Medical tourism refers to people traveling abroad to obtain medical treatment.


In the past, this usually referred to those who traveled from less-developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for treatment unavailable at home.

Nowadays, medical tourism equally refer to those from developed countries who travel to developing countries for lower-priced medical treatments.

Medical tourism most often is for surgeries(cosmetic or otherwise) or similar treatments, though people also travel for dental tourism or fertility tourism.

People with rare conditions may travel to countries where the treatment is better understood. However, almost all types of health care are available, including psychiatry, alternative medicine, convalescent care, and even burial services.

Health tourism is a wider term for travel that focuses on medical treatments and the use of healthcare services.

It covers a wide field of health-oriented tourism ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment to rehabilitational and curative forms of travel. Wellness tourism is a related field.


The first recorded instance of people travelling for medical treatment dates back thousands of years to when Greek pilgrims traveled from the eastern Mediterranean to a small area in the Saronic Gulfcalled Epidauria. This territory was the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios.

Spa towns and sanitaria were early forms of medical tourism. In 18th-century Europe patients visited spas because they were places with supposedly health-giving mineral waters, treating diseases from gout to liver disorders and bronchitis.


Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries.

The avoidance of waiting times is the leading factor for medical tourism from the UK, whereas in the US, the main reason is cheaper prices abroad. Furthermore, death rates even in the developed countries differ extremely, i.e. UK versus seven other leading countries, including the US.

India is the most prominent destination as per the Medical Tourism Market Report: 2015 due to highest quality treatment provided at the lowest cost. In Oct 2015, the value of Indian medical tourism was estimated to be $ 3 billion and it is expected to reach $ 7 -8 billion by 2020.

As per the CII-Grant Thornton report released in October-2015, 34% of medical tourist are from Bangladesh and Afghanistan, 30 % are from Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States and remaining from Africa and Middle East

Factors attracting medical tourist to India:

Medical tourism is growing by 30% each year. Chennai is named as the “Health Capital of India”, as it attracts 45% of medical tourist due to number of multi and super-specialty hospitals. It is estimated that Chennai has approximately 150 international patients every day. The various factors which attract medical tourist to India are:

1) Cost:

India provides the highest quality healthcare at the lowest price. The cost of treatment in India is one-tenth the cost of same treatment in US/UK. For example, Heart Bypass cost approximately $ 123,000 in US and whereas in India it cost approximately $7900.

2) Quality

India provides treatment of high quality using the latest technology and technique. India has 28 JCI accredited hospitals.

3) Waiting time:

In developed countries like US, UK and Canada patients have to wait for major surgeries. India has no waiting time or very less waiting time for surgeries.

4) Language:

Despite linguistic diversity in India, English is considered as an official language. Due to which communication becomes easy with foreign patients as it is an international language.

5) Travel:

Government of India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Tourist are working hard to make India a more prominent medical destination. For this purpose, medical visa (M-visa) has been introduced, which allows a medical tourist to be in India for a specific period. Apart from this, visa on arrival is granted for citizens from few countries, which allows them to stay in India for 30 days

Way forward for India for medical tourism for growth

Medical tourism is a competitive sector. In order to attract medical tourist, following things should be done:

1. Invest in technology:

Medical tourists get attracted to world class healthcare facilities. You need to invest wisely in providing best practices and facilities. The cost for it depends on the type of facility being provided. For increasing accessibility, create an app for your hospital or clinic; it will cost approximately 5 lakhs.

2. Have a strong online presence:

Online marketing is very important in medical tourism. You need to maintain a user-friendly and easy-to-understand website and blog. The cost of maintaining a CMS website is approximately 15,000 rupees and a blog page will cost you approximately 500 rupees per year for domain name and hosting. Answer queries; keep live chat option to be accessible all time. Live chat cost approximately 1200 rupees per month. Be active on social media like Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Facebook has an option of promoting page and it can cost you 17.44 to 36.8 rupees per like.

3. Collaborate:

Medical tourism is a team effort. You need to invest for collaborating with hospitality partners, representatives of international health office, etc.

Additional service to attract medical tourist:

Apart from quality healthcare, medical tourists should be provided with other services in order to make their travel and stay comfortable. Additional services to be provided for medical tourists are:

1. Quotation Assistance:

Quotation is a primary concern for a medical tourist. Physicians should make an approximate quotation based upon the medical intervention and hospital stay required.

2. Visa Assistance:

Visa invitation letter is needed for applying medical visa to India. Upon receiving the required details such as passport number, visa invitation letter should be issued for prospective foreign patient.

3. Collaborate:

Medical tourism is a team effort. You need to invest for collaborating with hospitality partners, representatives of international health office, etc.

3. Accommodation service:

Comfort is very important, invest in it. Rooms for international patients should be spacious and have 24*7 room service, laundry service, internet, AC, TV and meals facility. Collaborate with a travel agency, five-star hotels, guest house, etc. in order to ensure comfort.

4. Interpretation service:

The staff hired for international patients should be fluent in speaking English. In case of non-English speaking patients, translators should be hired. Pay scale for translators is approximately 4.2 lakh p.a.

5. Security service:

Safety cannot be compromised. Sufficient investment must be done for hiring efficient man power and using latest technology.