`Give healthcare tax cuts, boost medical tourism`

Washington: An Indian American doctor has suggested that India should offer special tax exemptions to its healthcare industry to capitalise on a potentially $100 billion opportunity offered by the globalisation of healthcare.

"The Indian government must reform fiscal policy relating to healthcare as India is one of the beneficiaries of the globalisation phenomenon," Boston-based cardiac surgeon and healthcare economist Mukesh Hariawala said.

Economic and patient traffic indicators show an annual 35 percent increment in medical tourism in the last few years with a projected market cap of $100 billion by 2017, he said, citing a report by Deloitte and company.

Medical tourism also opens up other business opportunities as retro customer satisfaction surveys conducted by the Medical Tourism Association reveal that most patients travel with a companion and also indulge in a post-treatment relaxing vacation, he said.

India could corner a major share of this market as "healthcare in India is synonymous with result- oriented, competitive, world class healthcare professionals and facilities", Hariawala said.

"India could also responsibly ease the healthcare burden of most industrialised countries with spiralling, uncontrolled costs," he said citing the example of the United States, which spends 17 percent of its GDP on healthcare.

At the same time, Hariawala cautioned that with the arrival of these high paying overseas patients, local Indian patients should not be relegated as second class.

A portion of the profits from medical tourism must also be reserved for urbanisation of rural India, he suggested.

In "medical travel", most sought after procedures in destination countries are open heart surgery, hip and knee replacement, spinal fusion, dental implants and total body cosmetic surgery.

"The success rates of all participating hospitals match US standards and patients often find services and care personalised, particularly in India," Hariawala said.

Besides India, hot destinations for medical travellers from North America and Europe include Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Dubai and Malaysia. Of these India and Thailand seem to be getting a lion`s share, closely followed by South Korea, he said.

While India currently has 10 hospitals with the Joint Commission International seal of accreditation given to hospitals meeting US and EU standards, its closest competitor Thailand has four, Hariawala noted.

While China too offers excellent facilities, it is still a non-player in this new, emerging and fast growing market because of the language barrier, he said.


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