Emphasizing the need for a health tourism master plan in India, Maria Todd said, “People buy not what you sell but why you sell. To start with, we need a state strategy and a national strategy. A framework has to built for the product, be it hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centres, spas, dialysis travel, clinical research labs, etc. Pitching India as excellent providers of treatment, rather than cheap healthcare becomes relevant.”
The growing interest in the field of medical tourism was substantiated by the presence of several established doctors, healthcare experts, healthcare corporations and professors from across India and abroad, at the second edition of the International Healthcare Tourism Congress (IHTC) which took place on 3 and 4 March in Bangalore.
India can play a large role in this field mainly due to its huge ready medical infrastructure, good supply source of medical talent including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and lab assistants, cosmopolitan outlook of cities with hotels, well-developed ecosystem of partners including allied services like language translators. Some of the source location countries for India are the Middle East and Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Maldives and Myanmar.
Talking about the need to co-create experiences in medical tourism, Girish, Kolot Network, drew a parallel to the Kochi biennale where three artists came together to create the Muziris heritage from the Spice Route. He said, “Put people at the centre, leverage assets such as culture and heritage; tell a story, have a residual effect on social and cultural and societal aspect. We can also co-opt the community in which such experiences are cited so that everyone can own the experience.”
He suggested, as an example, the idea of performing arts medicine for dancers and singers and questioned the possibility of pairing up that kind of an activity as part of their healing therapy. This is something Maria Todd has advocated for in medical tourism destinations around the world.
Some of the issues raised during the sessions included the image and identity of India as a medical tourism destination, national reputation, capacity development, taxation, information systems, need to develop a health policy that consists of telehealth communication, health privacy, continuity of care, professional liability and recourse, medical records. proper accommodation, food and beverage options, amenities, airport readiness, allergy and portion management, special gastronomy, pricing and package development, technologies, specialisation, among others.
Maria Todd said, “We have to identify our source market; discern who will be ideal customers for each city such as Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, etc. and then go on to understand why we target those customers. All that India is saying is that it offers cheap healthcare; but India must recognise its uniqueness and analyse its competitors. It does not need to own all services. India’s strength is its importance to human values.”