NHA plans an information portal for medical tourists

  • The government wants the portal to showcase India as a preferred medical tourism destination

The National Health Authority (NHA) is planning to build an institutional mechanism to connect foreign patients, including NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and Overseas Citizens of India, with reputed Indian hospitals in order to boost medical tourism, a government official said.
There is no such system dedicated to patients for ensuring quality and affordable treatment at present. The system will also promote transparency and accountability.
Under this, a portal will be set up so that patients can easily find the names of hospitals with a list of medical services, charges, and other relevant information.
With a large number of patients from the sub-continent and African countries seeking out Indian hospitals, the government wants the portal to showcase the country as a preferred medical tourism destination.
The tourism ministry defines medical tourism as Medical Value Travel (MVT), which captures a patient’s healthcare seeking behaviour as well as the wider economic impact of such travel on nations hosting them.
A large number of patients visit India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Syria, Bhutan, and Africa among others for affordable, advanced and quality treatment such as cosmetic surgery, bariatric surgery, orthopaedic surgery, cardiac surgery, and hip and knee replacement.
According to a paper published by the ministry of tourism last year, India has also become a favoured destination for yoga and wellness services with a focus on traditional therapies through AYUSH. The number of international patients increased from 430,000 in 2016 to 700,000 in 2019, and the estimated market size in that year was $5-6 billion.
“The NHA has a growing network of more than 25,000 hospitals across the country, state-of-art IT platform and more than three years of experience for implementation of the world’s largest health insurance scheme—Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY). Further, the organization is implementing multiple convergence schemes such as Ayushman CAPF etc. The NHA has experience, skill set, and resources to manage the system and is in a stewardship position to take this initiative forward to create an institutional framework for medical tourism,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.
“In the first stage, the portal will host information about private hospitals providing affordable and quality healthcare services. It has been observed that many patients who come to India for treatment do not have appropriate information; sometimes, they are overcharged and there are several cases of middlemen misleading the patients.
“Everything as of now is by word of mouth. If there is a platform where all relevant and reliable information is present related to hospitals, treatment, and its package rate, then patients can contact such hospitals either through the portal or directly if they wish to get the treatment done from a particular hospital. This will provide authentic and credible information to the patients coming to our country,” the official cited above said.
Queries mailed to a health ministry spokesperson on Friday morning remained unanswered at press time.
The platform aims to bring transparency to the medical tourism system as patients will be able to give their feedback on the hospital after getting the treatment and raise their grievances in case of overcharging or unsatisfactory treatment.
India has been ranked 10th in the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) for 2020-21 out of 46 destinations by the Medical Tourism Association.
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