India - Losing Edge in Low Cost Medical Treatment

Medical Tourism is a much hyped subject these days. A look at the Medical Visas issued by the Ministry of External Affairs shows that more than 50% of the patients coming to India for medical treatment are from Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Rest of the patients are from Middle East and Africa. Very few patients from the developed world are touching down at Indian Airports

Indian healthcare has made rapid strides in the past decade in terms of the quality of infrastructure and manpower but the quality of international marketing leaves a lot to be desired. The International Marketing teams at most of the corporate hospitals do nothing in terms of brand development and are only busy in getting patients through `Facilitators'. This almost complete reliance on the middlemen to get international patients has made the costs rise by almost 50% in the last few years. The cost advantage enjoyed by India over competing countries like Thailand, Mexico and Costa Rica has reduced to just 30-40% which is not a significant cost saving for any potential patient to look towards India. The main reason for this rising of the cost of treatment is the huge commission paid to these facilitators. Some of the hospitals are paying as much as 35% of the package cost to these middlemen as commission. In order to recover the cost the hospitals have increased their prices by almost 50%. A Knee Replacement Surgery which was being done for USD 8000 till about 5 years back now costs USD 12000 at the same hospital. This increase of USD 4000 is on account of the commissions paid to the middlemen.

Anurag Srivastava Vice President GNH HospitalAnurag Srivastava, Vice President GNH Hospital says that we do not entertain any middlemen and get all our patients directly and therefore are able to pass on the benefit to the patient. However we are able to attract only English speaking patients as most of the patients coming to India from the middle east or the former Soviet Republics do not speak English and are therefore relying on the so called facilitators masquerading as translators. These translators have arrangement with the hospitals to bring patients for commission.  Since we do not pay any commissions we do not get these patients. However we get patients who are looking for low cost of treatment and are able to use internet for searching for the right hospitals in India. We are one of the few hospitals in the country which openly mentions the packages for surgical treatments on our website. Our packages are almost 30-40% cheaper than the other hospitals. A comparison can be seen by the chart below:

Surgery GNH Hospital   Other Indian Hospitals
  Price in USD   Price in USD
Bilateral Knee Replacement 8000   12000
Unilateral Hip Replacement 4500   6500
Breast Augmentation 2200   3000
Penile Implant Surgery 14000   18000
Cataract Surgery 700   1050
Spinal Instrumentation 4500   6500
Ovarian Cyst Surgery 2500   3500
Uterine Fibroids Surgery 3500   5800
ACL / PCL Repair 2800   4000

Unless the top end hospitals understand the real essence of medical tourism which is providing good quality treatment at low cost the medical tourism market of India is going to die a quiet death. The hospitals will have to start branding themselves rather than relying on middlemen if they intend to bring the cost of treatment down. 





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