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Medical Tourism

Websites woo medical tourists, promise a treat

Rekha Desai, a French citizen of Indian origin, has been staying in Paris for the last 20 years. After unsuccessful IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) treatments — twice in Paris and thrice in the UK — she started exploring options in India, but was unsure of where to start. “I browsed Google and booked my medical trip to India after consulting the recommended gynaecologist over Skype,” said Desai, who gave birth to a baby boy after undergoing IVF treatment in India. The medical expenses came to Rs 2.5 lakh. Desai had spent over Rs 15 lakh in Paris and UK procedures. Her trip was customised by PlanMyMedicalTrip, which took care of accommodation, travel and forex, hospital consultation and medical treatment.

Foreigners like Desai are making a beeline for India’s medical tourism market thanks to websites such as MediConnectIndia, Planmymedicaltrip, Bonanza Healthcare and India Healthcare tourism, whose custom-tour packages ease the whole experience.

These websites act as one-stop solution for all services — visa, forex, airfare, hotels, sightseeing, transportation, treatment costs and post-treatment care.

“The cheapest package costs Rs 2 lakh, say for cosmetic or dental surgery. The cost for a kidney or liver transplant is Rs 30 lakh,” said Shalini Sharma, head at MediConnectIndia. “We send quotations as per requirements and recommend hospitals, including super-speciality chains such as Fortis, Max, Apollo, Medanta and BLK.”

Anurav Rane, CEO, PlanMyMedicalTrip, which has treated 3,000 medical tourists in the last five years, said: “From the pick up at the airport to the drop at the hospital — our job is to ensure comfort.”

Top medical treatments booked through these websites include cosmetic surgery, chemotherapy, knee replacement, IVF procedures, dental surgery, and ayurvedic and yoga-based treatments. Most medical tourists come from West Asian and east African nations, such as Kuwait, Dubai and Nigeria. However, traffic from the US and Europe is also building up. “Out of every 10 patients, two are from western countries, including the US and the UK, which was not the trend a year ago,” Sharma said.

The websites claim to reduce the tour budget by 30% to 40%.

“The business model works on referral fees from doctors and commissions on treatments. We enter into MoUs with hospitals, which helps us get the best rates, up to 40% cheaper than prevailing ones,” Rane said.

The Indian medical tourism market is expected to grow from the current $3 billion to around $8 billion by 2020, according to a CII-Grant Thornton study.

This article appeared in The Hindustan Times on 23rd February, 2016.