India: The Oldest “World-Wide” Medical Tourism Destination?

India: The Oldest “World-Wide” Medical Tourism Destination?

India has served as the world’s spice and herb trade epicenter from the time of Romans who celebrated the medicinal value of herbs and spices.  For centuries – and to today – the world has trekked to India as an eminent destination for healing.  Making India, perhaps, the oldest worldwide medical tourism destination.

Like most of the former British colonized Asian countries, India provides a rich blend of conventional Western, scientific method medicine and traditional holistic healing.   Considered the birthplace of yoga, many vacation to India for its numerous tranquil yoga and meditation spas.  This conglomeration of spas and treatments provides medical tourists an ideal option for post-care recuperation while offering a relaxing get-away for their travel companions – ideal for couples and families.

India’s healthcare system is paradoxical – on the one hand, it boasts of ‘best in class’ healthcare delivery attracting medical tourists from across the world, and on the other, it is characterized by a near absence of accessible, affordable quality health services for a large part of its rural population.  India does provide public healthcare facilities but the private healthcare sector provides more capital, better technology, expertise, etc.

Medical tourism is considered a critical contributor to India’s medical initiatives.  As a result The Indian government advocates medical tourism; they continue to address infrastructure challenges as well as developing compliance and international quality standards and marketing initiatives.

The most popular treatments sought in India by medical tourists include:

  • Alternative medicine
  • Bone-marrow transplant
  • Cardiac bypass
  • Eye surgery
  • Hip replacement
  • Heart surgery
  • Hip resurfacing

Quality of medical care delivered: As of December 2012, there were over 20 JCI Joint Commission International (JCI) Accredited medical centers in India.

English is a common language in India.  Most schools teach in English, perhaps due to the history of British colonization.  Therefore American and English foreigners are less likely to face a language barrier.

Several quality medical universities can be found in India. The most prominent is most likely Harvard Medical. Harvard Medical International formed an alliance with the Indian Medical School in 1997.  Today this is one of the fastest growing Harvard Medical campuses in the world.  In addition, India ranks fourth in the number of students it sends to Harvard U.S, with over 200 attending year. Harvard has about 1,500 alumni in India.

India’s most popular destination for healthcare is Chennai.  It’s often referred to as “India’s Health Capital”.  It’s estimated over 150 international patients visit Chennai every day.  There are many “group” and specialty hospitals, and dentists, across the city.

Chennai attracts about 45 percent of health tourists from abroad arriving in the country and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists.  The city has an estimated 12,500 hospital beds.  Patients from other states of the country and foreign medical tourists use over half of these.


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