australia probably lead the way in innovations and healthcare delivery systems, they also have some problems. In countries like US, health insurance is expensive or healthcare is too expensive for the uninsured. In others such as Canada and the UK, there are a lot of inefficiencies leading to long delays for non-emergency care. India has emerged as a preferred healthcare destination for other countries in the Indian sub-continent, Middle East and Africa, as these countries do not have a well developed healthcare infrastructure or expertise. They also do not have high quality local laboratories and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.
Private healthcare in India offers the same quality of healthcare as the western countries at a fraction of the cost compared to them. Major surgeries and treatments being cheaper by upto 5 to 20 times, some of the common surgeries being joint replacements, cancer treatment and transplants. There are abundant high quality diagnostic facilities such as fully automated laboratories, cutting edge CT, MRI and PET scan machines and therapeutic tools such as 3D and 4K endoscopy and laparoscopy and robotic surgery for joint replacements, neurosurgery and abdominal and urological cancers.
While heart and lung transplants are not available in most of these countries, it has been very successfully developed in a few centres in India. In addition the transplants, these centres now lead this part of the world in management of end-stage heart failure and advanced stage lung diseases using state of the art devices such as extra-corporeal membrane oxygenator (ECMO) and ventricular assist devices (VAD). Liver transplants also are not performed in most of these countries and many centres in India cater to both adult and pediatric patients for these countries. Occasionally patients from western countries also travel to India for liver transplants because of the greater experience with living donor liver transplants in India compared to predominantly cadaveric transplants in western countries. Having worked at and visited several hospitals in the US, Europe, Japan and Korea, the author is confident that the technologies, infrastructure, equipment and medicines available in India are at par with the leading medical institutions in the world. Lot of doctors who have trained and acquired skills at such institutions now practice in India, thus percolating best practices using these technologies, a “reverse brain drain”.However, during the pandemic many patients have not been able to get access to quality healthcare, because of diversion of resources to manage the pandemic and travel restrictions. However, it has opened up the area of virtual clinics because of which doctors and patients from across the world now feel comfortable with e-consultations. Going forward the government could take several steps to promote medical tourism:
· Facilitate travel for patients for treatment by making the process of medical visas easy
· Encourage collaboration with diagnostic laboratories and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies to set up diagnostic facilities in partner countries
· Host medical exhibitions to showcase medical devices and medicines made in India
· Enable “diagnostic, medical and surgical camps” at these countries in collaboration with major hospitals from India and local hospitals to showcase medical facilities in India
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