Kochi: Have world-class treatment at one-tenth price and use your savings to experience the tranquil backwaters, scenic beaches and pristine hill stations of God’s Own Country. Raising this slogan, the private sector, government and trade bodies of Kerala are initiating a coordinated action to transform the State into a world-class healthcare hub by 2020.
Towards achieving this distinction, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in association with Government of Kerala is organising the fifth edition of KHT - Kerala Health Tourism 2015: International Conference and Exhibition at Le Meridian in Kochi on October 30 and 31. Aster Medcity, Rajagiri Hospitals and Ananthapuri Hospitals and Research Institute are the principal sponsors of the event.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will inaugurate the event, which would highlight the emerging trends, opportunities and challenges in the Indian health tourism arena and discuss the preparedness of Indian hospitals. It will be a congregation of major hospitals, health insurance companies, policy makers, tourism promotion boards, hotels and resorts, health travel and tour operators and international institutions for promotion of health tourism.
According to CII, Kerala is particularly well-suited to host this event since it is recognised for its excellent healthcare standards by world bodies such as the World Health Organisation and is currently going through a boom in private medical services.
Moreover, the liberal social environment and traditional hospitality of the Kerala people, coupled with the outstanding tourism infrastructure, makes it an ideal holiday destination and a hub for health services in the region.
There will be deliberations on policy initiatives to promote health tourism, target markets and marketing strategies in health tourism, current challenges in international patient management, the future of health tourism and tourism in the concept of sustainable development.
Globally, according to a report, the medical tourism industry was valued at $10.5 billion in 2012. It is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 17.9 per cent from 2013-19 to reach $32.5 billion in 2019. Each year seven million patients are said to be travelling to receive medical care. The cost of medical treatment and the availability of state-of-the-art technology are the most important factors prompting them to travel abroad for treatment.
As per the statistics released by the Union Ministry of Tourism, the number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) to India in 2014 was 76.8 lakh. Of this, roughly close to 3 per cent constituted the number of medical FTAs. In 2012, according to KPMG India, the total number of medical tourists who came to India was 1.7 lakh.
While MVT and dollar receipts are attractive from a Return on Investment (RoI) standpoint for any mega hospital project, there are serious healthcare challenges on the home front which also can be addressed by this new engine of hope and growth.
Kerala today is the ‘diabetic capital’ of India; in obesity it is number two nationally; the age at which Malayalis suffer heart attack has come down alarmingly to the 25-35 age bracket; incidence of cancer, especially among women, is at an all time high. And for technologically advanced complex medical procedures, Keralites rush to nearby Vellore, Bengaluru, Mangalore or Chennai.
There is an urgent need to invest in tertiary and quaternary care hospitals that can effectively tackle three major categories of advanced technology-enabled healthcare services: invasive or surgical, diagnostic testing and lifestyle related. MVT dollars are critical to help cross subsidise such services so that Kerala can continue to adhere to its tradition of upholding Universal Healthcare. The forex revenue will also be instrumental in ensuring competitive compensation for medical professionals so that they do not have to risk their lives in war-torn Syria and Iraq. DK
For registration, sponsorship and other details on KHT 2015, contact Saji Mathew, Deputy Director, CII
‘Cross sector support need of the hour’
A strong votary of Kerala’s mission to emerge as a leading Medical Value Travel (MVT) hub is physician-turned Chief Executive Dr. Harish Pillai, the CEO of Aster Medcity and Cluster Head, Kerala, Aster DM Healthcare. He speaks to Destination Kerala on:
“Simply fabulous; connectivity to West Asia and South East Asia, international gateways, highly literate work force, established brand equity in tourism, highly skilled medical faculty and other care support staff like nurses and paramedics, lots of accredited hospitals and centres, cost effective care and temperate climate year round are all positives. But, there are challenges too, owing to the late start in branding the State as an MVT destination. As the sector lies fragmented, there is strong competition from established hubs like Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Then there is the public waste management issue.”
Deliverables from Kerala Health tourism (KHT) 2015
“KHT 2015 will result in evolving a concrete action plan to promote Kerala as a healthcare destination. A comprehensive portal for MVT will be launched and it will act as an e-gateway. The event would facilitate the creation of a trade body, KHT Mart Society, similar to the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) Society. A five-year roadmap to convert Kerala into India’s healthcare hub by 2020 will be chalked out”
“By bringing all stakeholders together, Kerala Government will act as a catalyst and incubator, and adopt the key lessons of success which have made tourism a large-scale employer and GDP contributor. It should liaison with the Centre to showcase Kerala as an MVT destination. Kerala should take part in all international road shows. The government should ensure cross sector support with departments of Health, Tourism, Industry and Information Technology, and allocate budget for healthcare hub mission to get all public and private hospitals NABH accredited by 2020.”
