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Medical Tourism

Tourism in India is one of the largest service industry, with a contribution of 6.23% to the GDP and 8.78% of the total employment in India. Visiting foreigners has reached 5 million and revenue from the same is above 6 billion. The World Travel and Tourism Council  (WTTC) has named India as one of the fastest growing tourism Industries for the next 10 years. The India Hospitality sector is expected to show steady growth and according to the Ministry of tourism, the contribution of  tourism to India’s GDP is about 6% as compared to the worldwide average of 11%

Medical Tourism Market Sales Size Share Forecast 2027                                       

          Characteristics  of India’s Hospitality Industry

Medical Tourism is a growing sector in India. In October 2015, India’s medical tourism sector was estimated to be worth US$3 billion. It is projected to grow to $7–8 billion by 2020. According to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the primary reason that attracts medical value travel to India is cost-effectiveness and treatment from accredited facilities at par with developed countries at a much lower cost. The Medical Tourism Market Report: 2015 found that India was “one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations, it offers a wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the United States.”

Foreign patients traveling to India to seek medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 numbered 171,021, 236,898, and 184,298 respectively. Traditionally, the United States and the United Kingdom have been the largest source countries for medical tourism to India. However, according to a CII-Grant Thornton report released in October 2015, Bangladeshis and Afghans accounted for 34% of foreign patients, the maximum share, primarily due to their close proximity with India and poor healthcare infrastructure. Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) accounted for a 30% share of foreign medical tourist arrivals. Other major sources of patients include Africa and the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf countries. In 2015, India became the top destination for Russians seeking medical treatment., Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Banglore, and the National Capital Region received the highest number of foreign patients primarily from South Eastern countries.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi are top destinations for foreign visitors. Based on the government’s statistics of foreign tourists for 2010, more than 55 percent of visitors went to medical centers in these three states alone. Quality hotels added tourism opportunities, and high-quality hospital care is the biggest reason for this trend.


Click here for Tourists come to India for economic reasons and market attractiveness.

Clearly, there are economic advantages to choosing English-speaking India for certain procedures. For example, a heart bypass procedure costs roughly $140,000 without any insurance in the US. The same procedure, however, costs only around $7,000 or Rs 3 lakh at one of India’s leading surgery centers.  Procedures such as hip and knee replacement, facelift, and gastric bypass are far more affordable in India, including the cost of travel and accommodation, compared to the US. Moreover, these cosmetic procedures are not covered by most insurance providers in Western countries. India has many top-notch centers for open-heart surgery and pediatric heart surgeries which are equipped with the latest equipment that is on par with these Western countries. India is also acutely aware of the quality perceptions of its visitors; many Indian hospitals that cater to foreign tourists meet the requirements of US health standards like the Food and Drug Administration and Joint Commission Accreditation for hospitals, hoping to fight this notion.

India is also home to a number of alternative medicine techniques such as Ayurveda, Sidha, Unani, Yoga, Acupuncture, and Homeopathy which are very popular among foreigners. Such treatment opportunities give India the edge over its competitors like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and UAE.


Advantages of medical treatment in India include reduced costs, the availability of the latest medical technologies, and growing compliance with international quality standards, Doctors trained in western countries including the US and UK, as well as English speaking personnel, due to which foreigners are less likely to face language barrier in India. According to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the primary reason that attracts medical value travel to India is cost-effectiveness and treatment from accredited facilities at par with developed countries at a much lower cost.


Most estimates found that treatment costs in India start at around one-tenth of the price of comparable treatment in the United States or the United Kingdom. The most popular treatments sought in India by medical tourists are alternative medicine, bone-marrow transplant, cardiac bypass, eye surgery, and hip replacement. India is known in particular for heart surgery, hip resurfacing, and other areas of advanced medicine.

Quality of care

India has 28 Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals. However, for a patient traveling to India, it is important to find the optimal Doctor-Hospital combination. After the patient has been treated, the patient has the option of either recuperating in the hospital or at a paid accommodation nearby. Many hospitals also give the option of continuing the treatment through telemedicine.

The city of Chennai has been termed “India’s Health Capital”. Multi- and super-specialty hospitals across the city bring in an estimated 150 international patients every day. Chennai attracts about 45 percent of health tourists from abroad arriving in the country and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. Factors behind the tourists’ inflow in the city include low costs, little to no waiting period, and facilities offered at the specialty hospitals in the city. The city has an estimated 12,500 hospital beds, of which only half is used by the city’s population with the rest being shared by patients from other states of the country and foreigners. Dental clinics have attracted dental care tourism to Chennai

Ease of travel

The government has removed visa restrictions on tourist visas that required a two-month gap between consecutive visits for people from Gulf countries which is likely to boost medical tourism. A visa-on-arrival scheme for tourists from select countries has been instituted which allows foreign nationals to stay in India for 30 days for medical reasons. In 2016, citizens of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Republic of Korea, and Nigeria availed the most medical visas.


