Traditional Indian practices targeting international patients


Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine based on the notion of balance within the body. It uses herbal treatment and yogic breathing. Siddha and Unani are similar in their holistic approach to finding harmony between the mind and body, with the origins of Siddha lying in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, while Unani can trace its roots back to the time of ancient Greece.

These all come under the Ministry of AYUSH, a government agency created in 2014 to improve access to and awareness of traditional methods. The article says that India’s AYUSH industry was estimated to be worth around US$2.4 billion in 2014-15, according to a 2018 report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

The article says that traditional knowledge of health care, along with India’s reputation in modern, Western approaches, is fueling the country’s rise in medical tourism.  It quotes Ministry of Tourism figures to state that India’s medical tourism industry could grow by 200% by 2020, hitting US$9 billion.

Source countries of medical travellers to India

The article quotes Sonika Raina, a representative for Max Healthcare, a chain of private hospitals in India, who has treated up to 50,000 foreign patients in 2018, with the majority traveling from the Middle East, central Asia and Africa.

International patients come to their hospitals for a range of care. "These include high-end cardiac surgeries, including pediatric cardiac surgery, cancer treatments, neurosurgery, spine surgery, transplants, bariatric surgery, trauma-related orthopedic surgery and IVF," Raina said. "Nearly 10% of the overall revenue comes from foreign patients."

Many of the patients in India come from neighboring countries and other developing nations.

The article quotes Johanna Hanefeld, an associate professor of health policy and systems at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK: "There’s also a huge diaspora market, such as people who are British but born to Indian parents. Initially, there was a prediction that people from rich countries would travel to middle-income countries to get a good deal. What seems to be more the case is that more people from low- or middle-income countries travel for care. It’s more about unavailability. What you see a lot of is the elite from lower-middle income countries simply because the procedures may not be available in the country they are from."

For a more detailed analysis of the medical travel sector in India, visit the IMTJ Country Profile.



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