Medical tourism is a growing segment in India, and the government is pulling stops to make it to the top. Medical treatments in India can be a fraction of the cost in nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia, making it an appealing alternative for patients looking for economical healthcare. The country has gained traction amongst international medical travelers due to the following reasons:
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- Advanced medical technology
- Presence of renowned doctors
- Top healthcare chains
- Affordable, high-quality treatments
- Easy availability of ancillary services
- Large English-speaking population
- Cultural affinity and availability of various cuisines
- Wide range of procedures
- Treatment along with tourism
India, a leading global medical destination, offers a wide range of popular medical treatments. Over the years, the country has gained extensive expertise in these treatments, resulting in significantly high success rates compared to other nations. Among the most popular and sought-after treatments in India, pediatric-related medical care stands out prominently. India is one of the few countries that provide specialized treatments for pediatric conditions.
According to 2022 data, the Indian medical tourism market is currently valued at $7.4 billion. Medical Tourism Association has ranked it 10th in Medical Tourism Index (MTI) for 2020-21 out of 46 destinations worldwide. India earns almost $4 billion from the 2 million medical travelers visiting India annually. Also, India Medical Tourism Market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 35.68% from 2021-2027. The medical tourism market of India also holds the potential to have a market size of $14 billion.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Madaviya has declared Medical Tourism a champion sector and extend unparalleled support to its growth. The government is fully committed to making India the world’s top destination for medical tourism, with a goal to double its value to $12 billion within four years.
This ambitious initiative aims to develop a thriving industry that will generate employment opportunities for millions of people across the country. The government’s dedication to the growth of Medical Tourism signifies its vision to position India as a premier global healthcare destination, attracting patients from all corners of the world to benefit from the country’s cutting-edge medical services and hospitality.
India is a highly favored medical tourism destination as it combines Eastern Healthcare Wisdom and the expertise of Western Medicine.
India has been a pioneer in medical treatments since the Vedic period. The concept of surgery was introduced by Sushruta, an Indian physician, who later became known as the father of surgery due to his innovative contributions to surgical treatments.
Sushruta developed these surgical techniques around 800 B.C., and his practices were followed by Indians until the late 18th century. Other influential dynasties like the Mauryans, the Guptas, and the Harshas further enriched the knowledge of medicine during their rule. Additionally, the Mughal emperor Akbar promoted Ayurveda and introduced Unani medicine to India, originating from Greece and Persia.
With the arrival of colonial powers, Indians were exposed to different medical knowledge – the Western medicine. The British established medical colleges and institutions, introducing modern medical education and healthcare systems. Several British doctors, who had settled in India, such as Dr. Ronald Ross, made significant contributions to the medical sector. After gaining independence, many eminent freedom fighters, like Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, stepped forward to streamline the Indian medical sector and create roadmaps to pave the way for medical tourism.
After India gained independence from British rule in 1947, the private health sector initially provided only 5-10% of total patient care. However, in recent times, it has experienced remarkable growth, currently accounting for 82% of outpatient visits, 58% of inpatient expenditure, and 40% of institutional births.
India boasts a substantial number of private hospitals, totaling 43,486, offering 1.18 million beds, 59,264 ICUs, and 29,631 ventilators. In contrast, the public sector comprises of only 25,778 hospitals with 713,986 beds, 35,700 ICUs, and 17,850 ventilators. Notably, private healthcare infrastructure constitutes nearly 62% of India’s entire health infrastructure. (Source: Institut Montaigne)
In this article, we will explore the most popular medical treatments in India from a Medical tourism perspective.
Cardiac medicine has secured a top position among the popular medical treatments in India. The country has been at the forefront of innovations in the cardiac field, thanks to the advanced outlook and vision of a group of topmost Indian physicians.
Under the inspiring leadership of Bharatratna Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, they officially formed the Cardiological Society of India (CSI) on 4th April 1948, even before the establishment of the American College of Cardiology and many others. Since its inception, the knowledge pool in cardiology has been constantly growing, keeping India at the cutting edge of advancements in cardiac care.
Indian doctors have made notable contributions in the field of cardiology, such as:
- Kalam-Raju-Stent by former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and cardiologist B. Soma Raju, which led to reduction in prices of imported coronary stents in India by more than 50 percent.
- Indigenous 3D printing of heart valves, a technology that creates custom-made heart valves for patients who need replacement valves.
- Rauwolfia serpentina (Reserpin), an alkaloid from the extract of rauwolfia, it was the first anti-hypertensive Drug from India.
- Sree Chitra Valves for cheap valve replacement
- Indigenous Khalilullah-Mendez temporary pacemaker
- Chiral Molecules with less side effects
- Re-defining Yoga and Meditation in modern cardiology, as a therapeutic option for atherosclerotic coronary artery disease based on evidence.
Around 60,000 heart surgeries like CABG and heart valve repair are conducted in India annually. Till date, India has conducted 1328 heart transplants, 128 heart lungs transplants and 143 LVAD (Left Ventricle Assist Device) implants. Highest number of heart transplants have been done in two states – Delhi and Tamil Nadu.
