Commerce & Management studies

Medical Tourism in Goa Tina D’costa TYBBA MES college of Arts, Commerce & Management studies Medical Tourism The seven wonders of the world are all too well known. However one can’t help but marvel at other developments, that have developed magnificently over the years. These unsung heroes are the ones that carry Indias legacy forward. India in a developing country, but we do not wish to limit ourselves to the meaning of the word that entails ‘developing’.

If one takes a look at the Medical facilities offered here in India, they would be amazed at the state of the art facilities and quality of service one receives, that complies to international standards. Particularly if you are an NRI, tourist or foreigner, you can be sure of receiving unprecedented attention. The common man too can now find solutions of world-class healthcare with very affordable price tags.

Health care and tourism seems quite an odd couple, but with the growing needs in the health-care industry coupled with the idea of a holiday after, is irresistible and people are looking towards India both for allopathic and ayurvedic treatments. The idea of medical tourism never crossed the Goan mind until the seting up of the Apollo Victor Hospital at Margao which is the first super specialty, multi-specialty, tertiary care hospital in the state. With the advent of this hospital, Goa suddenly woke up to this new concept, which caters to people coming in either for planned treatments or for unplanned treatments.

Medical tourism is a recent phenomenon in Goa. Many world class medical hospitals like Apollo and Vivus have been started in Goa, which provide world class facilities at a fraction of the corresponding cost abroad. Foreigners from many developed countries prefer to come to Goa for a variety of treatment ranging from dental surgery, hearing problems, knee replacements to even heart surgery. This is a market where Goa has potential for further development and the government should take steps to see that this market can be sustained and increased medical tourism can be promoted in the future.

India’s smallest state, Goa, has earned a negative reputation for its drug culture, rave parties, and nude beaches. However, the Ministry of Tourism is trying to reverse this image through its active promotion of medical tourism. The Ministry is making laudable efforts to showcase the state’s potential, especially in offering medical vacations for tourists who continue to find affordable health care insurance a rarity back in their respective countries.

Considering the thousands of tourists who flock to Goa annually for its beautiful scenery and its rich architectural heritage, the medical tourism industry here is projected to record impressive growth. Tourism is Goa’s primary industry. It handles 13% of all foreign tourist arrivals in India. Goa has two main tourist seasons: winter and summer. In the winter time, tourists from abroad (mainly Europe) come to Goa to enjoy the splendid climate. In the summertime (which, in Goa, is the rainy season), tourists from across India come to spend the holidays.

Tourism is generally focused on the coastal areas of Goa, with decreased tourist activity inland. Goa’s tourism contributes to 16% of India’s total foreign exchange earnings. In 2009-10 there were more than 2. 5 million tourists reported to have visited Goa, both domestic and foreign and total revenue earned for the fiscal year 2009-10 from tourism is Rs. 5000 crore as against Rs. 4000 crore in the previous year. A major upcoming concept attracting a lot of tourists to Goa is the rise of Medical Tourism in Goa.

Dentists in Goa claim that tourists save over 70% on their dental treatment if done here in Goa. Hence they are now offering holiday packages which include expensive dental treatments too. The Booming Medical Tourism. The concept of medical tourism is not a new one. The first recorded instance of medial tourism dates back thousands of years to when Greek pilgrims traveled from all over the Mediterranean to the small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria. This territory was the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios.

Epidauria became the original travel destination for medical tourism. Spa towns may be considered an early form of medical tourism. Factors that have led to the recent increase in popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care or wait times for procedures in industrialized nations, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in technology and standards of care in many countries of the world. Medical tourists can come from anywhere in the world, including Europe, the UK, West Asia, Asia, US and Canada.

This is because of their large populations, comparatively high wealth, the high expense of health care or lack of health care options locally, and increasingly high expectations of their populations with respect to health care. Health tourism provides have developed as intermediaries to unite potential medical tourists with provider hospitals and other organizations. It has been started that “medical tourism is promoted much more heavily in the United Kingdom than in the United States”. A large draw to medical travel is convenience and speed.

Countries that operate public health-care systems are often so taxed that it can take considerable time to get non urgent medical care. The time spent waiting for a procedure such as a hip replacement can be a year or more in Britain and Canada; however, in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cuba, Colombia, Philippines or India, a patient could feasible have an operation the day after their arrival. Additionally, patients are finding that insurance either does not cover orthopedic surgery (such as knee/hip replacement) or imposes unreasonable restriction on the choice of the facility, surgeon, or prosthetics to be used.

