Medical tourism in India? Healthcare in India? I can almost hear you ask incredulously. Yes..says yours truly. It is definitely a booming industry. In fact, our visit to India for was for medical tourism, and no..it is not a tour of medical equipment or traditional medicine men, but a profitable business in developing countries. India is not only about the Taj Mahal or the other wonderful sights, it is also about excellent medical care.
Medical tourism has been around for a while, a long while actually. In the good old days, the norm was for people from underdeveloped or third world countries to seek medical help in the developed countries such as the United States and England if they could afford it. The reasons for doing so differed. For some, it was a matter of perception , that medical care is better in the first world setting. For others, it might be that the specific medical equipment needed might not be readily available in their own country. Many people also considered it essential for bragging rights, after all, it sounds cool to say you actually flew to the U.S for some surgery :-) . Nowadays though, the tide has changed. Medical care in first world countries has become so insanely expensive that a lot of people are shut out of seeking medical care. A lot of so called third world countries have picked up the slack and now offer affordable healthcare in their own countries, using state of the art equipment. There are so many types of medical tourism in India, you can just take your pick, some of India medical tourism treatments and surgeries include:
- Dental medical tourism in India? Yep!
- Orthopedic medical tourism
- Cosmetic surgery
- Heart surgery
- Weight Loss Bariatric surgery
- Oncology (cancer) treatment
- Eye surgery
- Stem cell theraphy
Types of Medical Tourism in India and Beyond:
- Outbound medical tourism – this is when a patient travels from their home country to a foreign country for medical services.
- Inbound medical tourism – this is when a patient travels from a foreign country back to their home country for medical help.
- Domestic (Intrabound) – this is when a person travels from one part of their country to another for specialized help, no foreign travel involved.
I first noticed it several years ago while still working as a pharmacist. I would have some patients come in for extra supply of medications and in conversing with them would discover that they were headed to exotic places like Costa Rica, Thailand, and India to undergo surgeries like hip replacement and organ transplants. You have probably heard of people heading to places like Mexico and Brazil for vanity cosmetic surgeries. Some had no insurance and were self paying. Some, however had insurance and were going with the blessing of the insurance companies who doled out Visa cards for the patient to charge on.
I won’t disclose names of the insurance companies, but think big..very big..yep! Big!!! It was way cheaper for the companies to pay for the flight of the patient, spouse or caretaker to say Israel, have the operation, private room, rehabilitation etc..total first class care than to have them do the operation in the U.S. For instance, a liver transplant costs north of $375,000!!! Most patients would have a copay that could amount to thousands. I asked the co-ordination here how much one would cost here…$45,000!!!! Do you now see why it is more cost effective to outsource it? The disparity is mind boggling ;-) .
Medical treatment for foreigners in India is a booming business. There are also a growing number of insurance companies specializing in foreign medical insurance similar to ones offered in your home country. They are often cheaper for both the patient and the insurance company.
My brother has an autoimmune disease that is causing him a lot of problems. He has been hurting for a while and the decision was finally made to transfer his care to Delhi, India as Nigeria does not have the specialists to deal with it. His previous care had been in the U.S, but without insurance, there was no way to self pay. I didn’t want him to go through the ordeal alone, and so we made the decision to accompany him. He had to apply for a medical visa through the Indian embassy which was a real pain in the ass. They have this vision of everyone wanting to “stay” in India, which is the farthest thing from the truth. When you have a third world country passport, you are treated horribly by most countries’. It’s even more horrible when it’s a Nigerian passport :-( . In the end, the visa came through very close to our November trip and we had to come at the last minute. Federico flew in to Delhi by himself, while l made the detour to Nigeria to pick him up and fly together.
Related Reading: Our honest feelings about New Delhi
In the last week and half, he has been poked, pricked, scanned and had every sort of test done. He has been a trooper, and l am happy to say that the tumor found is not cancerous, but part of his condition . This is such a great relief. Having lost my immediate older sister to breast cancer, l definitely did not want to lose my younger brother. He will be needing surgery though, so there is still some fear.
Healthcare in India:
I can confirm that healthcare in India is excellent. I decided to get a complete physical since l was already here. I settled on the Gold Package, one of 6 offered . This included:
-blood panel with differential
-heart, with treadmill
-thyroid, progesterone, occult stool, pap smear,
-whole abdomen with TVS
There were some others, a crap load of stuff, and all was done in 1.5 days! A nurse took you to each department, and once done there, you go back to the nurses station and then were taken to the next one. Two days later, my report was ready and l was taken to see a general practitioner who told me everything l already knew :-) ..high sugar, fatty liver, overweight. It totally sucked to hear it still..so of course l have to make some changes, back to the gym. I had been doing so well in Malaga as the gym was only a five minute walk and cost €10 monthly. In Seville, the closest gym is 10 minute drive and costs €60 monthly which totally pisses me off. It’s a tiny gym also. Lots of thinking to do..maybe drive an extra 10 minutes for another one or go back to walking which we did lots of before we had the car. They were surprised at my lungs, heart, and fitness level..not even breathing hard on their treadmill no matter how steep they set it :-) . Haha..there is muscle hiding under all that fat!!! The grand total of my package? $204.39. I did add on a dental cleaning for a further $17 :-) . You just can’t beat the price.
The name of the hospital is Artemis. It is located in a bustling industrial city about 20 miles outside Delhi called Gurgaon. The staff has been top notch. You are assigned a coordinator who herds you from place to place and makes sure things run smoothly. So far, we have spent less than $1500 including the colonoscopy and biopsy, whole body pet scan, consultation with the head oncologist, gastroenterologist , urologist and surgeon. Artemis hospital offers everything from cancer care to transplant to women and childcare, even cosmetic surgery. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to use them again. They are so organized. They will set you up with an Indian SIM card, there is a currency exchange office right in the building. The cafeteria has great food, including a Subway and Costa coffee. They also arranged for lodging for my brother at a wonderful guest house close to the hospital. They cook him breakfast and drop us off at the hospital daily, all for $23.10 daily at the current exchange rate.
Would l recommend medical tourism in India??? You better believe it! The care is excellent. The hospital is well maintained. They have the latest machines, and the doctors are wicked knowledgeable. The waiting rooms are like a mini United Nations. Really, people are from everywhere :-) . I know my brother is in very capable hands, and even though l will not be here when he has surgery, another one of my sisters will be. In my mind, this is one of the best hospitals in India from the care we received. The only bad thing l can say about the hospital is that there is no real privacy. Nobody knows how to give you a bit of personal space. Even when consulting with the doctor, prepare to have other patients barging in, sitting around you waiting their turn, several patients with several doctors in the same room. It’s not like anybody gives a crap about your stuff, it’s just very weird when you are not used to it. I did also get to have my Shirley Mclaine moment like in Terms of Endearment when they were wasting time instead of giving my brother a shot of dye. He was getting dizzy from not having eaten. After that, we had 2 extra people clearing the way. :-) .
Are you fully insured? Would you consider medical tourism as an alternative if you could save lots of money? Which countries would you visit for a nip and tuck or more?
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Updated: My brother came through his surgery fine. He continued to get excellent care. He was assigned a caretaker to help with his diet and get him accustomed to his new lease on life. Even after flying back home, his doctor called often to check up on him which is amazing all in itself. He has been back for a second surgery to remove the colostomy bag and recently went back for post checkup and is doing very well.