Asian countries are seriously challenging Europe, US and Israel as attractive destinations for medical tourists: people who travel across international borders to obtain healthcare.
India, Thailand and Singapore are three countries in Asia that receive the maximum number of medical tourists, because of the quality of healthcare infrastructure and the availability of highly skilled doctors, as well as lower cost of treatment.
India hosts thousands of medical tourists from the US, Canada, Australia and UK, as well as from African countries and Asian neighbours, like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China yearly. According to ASSOCHAM, in 2011 India saw 850,000 medical tourists and by the end of this year this number may rise to 3.2 million.
Indian medical tourism market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 27 per cent to reach US$3.9 billion in 2014, from US$1.9 billion in 2011, according to the “Medical Value Travel in India” report by KPMG and FICCI. Globally the medical travel industry is estimated at US$ 10.5 billion and is expected to grow to US$ 32.5 billion over the next five years at CAGR of 17.9 per cent.
Despite Russia being known in India particularly for the quality of its medical education – consider that eight out of ten Indian students in Russia are enrolled in medicine or dentistry courses – there are multiple factors that make Russian patients seek better healthcare options abroad, and more recently, in India too.
The Indian healthcare sector amounted to US$ 78.6 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach approximately $158.2 billion by 2017, according to KPMG. The Russian healthcare sector in the same period, according to PWC, stood at US$86 billion. The difference between the two countries is that while in India the healthcare industry has, since the 1990s, emerged as a huge segment with dynamic private sector involvement, in Russia it has been dominated by only government for about 100 years. Today more than 60 per cent of the Russian healthcare market belongs to the government sector, although the share of private healthcare is growing, rapidly.
Russian industry analysts stress that, despite Russia doctors being highly qualified, their numbers are not enough, thus leaving smaller regional medical centres poorly staffed and equipped. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis and medical errors are common in the Russian healthcare system as bureaucratic hurdles abound and long queues of people wait for prescribed treatment and quotas for free treatment. Patients, especially children and elderly people, are often considered non-responsive to treatment and are thus denied medical services. Outside Russia, they get medical help in most cases.
Additionally, not all kinds of healthcare services are available in Russia. For example, Cyberknife Radiosurgery, a non-invasive treatment option for tumours, has recently become available only in two hospitals in Russia