Medical tourism industry registers biggest downfall

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Medical tourism (Image: MIMS Today)
Medical tourism (Image: MIMS Today)

New Delhi : In 2019, India was ranked as the third most preferred destination for medical tourism, with the industry set to reach $9 billion in valuation in 2020 according to Ministry of Tourism figures. But with the coronavirus pandemic, the industry is now one of the worst-hit sectors with its survival being most difficult.

In discussion with Mr. Arun Sangwan, the Founder of METRA shared that small & mid-sized Organizations working in this sector have been facing a lot of issues in the last Four to five months with international travel coming to a standstill and are starting at zero revenues and expenses remains to be disbursed like salaries, rent, maintenance, technology to connect & address patients from across globe & lot more. It would be big challenge for medical tourism startups to survive even when the travel ban is lifted.

Approximately over 80, 0000 jobs are at stake, these are individuals who are actively involved in patient coordination and highly trained in ensuring that patient gets the right treatment from the right doctor at the right cost. They also ensure patient/attendant convenience – these are roving brand ambassadors of Indian MVT and they are now on the verge of collapse. If we do not resume MVT to India, a lot of them might take to unethical and illegitimate means to sustain their families – this would be very sad and destroy/impact not just the individuals but their families too.

Mr. Arun Sangwan, the Founder of METRA Suggests, International flights should resume, visa issuance to India needs to resume – with a focus on the medical visa; while it generate forex but also saves human lives and leads to a lot of other forex activities due to the intense contact that these foreigners have with the Indians and India culture for at least two weeks and more.

He shared, Hospitals are empty today – MVT brings business to the hospitals and accounts for almost 35 to 40 % of the total business. This leads to investment in innovations and research; and impacts a vast segment of the Indian society monetarily. Hospitals have stopped and not cleared referral payments to MVT intermediaries of pre lockdown period – this is leading to further crisis to the MVT intermediaries who have been the strongest catalyst to the MVT growth in India. If we do not resume soon, a lot of these trained individuals will leave the sector thus burdening healthcare with lack of expertise in these critical areas and training will take a lot of time and effort – is highly likely to impact the quality of service too.

A lot of potential patients will travel to competition countries thus endangering the very MVT to India – we may have to cut process further thus damaging the economics of the entire healthcare deliver lifecycle. And less revenues will mean cutting corners and further damage to the reputation and credibility of the Indian MVT and healthcare, adds Arun Sangwan , the Founder of METRA.

We have shone bright on the Covid-19 front – now is the time to monetize this as more and more patients will want to come to a healthcare-wise accomplished place such as India. However, this delay in opening up will impact it negatively as people seeking treatment cannot wait; delay/wait means death. He suggests the government to Recognize Medical Value Tourism companies as an independent industry and to provide financial stimulus and support, which brings in so much forex to the country.

I don’t think medical tourism will get back to on track until beginning of 2021, provided we are not hit by more crises. We request the government to reduce restrictions on international patients coming to India as soon as possible, with adequate measures to ensure such patients don't spread COVID-19 as that’s the hope for medical tourism players to get back to business.