Medical tourism for knee/hip replacements has emerged as one of the more widely accepted procedures because of the lower cost and minimal difficulties associated with the traveling to/from the surgery. Medical tourists may seek essential health care services such as cancer treatment and brain and transplant surgery as well as complementary or ‘elective’ services such as aesthetic treatments (cosmetic surgery). Ayurveda Treatment Ayurveda which is form of medical treatment originated from India has gained a lot of prominence in European world for health benefits.

Ayurveda means life and Veda signifies knowledge. Therefore by its definition Ayurveda lifts itself beyond the realms of diseases and treatments. It treats life as a single composite phenomenon. After Kerala now Goa is one of Indias best destination for combining Tourism with Ayurveda Treatment. A Goan Medical Vacation India is known worldwide for the quality of cardiac procedures and joint replacement surgeries. Tourists from all over the world come down to Goa to take in the sights as well as to benefit from Medical amenities available.

Goa is uniquely positioned to develop its health tourism sector. Affordable Health Care Insurance is a Problem for Goan Locals. While tourists rave about the medical tourism facilities that Goa offers, Goan locals are feeling the pinch due to the escalating prices of medical treatments. There is now a clamor for an improved health care system in the state. The average Joe on the street can afford neither the exorbitant rates of the specialty hospitals nor basic health care insurance.

Adding to this dilemma is the lack of available clinical services in remote areas plus the high prices of medication for senior citizens Medical tourism has come to be a new branch of tourism so formed in recent times. The following are some reasons why one visits Goa for Medical tourism: 1. Variety and abundance of available medical skills Goa is very well prepared to service foreigners when it comes to health care. Most Goan doctors speak perfect English, a majority of them are also schooled or trained abroad.

While India in general has an universal healthcare system ( meaning that most drugs or procedures are free for the local population) there is also a healthy competition between governmental and privately run hospitals and healthcare institutions for servicing the more wealthy locals with lifestyle procedures (like cosmetic surgery) or visiting foreign tourists (who want to save a dime or two compared to their home countries). If you look around in the tourist belt , you can find plenty of private healthcare providers.

Especially the north-western coastal region (Candolim, Calangute and Baga) one can find dental clinics spread all along the coastal belt. In this mentioned area alone I can easily count 30-40 dentists, while larger hospitals mainly only have outlets here, with their main operations to be found in the larger cities like Mapusa, Panaji or even Margao in the south. Major hospitals to consider are for instance the Vrundavan Hospital in Mapusa, Manipal Hospital in Dona Paula, Vintage Hospital in Panaji, Apollo Victor Hospital (very new and a bit more expensive) and NUSI Hospital in/near Margao. Some of the medical services ffered here are: General Medicine and Cardiology, Orthopedic Surgery, Pediatrics, Trauma and Critical care, Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, Endoscopic and Laproscopic Surgery, Gastroenterology and Oncosurgery, Neuro surgery, Cosmetic Surgery, ENT, Urology, Nephrology, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Dental, Medical Genetics and Counseling, Respiratory Medicine, Physiotherapy, Dietetics, Alternative and Ayurvedic Medicine. Vaccinations too, can be had in almost every hospital. 2. Quality of Surgery, medical personnel and other amenities This one is a bit hard to describe and has to be seen to be believed.

Hospitals here in Goa for sure don’t look very special from the outside. Once inside, and you are in a complete different world. The hygiene in every hospital is generally good. Sometimes you really have to wonder, how they can maintain a hospital so clean in an area that looks like a rubbish dump from the outside. Welcome to India! Here especially, looks can be deceiving. Operational devices, x-ray machines, dental equipment and other instruments are of high standard, although not quite on par with Singapore or European ,machines (except the dentists maybe).

But you can expect modern facilities and up to date staff and nurses in spotless uniforms. So for general healthcare services and minor surgeries I wouldn’t be afraid to go under the knife here, as most established procedures didn’t change much over the last couple of years. 3. Short Queues or waiting Times Generally, most dentists and hospitals in Goa have very short waiting times, completely different to healthcare providers in Europe or other developed countries, where you sometimes have to make appointments weeks in advance. As a foreigner you can enjoy a very individual and prompt reception.

Dentists usually will arrange appointments only 2-3 days away, convenient enough to get a procedure done during a 2-week holiday. The same applies for consultations without appointments with specialists. As a paying customer you usually don’t have to wait long in crowded waiting areas. The few times we had to visit a doctor it was all between 10-15 minutes of waiting times. You also don’t have the feeling that the doctors are very pushy and want to have you out within 5 minutes of their time. A checkup is done very thorough and in an individual manner.

The stuff is generally friendly and genuinely interested in your well-being. 4. Low Costs of Generic and Branded Medicine Most medicines can be bought here without prescriptions either right in your local pharmacy or ordered by them if not in stock. Goa is dotted with thousands of pharmacies at every corner. Again the tourist areas from Candolim to Baga have the highest density of pharmacies, while I found Mapusa further to the north-east the best stocked. The best thing: prices for medicines are fixed! So you don’t have to haggle like with everything else in India.

