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Medical Tourism in Northeast India - by Dr. Gitartha Roymedhi



Medical Tourism is something everyone knows about but very few understand. It can be broadly defined as provision of cost effective private medical care in collaboration with the tourism industry for patients. Medical tourism provides patients with the opportunity to receive top quality medical services in a foreign country at cheaper prices. It is an established industry in other countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. India is a major medical tourism facilitator in the world. The Northeast India is coming up as a favorable hub for medical tourism for the neighboring countries. The Government of India and the Ministry of Health along with Confederation of Indian Industries started to promote it actively. Recently the Government of Assam has also showed its positive interest towards this issue.

In present days, Medical Tourism occupies a vast market in India. Like any other growing industries, it is all about Demand, Supply and Quality-Assurance. Every year about 150,000 foreigners are visiting India for treatment purpose. The Ministry of External Affairs has set up the provision of issuing Medical Visas for those seeking health-care in India. In India Chennai, Vellore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata are most preferred destination for Medical tourism. Medical Tourism is poised to be the next Indian success story after Information Technology. The cost of medical services in India is almost 30% lower to that in Western countries and the cheapest in South-east Asia. In the Northeastern Region it can be availed in much cheaper rates. The seven sister's region of India is in the process of becoming a favorite Health Destination. This region particularly cities like Guwahati, Shillong, Imphal and Dimapur has come up with lots of improvements and progresses in the health sector, so these place develop potential to attract multiple patients from countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. As like the other parts of the country, Northeast can be transformed into favorite destination for health-care also for the patients from the African Continent, Central Asia, Western Europe and Middle East.

It is a common man's thinking that healthcare is better outside the region. But the reality in cities like Guwahati and Shillong, almost every possible healthcare qualities are available. The current deficiencies will be also fulfilled within next couple of years. It is just required to be recognized. Indian hospitals excel in oncology, onco surgery, radiation therapy, cardiology, cardio-thoracic surgery, joint replacements, transplants, cosmetic treatments, dental care, orthopedic surgery etc. These options for treatments are available in many private hospitals in the Northeastern region. In Western Europe although the government delivers free-health-care, the waiting lists for important surgical procedures are so long that people are compelled to suffer. Immediate surgery in Private hospitals being exorbitantly expensive, they have no choice but to seek treatment overseas. The same way patients from the Middle East, USA and Canada prefer India as the health destination to avail the quality treatments in a lower price. In African Continent and Central Asia, medical technology has not yet reached and infrastructure not yet developed. So even money cannot buy the proper health care there. As the result they flock to other countries. Similarly countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal lacks quality healthcare, so they prefers Indian hospitals.

India offers the cheapest rates for all surgical procedures like Oncology, Cardiac, Spinal, Cosmetic, Orthopedic, Gynecology, Urology, Dental and Transplant Surgery as compared to countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Northeast India can provide even more cheaper. The cost of travel, accommodation and fooding in Northeastern cities are reasonable and affordable comparing to other Indian cities. This region has sufficient man power. Beside the local languages, English is widely and fluently spoken in the region. As like other big multifunctional hospitals, the hospitals in Northeast India also installing the latest technological equipment like Flat-Panel Detector Cardiac Cath Lab system, combined Gamma Camera, CT systems, Brain-Suite with Intra-Operative MRI, 3-Tesla MRIscanner and 64-slice CT-scanner. Most of the Surgeons and Physicians here in are qualified and trained abroad. There are many regular and visiting specialists and super specialists almost in every hospital. Nurses, technicians and other para medics are also well trained and experienced. Somehow states like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Manipur has excellent connectivity with the neighboring countries through international borders. Cities like Guwahati, Agartala, Dimapur and Imphal are also well connected to all the major Indian cities both by rail and air. Promoting and developing the medical tourism in northeast India will bring end to many problems that the region is currently facing. Unemployment is first in the list. It will also popularize region's ethnic tribes, language, life styles, traditions, costumes, food habits etc. Many well known hospitals have strengthened their roots in the region and many other including few international set ups are looking for the opportunity. They have the potential to provide full pledged medical service both to the locals and visiting foreigners. All the services that starts with receiving the patient from the airport, dropping the back after the discharge, tele medicine, interpreter, online consultation, special diets and many such services are already available in many private health institutes of the region. The provision for air ambulance is also available now days. The cool and pleasant climate of the region will add extra comfort for the foreign patients during their stay for the treatments. The medical tourism can bring a revolution in the region. This process is being facilitated by the corporate sector involved in medical care as well as the tourism industry - both private and public. We just need to fuel the fire.