Hospitals in India for foreign patients

Having endured the intractable pain caused by osteoarthritis of the hip for two years, a 44 year old woman from Norwich had two options for taking turns in the NHS or seek treatment at a private hospital.

She took a 10 hour flight to India and verified at the Apollo Hospital in the southern city of Chennai. There, on Saturday, an orthopedic surgeon performed a resurfacing procedure hip Birmingham on it. She expects to be in three weeks, but not before a visit to a center of traditional Indian medicine herbal, organized by the hospital.

The British woman is part of a growing number of foreigners turning to hospitals in private tertiary care in India for medical treatment, which leads to health tourism. Large hospitals in Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi have long been patients of South Asian neighboring countries and the Gulf. Now they are trying to attract patients from Africa, Europe and North America, sell like centers able to provide world-class medical services at low cost.

“Patients in the UK and North America account for slightly more than a trickle at the moment, but there is a great potential for growth,” said Mr. Anil Maini, director of corporate marketing health care at Escorts Heart Institute and Research Center, New Delhi. A report by the Confederation of Indian Industry consulting firm McKinsey and management predicted that hospitals tertiary premium care in India could generate up to $ 2 billion (£ 1.1bn, € 1.7bn) of revenue health tourism by the year 2012.

The Indian government has also expressed its intention to promote medical tourism, but it has drawn criticism health industry analysts. “Where is the logic of power of public spending and efforts to attract foreign patients to the private sector where an overwhelming majority of patients in India have inadequate access to health care,” said Dr. Amit Sen Gupta, Movement of the joint coordinator for the health of the people, a national network of NGOs campaign to improve the country’s public health services.

The Indian state of Maharashtra has set up a Council for Medical Tourism to promote the state as a destination for health for foreign patients. Last year, the Federation of health in India, a consortium of private hospitals and the medical industry has sent delegations to Britain and the UAE to enhance medical facilities and capabilities from India. “We did not go fishing for patients,” said Dr. Maini. “The idea was to convey the message that patients can avoid waiting times and save money with the treatment in India,” he said.

Whether for cataract or cardiac surgery, dental care, or hip replacement operations in India processing cost is a fraction of what a similar procedure would cost in Europe or North America.
“Costs resurfacing about $ 5,000 in India while it is about $ 15 000 in Europe,” said Dr. Vijay Bose, the surgeon who operated Norwich woman last week. Escorts Heart Institute officials say a heart bypass surgery in India, more air travel would cost $ 6,000 compared to $ 23,000 in a private hospital in the UK or $ 30 000 in the United States.

Currently, the NHS does not fund British patients to go to India. He said that Indian hospitals can not refer patients from the UK because India flight time exceeds the limit three hours to transfer patients.

“Most Western patients we receive are covered by insurance or pay out of pocket,” said George Eapen, CEO of Apollo Hospital. But hospitals are hoping that the situation will change in the coming years through agreements with insurance companies and governments. “Canadian patients now get 75% of their costs reimbursed after treatment here,” says Eapen.
The Escorts Heart Institute is among hospitals accredited by the British medical insurance company BUPA. The Federation of Indian health care encourages Western insurance companies to introduce products with lower premiums for patients wishing to visit India for treatment. Hospitals say low cost is only one factor that makes India an attractive destination for UK residents and North America.

“The doctors here speak excellent English and patients can expect highly personalized care,” said Mr. Eapen.
The health sector is estimated that several thousand foreign patients are treated in private hospitals in India each year, mostly from Asia and Africa. They seek treatment for a wide range of conditions, including cancer, heart disease and neurological problems. But in recent months, hospitals treated a French patient with clogged arteries, a Canadian patient with an orthopedic problem, and patients from North America looking for cosmetic surgery. Some hospitals also organize visits to sites of interest and yoga classes or traditional medicine as “benefits” of the health plan.
However, some doctors warn that despite the enthusiasm, Indian hospitals can not attend a deluge of Western patients. “I’m getting a lot of queries and X-rays by email, but many patients have concerns about being treated in a developing country,” said Dr. Bose orthopedic surgeon. “This is an unwarranted phobia, because our success rates are as good as in the West,” he said.
But officials of the Federation of Indian health care recognize the need to introduce standardization in the quality and cost of medical services in hospitals.

The old national policy two years of health of India said he wanted to encourage health tourism and promised that hospitals treating foreign patients enjoy the same tax incentives available to other export industries.

But public health experts warn that the government’s role in this activity would be detrimental to the public health sector.

“The focus on health tourism is likely to distort the perspectives of health care providers, promoting medicine as a purely commercial enterprise,” says Dr. Ritu Priya in Social Medicine Center and community health at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “It creates a level of quality unaffordable by most Indians,” she said.
“The particular financial incentives for hospitals treating foreign patients will mean that the government would indirectly subsidize foreign patients,” said Dr. Sen Gupta.


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