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Trends that will Dominate Medical Tourism in India in 2018 One of the key trends in 2018 will be consumers accessing mobile health applications or consulting their doctors online

By Dr Vernon P. Desa

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The image of a nation is often shaped by a combination of a hard and soft power but over the years, thanks to the establishment of global institutions and markets, hard power has gradually given way to soft power and countries have increasingly rallied resources and spent time behind improving or consolidating their soft power. A great way to accumulate goodwill and soft power is by focusing on tourism. India's soft power credentials have been driven by the film industry and the country's aesthetic appeal – thanks to the vibrancy of our people, their customs. But one major contributor to our tourism wing comes thanks to our medical industry. For decades, "tourists' have flocked to India in order to not only enjoy the sights and sounds of the country but also due to the ease of access to healthcare and medical procedures, both of which may either be inaccessible due to the underdeveloped medical ecosystem in their countries or the ballooning costs of accessing healthcare.

Thus, India's medical industry is an ideal place to gauge the shifting trends in medical tourism and also serves as a window into what could drive this niche contributor into the much larger tourism ecosystem.

Alternative Medicine

Since time immemorial, India has always been a hub for "alternative' medicine as our domestic market has always been a haven for Ayurveda, Homeopathy, and Naturopathy based treatments. But residents of other countries, especially the more developed Western nations, have been slow to embrace these forms of medicine. But in 2018, we expect alternative medicine to be a large contributor towards medical tourism owing to greater awareness about our methods and the dividends it can have on an individual's health. These advantages are compounded by the fact that healthcare in many parts of the world remain a huge concern owing to the expense incurred by individual consumers.


Digitization has been all-consuming and its effects have transformed and disrupted every industry, including healthcare. One of the key trends in 2018 will be consumers accessing mobile health applications or consulting their doctors online. India is already the fastest growing mobile market in the world and as more of the population becomes aware of various digital offerings, the transition will be imminent especially as credible medical institutions are exploring digital solutions. This will help in alleviating the huge burden being put on the healthcare system in India. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has also set up the National Health Portal which will accelerate this trend as doctors will have access to more data and patients can quickly check on the nearest facility or doctor they can consult with.

Dental Tourism

Whilst India's medical tourism credentials have been well established, the country is also home to a thriving dentistry practice. Indian dentists are respected within the medical community and in the next few years, dentistry is expected to play an even bigger role in medical tourism. Our dentists receive patients from the Middle-East and the SAARC region for treatments ranging from regular check-ups to tooth cleaning and replacement. The services are also very economically viable as a procedure like an extraction would hover in the region of $3 but the same procedure could cost as much as $100 in the US or a European nation.

Robotic Surgery

Across the world, the name Leonardo Da Vinci resonates with art, architecture and the Italian inventor is rightfully spoken off in the same breath as Edison, Tesla and Graham Bell. What is however not equally acknowledged in the public domain is Da Vinci's fascination towards understanding the human anatomy. Inspired by the late Italian inventor, Intuitive Surgical – an American company, invented the Da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic surgical device that was approved by the Food & Drug Association. This approval was a paradigm shift in medical procedures and the science of robotics vis-à-vis surgical procedures hasn't looked back. Fast-forward to 2017 and hospitals worldwide are using robotics in surgery and here, Indian hospitals are definitely riding the technology wave. Currently, India has over 300 trained robotic surgeons and these surgeons – robot-assisted – are tackling complicated surgeries like organ reconstruction and removal, surgery on tissues damaged by cancer and coronary artery bypass. Whilst cost of procurement for these devices remain high, but the speed at which technology is breaking new ground means that in a few years costs will drop and robot-assisted surgeries will increase.

Dr Vernon P. Desa

Director, Medical Affairs, Clinical Compliance & Governance

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