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Medical Tourism in India; How Does It Impact Public Healthcare?

M3 India Newsdesk Mar 08, 2017

India is one of the most sought after destination for medical tourism with recorded revenue of US$3 billion in 2015. Even though the returns are projected at US $7-8 billion by 2020, the stupendous success impacts the public healthcare system in more ways than one.




But let’s begin by answering the primary question, why is India the top choice for tourists seeking medical care?


Low-cost treatment: Private hospitals in India are among the most competitive and cost-effective service providers, offering treatments at a fraction of a price compared to the ones in the USA and Europe.


Below mentioned are the comparative rates of important treatment in various countries.


  1. Heart Bypass -  $123000 ( USA), $7900 ( India), $15000 ( Thailand), $12100 ( Malaysia), $14000 ( Poland), $17200                ( Singapore), $13900   ( Turkey)
  2. Angioplasty - $28200 ( USA), $7900 (India), $4200 ( Thailand), $8000 (Malaysia), $5300 (Poland), $13400 (Singapore), $4800 ( Turkey)
  3. Knee Replacement - $35000 (USA), $6600 (India), $14000 ( Thailand), $7700 ( Malaysia), $8200 (Poland), $16000 (Singapore), $10400 (Turkey)
  4. Dental Implant - $2500 (USA), $900 (India), $1720 ( Thailand), $1500 ( Malaysia), $925 (Poland), $2700 (Singapore), $1100 (Turkey)


Source: globalresearchonline.net   


Convenience: To make things well-situated, medical tourists to India can avail package deals which comprise of flights, transfers, hotels, treatment and often a post-operative vacation.


Government Support: The Introduction of Medical visa at the SAARC summit (November 2014) has eased visa limitations also; the soon to be introduced medical visa on arrival for citizens of 180 countries will prove to be a big boon.


Impact of Medical Tourism on Public Healthcare

Though several factors have made India as a favourite destination for medical tourists, there are also potential threats.


Large Disproportion

According to Sengupta and Nundy 2005, the private sector in India accounts for 82% of outpatient visits, 58% of inpatient expenditure, and 40% of births in institutions. The prospect of medical tourism has amplified growth in this sector by introducing many joint ventures and collaborative actions. However, commonly drawn conclusions from various studies points that the potential for earning revenue through medical tourism could prompt the private hospitals to insist for higher subsidies from the government, while also creating a scenario where speciality corporate hospitals are created using public funds and subsidies, thus diverting funds from the public health system and widening the discrepancy. There is an increased concern regarding the quality of care in public health facilities and the matter has not been addressed effectively. 


Unregulated Growth

There is no policy structure to ensure common rules for the private health care sector. Not surprisingly, the private sector is entitled to subsidies in the form abridged import duties, land, and reduced import duties for medical equipment, etc.


Bigger Shortage

According to a study by the Lancet – a UK medical journal, as of March 2015, 8% of India’s 25,300 primary health centres had no doctors. More than 80% of community health centres had no surgeons; 76% had no obstetricians and gynaecologists, and 82% had no paediatricians. Since the private sector is main employer health specialists, unregulated growth will ensure that specialist will move from public healthcare segment to the corporate segment due to better pay and infrastructure.


Expensive Medical Treatments

In India, the private sector caters for 80% of the health needs of the population. The establishment of state of the art health facilities within the private sector along with widening the gap in terms of quality of service provided in the public sector will additionally amplify the reliance on the private sector and hence increase the burden on the patient. Even though Medical Tourism is already the big success story for India after IT, its impact on public healthcare needs to be addressed so to ensure that everyone benefits from the growth.



  1. Medical tourism: its potential impact on the health workforce and health systems in India
  2. Medical tourism and it's negative impact on rural healthcare
  3. Financing Healthcare for all India 
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