Healthcare major Apollo Hospitals Enterprise said the medical tourism sector in the country needs support from the government to get back on its feet after being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The medical tourism sector came to a standstill due to the lockdown. This has impacted not just India but Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries also which have a thriving medical tourism sector”, Apollo Hospitals Group Joint MD Sangita Reddy told PTI.
While there is easing out of the lockdown, it will take government level discussions to help bring patients in for treatment, she added.
"For example, Malaysia has seen some patients coming in for open-heart surgery from Brunei as a direct result of government level discussions. Similarly, in India, there is a need for government support to ensure that medical value tourism in India gets back on its feet,” Reddy said.
Medical value travel tourism is still nascent in India and holds great potential.
NITI Aayog has identified medical value travel as one of the major growth drivers and a major source of forex earning, she added.
"As the world unlocks, we will see a gradual increase in patients, all taking due precautions, turn to India for their treatments. In a world where people have become increasingly cost conscious, India offers a significant advantage with high quality, high value care," Reddy said.
Highlighting the role of the medical tourism segment in the company’s portfolio, she said the last fiscal saw patients from over 50 countries trusting Apollo Hospitals with their healthcare needs.
"Our international patients division extended care to over 2 lakh patients in the last fiscal with a small but significant contribution of around 13 percent to our revenue from the healthcare segment,” she added.
The company’s revenue from medical tourism was growing steadily, but it has been impacted by restrictions on international air travel, Reddy said.
"We have seen our revenue from medical value travel growing at 17-18 percent year-on-year. However, this has been impacted by the air travel restrictions due to COVID. While the air-routes are opening up gradually, it will take some time for medical value travel to return to its normal volume of patients,” she added.
Highlighting the trust international patients repose in Apollo Hospitals, she said: "International patients trust Apollo Hospitals for its advanced medical technology and skilled medical professionals. It is cost-effective for the patients as they get care of international standards at a fraction of the cost.”
The main procedures for which patients come to Apollo include treatments for cancer, organ transplant, cardiac procedures, orthopaedics and neurosurgery.
While these are the main procedures, the patients come for all kinds of treatment like eye procedures, dental treatment, etc.
India is one of the most attractive destinations because of the high quality of care, Reddy said.
For Apollo Hospitals, the majority of international patients hail from Bangladesh, South East Asia and Africa.
Patients come from different countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pacific Islands, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and Yemen, she added.
"Patients also come, though not in very large numbers, from the UK, Europe, United States and Canada,” Reddy said.