Aster Medcity’s Role
“We will ensure establishment of clinical and service quality benchmarks, assist in promoting the State as an MVT hub, support training of service-oriented work force, drive collaboration from local community and share knowledge in service and quality related areas with all State-based providers.
For international patients, we have dedicated departments with fully manned staff, language translators, bilingual website, dedicated IP ward, specialised food, general tourism outpost on site and follow up care in our establishments across West Asia.”
Permanent platform needed to promote MVT
With Thiruvananthapuram International Airport only a stone’s throw away and international tourism centre Kovalam within 20 minute drive, Ananthapuri Hospitals and Research Institute at Chackai is undoubtedly the leading destination for medical value travel (MVT) in Kerala’s capital city. The 500-bed multi-disciplinary tertiary care hospital, led by renowned neurosurgeon and Padma Shri awardee Dr. A Marthanda Pillai, largely caters to patients from Arab countries and Maldives. On an average, the super specialty hospital receives 10 patients from Arab countries, especially Oman, and 20 patients from Maldives per day.
According to Dr. Pillai, the chairman and managing director of the hospital, Kerala, especially Thiruvananthapuram, has good potential to become an ideal MVT destination. The capital city has four medical colleges, a good number of private super specialty hospitals and the country’s leading medical institutions such the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) and Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST).
“However, there is a lack of coordinated action to brand and project the place as a world-class healthcare destination. What we expect from KHT 2015 is the formation of a permanent platform wherein the efforts to promote MVT can be done on a sustained basis. Besides coordination, it has to focus on benchmarking of hospitals, advice on legal issues and promoting insurance-based care,” he said.
Apart from local efforts, Dr. Pillai said, there should be more engagement from Indian Consulates in the Gulf countries to promote MVT. “Currently, the sector is disorganised. Chances of middle men intervening and exploiting the situation are high. To avoid this, there should be a permanent facility in every Consulate to guide those who are seeking healthcare services in India,” he said.
Stressing that the State Government should act as a facilitator in the issue, Dr. Pillai said policies on healthcare should be inclusive in nature. “The Government should take the private sector into confidence. Firstly, we need to ensure optimum utilisation of diagnostic services both in public as well as private institutions. Through a systematic process, the Government should empanel private hospitals and make the rates uniform. Otherwise, the expenses for quality and specialised treatment will remain on the higher side affecting the public at large,” said Pillai, who is also the national president of Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Call for collective effort to boost MVT
Kochi has the best possible medical care facilities that can compete with any prominent MVT destination. But, according to Fr. Johnson Vazhappilly, Executive Director of Rajagiri Hospital at Chunagamvely near Aluva, what is lacking is a coordinated action plan from all stakeholders.
“Kerala has established itself as a prominent destination on the world tourism map for its Ayurveda treatment and natural diversity through collective and planned efforts from various government and non-government bodies. However, the situation in MVT is slightly different. Even on a pan India basis, Kerala enjoys a very small share of the MVT business. The current patient flow is due to the individual efforts of various bodies in healthcare and due to the cultural ties with countries like Oman and Maldives. There should be a collective effort from the government and all possible organisations to take up MVT in a big way,” he said.
KHT 2015, Fr. Johnson said, will plug the gap. “A more focused approach is the key to growth in this area. We have identified a few target countries to boost MVT, which includes countries from West Asia and Africa. The global medical fraternity has a high percentage of NRKs, which should be built as a medium to create more awareness about the health standards that Kerala has,” he said.
Taking a cue from the success of KTM, KHT can promote Kerala MVT through various initiatives like road shows in target foreign countries and participation in foreign trade shows etc.
Fr. Johnson said Rajagiri Hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to cater to the needs of every foreign patient. “We have a clear vision to be a major player in MVT to Kerala. Rajagiri believes that the quality standard has to be high to match the expectations of privileged clients who visit Kerala for medical reasons. Along with quality healthcare, we have to take all possible initiatives to offer a more compassionate care for each client,” he said. The 7th floor of Rajagiri Hospital will be a dedicated area for foreign patients. The hospital will have an exclusive lounge for international patients to come in and register for services. There will be translators, local and international dining options, forex and travel assistance desk.