Medical Tourism: Boon or a Bane?


By

Arpita Agrawal
Asst. Professor
Sikkim Manipal University - DDE
Manipal Global Education Services
Manipal Towers, # 14, HAL Airport Road, Bangalore-560008, Karnataka
 


Globalization has touched all the lives. A person living in the remote village is enjoying coke and a rich American doesn't hesitate in showing his collection of tribal artefacts.

There is a change in mind-set of people. Nationality doesn't matter and nor does distance. The world is becoming flatter day by day. This has led to diminishing borders and creation of comfort outside one's own country also. The most conservative sector, the healthsector is also not left unaffected.

People are travelling to other countries to get treatment and care. This is popularly known as medical tourism or medical travel. Such travel occurs for various reasons. This is happening obviously because the returns or the savings are quite high.

The favourite destinations for medical tourism include Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Philippines and South Africa. India is emerging as a popular medical tourism destination due to low cost of treatment, quality care and qualified doctors and the many tourist destinations which can be enjoyed post treatment.

The medical tourists across the world have different reasons for travelling such a long distance. The Americans see a huge cost saving if that particular treatment is not covered under insurance as the cost of treatment is quite high in Western countries.

In some countries like UK, where there is national healthcare system, waiting period can be quite high. This enforces them to look for other countries where they can get a faster and a cost effective treatment.

There are people from African countries also who look for better treatment opportunities at an affordable price.

All these people find it better to travel to other countries and get treated in the best hospitals. The hospitals are promoting medical tourism and getting good revenues from them. They are appointing doctors at a higher salary preferably with a foreign degree or experience to lure these patients. They are diverting their critical resources for treating foreign patients.

Criticism and road ahead

Medical tourism is working for their advantage, but is it working for the advantage of the country as a whole? What about the people of India? Are we diverting the already limited health resources for benefit of developed nations?

Are we able to provide the even the basic health facilities to our countrymen? And if the answer is "no", then why are we promoting medical tourism?

All these questions remain a topic of debate. Medical tourism is helping the country in earning foreign exchange and adding to the revenues of the country. It is also helping in improving the general and health infrastructure. Hospitals are giving higher remuneration to doctors which is possible due to earnings from medical tourism. This in a way is good as it is preventing brain drain and we are able to retain good doctors within the country.

And how much it will help if we don't have foreign patients is still unanswered.

May be the best option lies somewhere in between. If we are able to utilize the earnings from foreign patients in creating health resources for the country's poor and needy, we will be able to justify and create a balance. A patient is a patient whether it is from our own country or other country. So we can't actually distinguish. However it would be fair and just to the people of the country if we are able to focus on their needs too. Hospitals will have to conform to the social responsibility factors also. Only then the medical tourism will realize its full potential.
 


Arpita Agrawal
Asst. Professor
Sikkim Manipal University - DDE
Manipal Global Education Services
Manipal Towers, # 14, HAL Airport Road, Bangalore-560008, Karnataka
 

Source: E-mail December 5, 2012

          

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