India is doing about 90–100 heart transplants every year. There are more than 70 centers doing transplants. About 26 centers have done more than 10 heart transplants each. India does more than 60–80 lung transplants and about 100 heart transplants every year. Survival at 1 year for heart transplant is about 80%–90%, and for lung transplant, it is about 76% at 3 years. (Source: National Institute of Health).
Apart from conventional heart treatments, India also offers latest cardiology treatments like:
- Orbital atherectomy
- Laser angioplasty
- Rotational atherectomy
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
- Heart port surgery
- Ventricular remodelling Surgery
- Hybrid cardiac surgery (like hybrid ASD closure by a min-thoracotomy or mini-sternotomy)
India is distinguished as one of the very few countries that have achieved successful operations on infants to address congenital defects. Additionally, Indian cardiologists have demonstrated their expertise by conducting heart defect treatments on live fetuses, further showcasing their exceptional capabilities.
Indian hospitals have also introduced the groundbreaking concept of epidural anesthesia in cardiac surgery, allowing patients to remain conscious throughout the procedure without intubation. This innovative approach ensures well-maintained lung physiology, making it suitable for high-risk cases.
The future of Neurology in India is growing rapidly. Currently, there are 1100 practicing neurologists and more than 150 post-graduate trainees who join the ranks every year. Also, the field of neurosciences in India not only includes clinical Departments like Neuroradiology, Neuro-ophthalmology, Neurotology, Neuroanesthesia, Neuroendocrinology, etc.
but also includes basic sciences Departments like Developmental Neurobiology, Neuroimmunology, Neurovirology, Neurotoxicology, Neurooncology etc., in addition to Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology and neurochemistry. More recently, Behavioral Neurology, Computational Neuroscience, System Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences have been included.
The success rate of spinal surgeries is also quite high as compared to other countries, touching 90% in majority of the cases. Indian hospitals also employ latest techniques like endoscopy and robotic surgery to perform spinal surgeries, aiding in faster recovery. Using these approaches in performing the surgeries also decreases the duration of operation, making neuromedicine one of the most popular medical treatments in India.
Clinical trials are underway for promising new therapies, including gene therapy, stem cell transplantation, and electrical brain stimulation. These could transform the lives of those with currently incurable neurological conditions.
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Some latest spinal surgeries performed in India are:
- Vertebral Stentoplasty
- Biportal endoscopic technique
- Kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty
- Robot-assisted spine surgery
The Discseel Procedure
India stands at the forefront of advanced and cost-effective cancer treatments worldwide. The country provides accessible bone marrow transplants at affordable rates for severe blood cancers like Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, boasting a remarkable success rate of 60-90%.
As a sought-after medical destination, India attracts patients from Australia, Norway, the USA, and other countries for top-notch cancer treatments. Patients from Africa and the Middle East also prefer India for its high-quality healthcare services offered at reasonable costs. Conventional cancer treatment like chemotherapy is highly affordable compared to countries like the USA and Singapore, making it one of the most popular medical treatments in India.
Apart from conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, raditaion therapy, hormone therapy or immuotherapy, India also offers latest cancer therapies like:
- CyberKnife Surgery
- Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Proton therapy
- Hyperthermia/Thermal Therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- Endoscopic laser therapy
and many more.
Indian hospitals utilize cutting-edge radiotherapy techniques, including Image-guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), to combat cancer effectively. Additionally, they actively explore the potential of recently-launched drugs in the fight against cancer.
India is also the host to Apollo Proton Cancer Center – a pioneering Proton Centre; the first and only one in South Asia and the Middle East. It proudly holds the distinction of being India’s first JCI accredited Cancer hospital.
The presence of highly-skilled surgeons has made bariatric surgery one of the most popular medical treatments in India for international patients. Since the first bariatric procedure was performed in India in 1999, there has been a steady increase in the number of procedures performed each year. More than 25,000 bariatric surgeries are performed in India annually. Also, the success rate of bariatric surgery in India stands between 60-80%.
There have been latest developments in the medical sector in India to develop more advanced techniques for performing bariatric surgery. These include:
- Laparoscopic single anastomosis (Mini‐) gastric bypass
- Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy
- Biliopancreatic diversion/duodenal switch (BPD/DS)
- Duodenojejunal bypass with sleeve gastrectomy (DJB‐SG)
- Single anastomosis duodeno‐ileostomy (SADI)
There has been a systematic shift from laparoscopic technique to endoscopic techniques for carrying out bariatric surgeries due to increased efficacy, hence better results.
More than 1 lakh knee surgeries are done in India. Cost-effective, high-value treatments combined with years of expertise makes orthopedics one of the most popular medical treatments in India for international patients. Knee replacement and Hip replacement are the most common orthopedic surgeries in India, with a success rate of 90%.
The CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of last 25 years for total knee replacement surgery in India is an impressive 32%. Indian hospitals have started using robotic systems to perform these surgeries, which has enhanced the results and have provided long-term relief to the patients.
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