The following four basic components constitute the medical outsourcing industry:
• Healthcare providers: Hospitals, mainly corporate hospitals and doctors
• Payer: Medical/ Health insurance companies
• Pharmaceutical Companies
• IT companies operating in the healthcare space
So far as payers are concerned, currently they are primarily involved in the data entry work, the present market of which in India is estimated to be around U.S$ 100 million.
Key drivers and barriers for growth:
The world class cost-effective private sector healthcare services are expected to drive the growth of the medical outsourcing sector in India. However, shortages in the talent pool and inadequate infrastructure like roads, airports and power could pose to be the major barriers to growth.
At present, majority of medical outsourcing is done by the US followed by the UK and the Gulf countries.
How is this market growing?
Medical Tourism, by itself, is not a very recent phenomenon all over the world. Not so long ago for various types of non-essential interventions like, cosmetic surgeries, people from the developed world used to look for cheaper destinations with relatively decent healthcare facilities like, India, Thailand etc.
Now with the spiraling increase in the cost of healthcare, many people from the developed world, besides those who are underinsured or uninsured have started looking for similar destinations for even very essential medical treatments like cardiac bypass surgery, knee replacement, heap bone replacements, liver and kidney transplants, to name just a few.
Significant cost advantage in India with world class care:
It has been reported that for a cardiac bypass surgery, a patient from abroad will require to pay just around U.S$ 10,000 in India, when the same will cost not less than around U.S$ 130,000 in the US. These patients not only get world class healthcare services, but also are offered to stay in high-end ‘luxury’ hospitals fully equipped with the latest television set, refrigerator and even in some cases a personal computer. All these are specially designed to cater to the needs of such groups of patients.
Recently ‘The Washington Post’ reported that the mortality rate after a cardiac bypass surgery is better in Indian private hospitals than their equivalents in the USA.
It is indeed an irony that while such private hospitals in India are equipped to provide world class healthcare facilities for their medical outsourcing business and also to the rich and super rich Indians, around 65 percent of Indian population still does not have access to affordable modern medicines in the country.
Is the government indirectly funding the private medical outsourcing services in India?
In India, from around 1990, the government, to a great extent, changed its role from ‘healthcare provider’ to ‘healthcare facilitator’. As a result private healthcare facilities started receiving various types of government support and incentives (Sengupta, Amit and Samiran Nundy, “The Private Health Sector in India,” The British Journal of Medical Ethics 331 (2005): 1157-58).
While availing medical outsourcing services in India, the overseas patients although are paying for the services that they are availing from the private hospitals, such payments, it has been reported, only partially fund the private hospitals. If such is the case, then the question that we need to answer: Are these medical tourists also sharing the resources and benefits earmarked for the Indian nationals?
Due to global economic meltdown many business houses in the developed world are under a serious cost containment pressure, which includes the medical expenses for their employees. Such cost pressure prompts them to send their employees to low cost destinations for treatment, without compromising on the quality of their healthcare needs.
Other countries in quite close proximity to ours like, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are offering tough competition to India in the medical outsourcing space. However, superior healthcare services with a significant cost advantage at world class and internationally accredited facilities, treated by foreign qualified doctors, supported by English speaking support staff and equipped with better healthcare related IT services, will only accelerate this trend in favor of India. In this ball game it surely is, ‘Advantage India’.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.