One major barrier that is impeding the uninhibited growth of the global medical tourism zone is lack of one brand initiative. Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and several other countries have established boards formed by tourism authorities, chambers of commerce, ministries of health and private organisations with one shared objective. In India, there is lack of a single, unified body that works towards a common goal. There is also a single brand initiative missing, as can be seen with ‘Singapore Medicine.’
Creating ‘Brand India’ as a whole is essential where regional activities could add flavor to one common purpose. Perception of destination plays an important role and India needs to do a lot to improve the international public’s view of it as a viable healthcare destination. Just having few quality accredited hospitals doesn’t in itself create an overall high impact image.
Another major hurdle is poor marketing strategies. Many small-scale Indian healthcare organisations emphasise India as a cheaper destination, but there is a significant distinction in what is cheap and what is ‘value for money’. India has a long way to go to establish itself as a leading medical tourism brand that can offer high quality healthcare at affordable prices, with an additional pull factor being its attractive tourism activities.
Creating such common objectives is essential and India needs to know exactly what it should be promoting. Residents’ needs should always be a priority and the country should expand its services to international clients only when these have been met. Overproduced services can be actively marketed to overseas patients as an important revenue stream. Services which are less supplied should, in turn, not be promoted, as residents’ needs must take precedence over the tapping into of international market opportunities.
Realizing the Potential of Medical Tourism International standard certifications in healthcare can synthesise quality. The Government should actively support the growth of healthcare corporations by offering incentives, creating institutional infrastructures, supporting an accreditation system and promoting the overseas selling of medical tourism through participation in trade missions, global medical tourism congresses and networking events.
Medical expertise should be harnessed by refining education and revolutionizing research. Coalition with insurance companies abroad can help tap the database of potential customers. As a source of foreign revenue, the medical tourism industry is now becoming a pledge for prosperity in a country that is already a favoured tourist destination. The country can develop good regional medical tourism activities as well, the position of each individual Indian state in the medical tourism sector depends on the strategies they have utilized to promote their services.
Tamil Nadu has initiated several innovative approaches to attain their high standing. One such example is an exclusive ‘Medical Tourism Desk’ that operates at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Complex, which is manned by efficient and courteous staff. In addition to this, the Government has identified certain hospitals to help showcase medical tourism. There is also a large pool of experienced medical, paramedical, IT, travel and tour operators, which helps make the state a first choice for medical tourism. These are some important ingredients that can make up a successful recipe for medical tourism.
In addition, there needs to be a comprehensive understanding of international patient healthcare and non-healthcare needs, with cultural, legal and ethical issues discussed at length.