Prices are printed on the boxes of medicines and that’s exactly what you pay Another specialty: some branded items are sold here already as generics, even though in most other countries you still can only buy the branded (more expensive) product. One example, a modern tacrolimus-based skin ointment is anywhere else in Asia only available as the branded version (Protopic) and will cost you anything from 300. 000 Rupiah in Indonesia, around 1. 200 Baht in Phuket, 2. 150 Peso in the Philippines to 80-100 SGD in Singapore. No genericsavailable. Buy the real thing or forget it.

Not here in India: A generic version (Tacroz Forte) costs a mere Rs 320 for 10g. That is only 20% of the price in Indonesia or Thailand, 15% of the price in the Philippines or 10% of a similar product in Singapore. Isn’t that amazing? Talk about globalization and how you can exploit it for yourself! I found that true for other specific medicines as well. Here are just a few examples for other more common products: Band Aid wash proof: Rs 20 for 10 pieces Immodium: Rs 20 for 10 capsules Paracetamol 500: Rs 14 for 10 capsules Vitamin B complex: Rs 15 for 10 capsules

Topical Antibiotic Spray: Rs 195 (40g) Antibiotic Skin Cream: Rs 50 (10g) Broad Spectrum Antibiotic: Rs 50 for 10 capsules Now I just wish, they would be able to send all those cheap medicines abroad to my next travel destinations! 5. Low Consultation and Doctor fees As with everything else in India, one can compare prices and get an impression of the doctor for their surgery first, before committing to a procedure. Luckily the initial costs are very low (for dental procedures, the first checkup is generally free of charge, while for other consultations the fees are quite low, see below).

Costs for surgery is generally only a small percentage to health care costs if done in Europe, Australia or the US. I was in Singapore once and was in awe over their low health care costs compared to India. There, major plastic surgeries were nearly dirt cheap. For minor surgeries however, you could save even more, considering getting it done here in India. One example: a friend from Singapore visited us here in Goa, to get a cyst removed on her wrist. While the same surgery would have cost between SGD 1. 200-1. 600, the same procedure was only around SGD 300-400 here in Goa.

All with similar quality, aftercare and all costs included. That is only 25% of the cost compared with Singapore I had some dental work done here in Goa, fillings and tooth cleaning, all done very professionally and on short notice. As mentioned above, to consult a specialist, you don’t have to pay a fortune here. From my own and my friend’s experience and what other friends and relatives abroad told me, here are some examples of consultation fees: Dentist: First Consultation – free of charge General Practitioner: Rs 100-250 per Visit Dermatology: Rs 100-200 per Visit

Orthopedist: Rs 250 per Visit For minor surgery, like the above mentioned cyst removal, here are some example prices: Orthopedic Surgeon Charges: Rs 5,000 per surgery Anesthetic Charges : Rs 1,500 per surgery Operation Theater Charges: Rs 2,300 per surgery Hospital bed per day: Rs 1,000-2,000 for common ward, depending on hospital Hospital bed per day: Rs 4,000-7,000 for private room, depending on hospital Here are some dental examples: Glass Ionomer Filling: Rs 960 Composite Resin Filling: Rs 1,600 Porcelain to Metal Crown: Rs 7,200- 10,500

Stellon/Fibre Glass/Travelon Dentures: Rs 12,000-24,000 Metal/Invisible Braces: Rs 24,000-44,000 Conclusion: Goa is an interesting location for getting your health propped up and getting those long postponed surgeries done. You have modern facilities, short waiting times and very affordable prices for procedures, hospital services and medicines. Over that you will probably recover much faster, with a holiday in an exotic location added as a bonus. These days with the global financial crisis upon us, prices for flights and package deals to Goa are as low as they can get.

So many people are flocking to Goa now, to benefit from the low costs the most. Some people even try to strike a deal with their health insurance provider, either to cover parts of their costs or acknowledging an otherwise not possible surgery. As with everything in India , one has to be aware of some pitfalls too : while medicine prices are generally fixed, this can’t be said about the services and hospital procedures. But there is a good competition, so one can comfortably look around, ask and compare prices before committing to anything.

In short, there is a broad variety of options to choose from here. One can talk to different doctors and if in doubt, stick with a larger and well-known hospital instead of a small private clinic. With the facilities Goa can offer, it could be easily converted into a centre of excellence for Medical Tourism. Add to it, the flavour of Goan hospitality, medical tourism could be made very attractive. We therefore have an excellent opportunity to market health care in Goa, especially to the Britishers who consist of 60 per cent of the total tourists arriving in Goa.