Despite India’s diversity of languages, English is an official language and is widely spoken by most people and almost universally by medical professionals. In Noida, which is fast emerging as a hotspot for medical tourism, a number of hospitals have hired language translators to make patients from Balkan and African countries feel more comfortable while at the same time helping in the facilitation of their treatment.

Medical tourism, more broadly health and wellness tourism, refers to the industry in which people from across the globe travel to other countries to get medical, dental, and surgical care, and at the same time, visit the local attractions of that country. Key highlights of medical tourism in India–the next crown jewel–that could shape the future of India’s economy and health care.


Click here for Why India is the best choice for medical tourism

Some of the reasons commonly stated by tourists from other countries are :- 

  • Reduced cost of treatment
  • International Quality standards
  • Better availability of specialist doctors for transplant surgeries
  • Modern Infrastructure
  • State-of-the-art treatment facilities and diagnostic instruments
  • The expertise of doctors in their super-specialty fields
  • Trained and compatible staff for international patient care
  • Visa on arrival scheme for tourists from selected countries
  • Favorable Health covers for international patients
  • Remote patient follow up & assistance

The following table gives comparative rates ( in $ ) of various treatments in different countries

Medical tourism prices (in selected countries)

Procedure India US Thailand Singapore UK
Heart Bypass 10000 113000 13000 20000 13921
Heart Valve replacement 9500 150000 11000 13000
Angioplasty 11000 47000 10000 13000 8000
Hip Replacement 9000 47000 12000 11000 12000
Knee Replacement 8000 48000 10000 13000 10162
Gastric Bypass 11000 35000 15000 20000
Hip Resurfacing 8250 47000 10000 12000
Spinal Fusion 5500 43000 7000 9000
Mastectomy 7500 17000 9000 12400
Rhinoplasty 2000 4500 2500 4375 3500
Tummy Tuck 2900 6400 3500 6250 4810
Breast Reduction 2500 5200 3750 8000 5075
Breast Implants 2200 6000 2600 8000 4350
Crown 180 385 243 400 330
Tooth Whitening 100 289 100 500
Dental Implants 1100 1188 1429 1500 1600
Costs of Surgeries around the world. Costs are given in US$
Hospital and doctors charges comprise of cost of surgeries

The Medical Tourism Market

From marketing materials (both print and web-based sources), it is apparent that the range of treatments available overseas for prospective medical tourists is wide, including:

  • Cosmetic surgery (breast, face, liposuction)
  • Dentistry (cosmetic and reconstruction)
  • Cardiology/cardiac surgery (by-pass, valve replacement)
  • Orthopedic surgery (hip replacement, resurfacing, knee replacement, joint surgery)
  • Bariatric surgery (gastric by-pass, gastric banding)
  • Fertility/reproductive system (IVF, gender reassignment)
  • Organ, cell, and tissue transplantation (organ transplantation; stem cell)
  • Eye surgery
  • Diagnostics and check-ups.

Collectively, not all of these treatments would be classed as acute and life-threatening and some are clearly more marginal to mainstream health care. Some forms of plastic surgery would be excluded from health spending (e.g. for solely cosmetic reasons); other forms of medical tourism (e.g. IVF) would be counted within the remit of the health trade.


Myths about medical tourism in India

Myth #1: This “foreign” hospital will be a new environment. I will not be comfortable here. The staff will not be hospitable to my needs as a foreigner in their land.

Truth: Most hospitals that serve international tourists get a large percentage of their business from international tourists. They are very used to helping individuals from foreign nations feel comfortable, cared about, and respected during their stay. In most hospitals, there are specialized teams that take care of all hospitality needs. This staff is in the business of hospitality and customer service. You will be treated well and respected!

Myth #2: I might get sick from unsanitary food/water in a developing country. I might die of severe allergic reactions I have to certain foods.

Truth: Hospitals that medical tourists use in developing countries are internationally sanctioned by boards like the Joint Commission International (JCI). Such institutions are Western-based companies with Western-style standards of care. To maintain their certification and their credentials, hospitals must meet and adhere to very strict sanitation standards. The likelihood of getting sick in such a facility is very low. There is virtually no higher risk of getting sick in a foreign country than there is in a Western hospital or care facility.

If you have any food allergies, it is best to let the facility know before your arrival. These facilities, just like ones in the West, are equipped to handle food allergies or preferences according to the patient’s needs. If you follow a particular diet for ethical reasons (i.e. vegan/vegetarian) or religious reasons (i.e. not eating pork, etc.), let the hospital know ahead of time so they can prepare for your visit accordingly.

Myth #3: The lower healthcare costs mean lower quality of care.

Truth: The reason healthcare costs are so much lower in developing nations than they are in the Western nations is that labor costs per hour for healthcare professionals and taxation rates implemented are substantially lower. Many hospitals in the medical tourism field receive a large majority of their business from international patients.

Myth #4: I am not from India, so I won’t be able to understand the doctors and professionals providing me care!

