Medical tourism is a growing sector in India. The Medi-Traveler (medical tourism) market reached $3.9 billion in 2014, up from $1.9 billion in 2011.
By 2020, India’s medical tourism sector was projected to grow to $7–8 billion. Many transiting to one of India’s 28 JCI accredited hospitals.
Indian doctors trained in western countries including US and UK, as well as providing English speaking staff, due to which foreigners are less likely to face language barrier in India.
Foreign patients travelling to India to seek medical treatment numbered in 2012 (171,021), 2013 (236,898) and 2014 (184,298) respectively. In 2017, more than half a million (250,000) international Medi-Travelers head to the country annually, this figure excludes Wellness-Travelers.
Previously USA and the UK have been the largest source countries for medical tourism to India. However, 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 accounted for 30% share of foreign medical tourist arrivals and in 2015, India became the top destination for Russians seeking medical treatment
Other major sources of patients include Africa and the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf countries. Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai received the highest number of foreign patients primarily from South Eastern countries.
While several hospitals in India provide medical tourism services, the field is dominated by India’s large private hospital groups which have dedicated extensive resources to promote medical tourism. Major groups include:
- Apollo Hospitals
- Aster Medcity
- Care Hospitals
- Fortis Healthcare
- Narayana Health
- D Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre
Treatments include those for fertility, orthopedic, cardiac and oncology problems and organ transplants. According to the Medical Tourism Resource Guide, a heart valve is worth about $15,000, versus $150,000 in the U.S.
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.
Most estimates found that treatment costs in India start at around one-tenth of the price of comparable treatment in the US or the UK.
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 (specific) visas.
India also has special lanes mainly in its airports specifically for Medi-Travelers.