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The latest initiative by India’s Ministry of Tourism is the Draft National Strategy and Roadmap for Medical and Wellness Tourism. The National Strategy aims at formulating an institutional framework, developing a brand, and strengthening the ecosystem towards both, availability and quality assurance, centred around the following salient features:
- Distinct roles defined for five ministries and NABH
- State Governments to enhance the ground infrastructure and promote MVT proactively
- Transparency in transactions by hospitals and healthcare facilities
- Industry associations to create market outreach and promote Brand India
- Allied sectors to boost accessibility by way of flights, accommodation
There is a need for organising the sector by way of registration, accreditation and categorisation of MVT facilitators as well as Medical Service Providers. This would provide a mechanism for mutual coordination between only registered and accredited bodies to create a trustworthy ecosystem, eliminating undesirable elements.
The following steps are envisaged to achieve the required outcome:
- Health insurance portability by way of extended insurance cover. It would be relevant to work towards inclusion of Indian Health Insurance companies in the global market. Alternatively, hospitals may be empanelled directly by international TPAs.
- Developing Medical Enclaves for Foreign Patients. A medical complex with customised features, amenities and medical facilities may be created, with hospitals or healthcare companies gaining by way of concessional rates, duties, etc on infrastructure creation as well as consumables. The development of such hospi-towns may be explored in PPP mode.
- Development of SWTX. Special Wellness Tourism Zones may be encouraged at state level offering comprehensive end-t-oend services for health, medical and wellness interventions, again developed on PPP model or with FDI.
- Capacity Building. With the anticipated increase in inflow, groundwork for policy alignment, infrastructure development as well as skilling needs to be expedited in order to be future-ready.
- Online MVT Portal. The existing portal needs a makeover with integration of all services a medical traveller would need, while also carrying advisories, regulations and information for transparency and ease.
Amidst such escalating popularity and growing demand for MVT, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight back on healthy living, preventive medicines, nutrition, and immunity building. Knowing that the infection shows wide ranging symptoms and impacts various organ systems, its actual impact on the global population is yet to be assessed, with public health experts believing that it may have a significant effect on the long-term health of the affected population.
(Excerpted from ‘Medical value tourism in India: What makes the country a leading Medical Tourism Destination’ published on 27.09.21 at financialexpress.com )