Truth: Most international universities of medicine are conducted in English as the primary academic language. Most doctors speak English fluently, as well as their language(s) from their homeland. For patients who may not speak English as a first language, or at all, many hospitals offer translators in many different languages. This is to serve the vast numbers of patients from around the world who speak other languages. The aim is to provide world-class quality care at an affordable price!

Myth #5: I just want to go see the world, but I can’t see other destinations if I get the major surgery done.

Truth: Most procedures of any serious magnitude expect that you agree not to fly back home for 2 to 8 weeks after surgery. This is depending on the procedure and is done to ensure optimal safety. You will generally begin to feel better, and possibly even be discharged from the hospital after a few days to a couple of weeks after a procedure.

Myths about medical tourism abound, and that’s why it’s so vital to be educated as many myths and fears are unfounded. They are not based on any facts. Most misconceptions are simply based on a lack of education about the treatment that you are going to receive. Once you go through the topic, you will discover that health tourism in India is a safe and effective way for people to get the treatment they need. This is often available at a much more affordable price. Medical tourism in India is a very safe procedure destination that holds no greater risk than having the procedure done in your home country.

Myth #6: Medical Tourism Is All About Cosmetic Surgery

Truth Elective procedures like cosmetic surgery remain popular forms of treatment to undergo abroad, but a host of other medical procedures which include emergency treatments, and stem cell therapy are also sought by medical tourists.

Emergency medical procedures are increasingly being sought in neighboring countries. For example, a large number of Bangladeshis travel to India for critical surgeries like heart valve replacement. Most patients from the UK travel to neighboring countries like France and also farther ones like India in order to avoid long waiting lists.

Myth #7: Medical Tourism Is New And Not An Established Industry

Truth Medical tourism as a concept can be traced back to ancient times when Greek pilgrims traveled to Epidauria in order to find Asklepios, their healing God. As an industry, medical tourism has been functioning for decades, with US patients traveling to countries like India, Mexico, and other countries for cost-effective healthcare. Medical tourism has been in the news more frequently in recent times due to its sudden spurt in growth.

33% of patients worldwide in 2009 were medical tourists. Around one million patients from US travel abroad for treatment every year. The potential of this industry is being vastly explored and its significance has only been increasing.

Choosing to opt for medical tourism is not a piece of cake and these myths only make it harder to objectively decide the best possible course of action. Now that these myths have been debunked and are out of the way, all that there is left to do is pick your hospital and destination for your treatment, and start packing your bags.

Myth #8 Non-US doctors are inferior and inexperienced.

Truth is that doctors in most other countries must meet the same – or in some cases, even higher – standards for experience, knowledge, and patient safety as their counterparts in the US. In fact, many doctors working in popular medical tourism destinations such as Mexico, India, and Brazil were trained in the US, and are working in their home country because they want to; not because they have to!

Myth #9: The reason medical tourism is cheaper is that they’re “cutting corners”.

Truth is that medical tourism is cheaper because healthcare costs in the US are staggeringly over-priced compared to the rest of the world. For example, virtually the same bariatric surgery performed in Los Angeles for $35,000 can cost $15,000 in India, Mexico. The only difference is that the cost of working (just like the cost of living) in India is significantly less than in Los Angeles. Hospitals and doctors simply charge less, and patients pay less. There’s nothing corner-cutting about this.

Myth #10 – Facilities in developing countries lack modern equipment.

Truth  The international arm of the prestigious American healthcare certification body, The Joint Commission, might disagree with this. Their website currently lists 683 accredited facilities outside of the US, the majority of which are located in what we’d consider “non-Western” countries, and their evaluations of course take technology into account.

Myth #11 – The West’s doctors are superior to the rest of the world’s.

Truth  Is a Western doctor one who practices in the West or one who was trained there? If it’s the latter, then “the rest of the world” is full of Western board-certified doctors. But even if it wasn’t, it’s silly to think foreign countries in the 21stcentury don’t have highly-trained healthcare professionals manning, say, their specialized eye surgery clinics. But don’t take my word for it, take The Joint Commissions.

In a Nutshell:

Myths about medical tourism abound, and that’s why it’s so vital to be educated as many myths and fears are unfounded. They are not based on any facts. Most misconceptions are simply based on a lack of education about the treatment that you are going to receive. Once you go through the topic, you will discover that health tourism in India is a safe and effective way for people to get the treatment they need. This is often available at a much more affordable price. Medical tourism in India is a very safe procedure destination that holds no greater risk than having the procedure done in your home country. The best medical tourism hospitals you will find are accredited by the JCI  or other internationally certified associations. The best medical procedures are varied by each hospital, and choosing a hospital that specializes in the treatment you are looking to receive, is always your best bet to guarantee the best result.

So there you have it. A handful of myths you’ve maybe heard about that ultimately don’t amount to a hill of beans. So if the savings are right, and you’ve got good feedback on a facility overseas, you should be confident in heading there for care.