Revisiting outsourced medical care

Some time ago I wrote that low costs alone are insufficient to attract foreign patients to India – there must be a reputation for high quality and perhaps other positive selling points. Today’s edition of the Indian Express has an article – cheekily (and erroneously) titled “Business Patient Outsourcing” – that suggests there is indeed an effort to improve the total healthcare experience.

Surgery plus stay in a star hospital in India actually works out cheaper for foreign nationals in comparison with medical care in their home countries. The advantage of the rupee is sweeping: Weigh Rs 2 to 3 lakh (approx US$5000) for hip or knee replacement in Mumbai against Rs 10 lakh (approx US$22,000) in USA, UK. Or Rs 1 crore (US$220,000) in the US against Rs 11 lakh ($US25,000) in India for a bone marrow transplant. For identical surgery, equipment, technology, drugs.

And then there are the perks of Indian medicine: Nice, chatty doctors with stints at American or European hospitals, non-existent waitlists, tie-ups with star hotels for recuperation and the bonus of a short holiday in Kerala or Rajasthan…

Meanwhile, a task force at the Central government level is planning a medical tourism agenda. A recent McKinsey report pegs the growth rate of medical tourism at 15 per cent over the last five years. It promises hospitals attractive returns. Think $2 billion by 2012.[Indian Express]