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Health-care vs. Medical Tourism

Government of India has set up the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH) and National Accreditation Board for Laboratories (NABL) to strengthen the regulation of healthcare industry in India but the major purpose behind the move is said to be the intent to encourage medical tourism. India is trying to break into the humungous (and growing) global market of Medical Tourism currently dominated by Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. While India might be just a beginner but it has some inherent advantages of being recognized as the land of Yoga, Meditation and other parallel forms of medicine in addition to having doctors well qualified in modern medicine.

While the increase of medical tourism and induction of accreditation services will improve the state of existing healthcare in India, it might not help in making up for the shortage of healthcare facilities. Accreditation will primarily be sought by large hospitals, or medium sized clinics in areas where the demand for premium healthcare facilities is high and people have the paying capacity to afford these facilities. It may also be sought in areas where there is shortage of quality healthcare but people are ready to pay for it. However, in small towns, villages and unprivileged areas (read: slums) where there is a shortage of healthcare and people do not have the paying capacity, accreditation will not work. Villages where the local compounder is the ‘daactar sahiib’ and a room in the pathshala serves as the dispensary, accreditation makes little sense.

The government should recognize that for a country of a billion inhabitants, healthcare is more important as an infrastructural component than just as an industry. All efforts to regulate or improve an industry should use the principle of ‘Carrot and Stick’. While accreditation serves as the carrot for those who can afford it, a stick is needed to ensure that healthcare

  1. does not remain scarce
  2. does not fall below a minimum standard irrespective of whether people an pay for it

If either of the above goals is not fulfilled, the other automatically fails. If healthcare is a scarce resource, there will be (legal or illegal) ‘low cost’ clinics which will operate below minimum standards to save costs. On the other hand, even if private clinics make healthcare abundant, in absence (or weakness) of a regulating agency, some of these would operate below standards, to top-up profits.

Setting up of NABH and NABL is a step in the correct direction, but this needs to be supplemented soon enough with a more robust, organized and coordinated framework for managing healthcare (minimum and premium) facilities in India for Indians as well as Medical Tourists.

PS: Those waiting to read about my Uttaranchal experience will have to wait. I am awaiting photographs of the trip and also am deficient on time. Hopefully, I will post something on that front over the weekend.

3 Comments to " Health-care vs. Medical Tourism "

  1. hey dude... put ur fotos asap..

    now... good writeup... food for thought...

    However, there are two aspects to the whole thing... one Medical infrastructure (let's say domestic) and the second is foreign revenue generation from people coming to india solely for medical purpose... well as you can see one is cost and the other is revenue... the local politics eats up the funds for the domestics ... on the other hand medical tourism will be governed by central tourism body and the regulators...

    i think a step towards reform in the domestic sector (in lot other cases) from the govt is reqd... a PPP (Public Pvt Partnership) is the ideal formulae for it... [of course NGO will play a significant role in it]

  2. Nikhil,
    Govt alrady doing alot for this..
    All docs have to work one year compulsorily in villages after they get their MBBS degrees as internships.
    You can easily guess that no one goes..Reason is a simple one ten letter word->corruption..
    We need to get this 10 letter word out first..else no matter how much we pour in.. it goes into the wrong pockets..

  3. @new_cloud

    govt's mandate... and MBBS compulsory internship... it's there and people are doing it.

    boss the resources are falling too short to even take minimum care of the increasing population... and for corruption... it's a system now... and quoting from movie sirkar... we need to kill the thought (soch)... to kill the corruption... for more read reply to your comment on my blog...

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