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India: a Medical Tourism Destination

September 1, 2023 | Expert Insights

The general public in India becomes aware of its exemplary medical facilities, often referred to as 'islands of excellence,' through media coverage of compelling human interest stories. These stories highlight instances of Indian medical expertise successfully assisting foreign patients. If such patients happen to be from Pakistan, our neighbouring country with strained relations, the media interest is even more significant.

One unforgettable case is that of 54-year-old Pakistani woman, Zaib-un-Nisa, whose life was saved on August 14, 2012 (Pakistan's Independence Day) through a complex liver transplant with arterial reconstruction performed by a team of doctors in New Delhi. The same team of doctors also generously donated their blood for the patient's treatment. There are many such heart-wrenching stories.


Medical tourism, the practice of travelling to another country for the sole purpose of seeking medical treatment, has witnessed exponential growth in recent years. As healthcare costs continue to rise in many developed nations, patients are increasingly looking beyond their borders for more affordable and accessible treatment options.

In this rapidly evolving landscape, India has emerged as a formidable player in the medical tourism industry, offering high-quality healthcare services at a fraction of the cost in other countries. With a combination of cutting-edge medical facilities, skilled healthcare professionals, specialized treatments, and a rich cultural experience, India has become a sought-after destination for patients from around the world.

Cost-effectiveness is one of the primary factors driving India's rise as a medical tourism hub. The country offers significantly lower prices for a wide range of medical procedures and treatments compared to the United States, Europe, and other developed countries. Even after considering travel and accommodation expenses, patients can still save between 65 to 90 per cent on medical costs by choosing India for their treatments. This affordability has been a compelling reason for patients, particularly those from countries with expensive healthcare systems, to seek medical care in India.

Furthermore, India's medical infrastructure has undergone remarkable advancements, boasting state-of-the-art technology and facilities on par with leading hospitals in developed nations. Many hospitals in India have achieved international accreditations, ensuring compliance with global standards of medical care and patient safety. This commitment to quality has garnered trust and confidence from international patients, making India an attractive destination for medical tourists seeking top-tier healthcare services.



A crucial element in India's success as a medical tourism destination is the presence of highly skilled and specialized medical professionals. The country is home to a large number of doctors and healthcare practitioners who have received extensive training both domestically and abroad. Many of these professionals are renowned for their expertise in specialized medical fields, offering treatments that may not be readily available in the patients' home countries. Their reputation for providing excellent care draws patients from diverse backgrounds seeking specialized treatments and procedures.

Besides conventional medical treatments, India's alternative medicine practices have also gained international recognition. Treatments like Ayurveda, Yoga, Siddha, and Naturopathy have been practised in India for centuries and have become increasingly popular among medical tourists seeking holistic healthcare solutions. India's ability to integrate traditional healing methods with modern medicine further sets it apart as a holistic medical destination.

The Indian government and private stakeholders have been proactive in recognizing the potential of medical tourism and have taken steps to foster its growth. Policies have been implemented to ensure transparency and quality of care, and efforts have been made to prevent malpractices and discriminatory regulations that could hinder the industry's development. Additionally, India has streamlined visa processes, expanded medical facilities, and invested in infrastructure development to enhance the overall experience for medical tourists.

Tourism plays a vital role in India's economy, and the combination of medical and leisure tourism has given rise to a unique concept called "medication." Patients and their accompanying family members can combine medical travel with exploring India's rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and world-renowned tourist attractions. From exploring bustling cities like Delhi and Mumbai to basking on the serene beaches of Goa or experiencing the tranquillity of the Himalayas, India offers a myriad of experiences to complement the medical journey.

India's success in medical tourism is reflected in the numbers. The global medical tourism market is projected to grow from $13.98 billion in 2021 to $53.51 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 21.1 per cent, and India holds a significant share of this market. Every year, India welcomes approximately 2 million patients from 78 countries seeking medical and wellness treatments. These visitors contribute significantly to the industry, generating an impressive $6 billion in revenue. As per projections, with the support of the government's "Heal in India" initiative, this figure is expected to soar to $13 billion by 2026.

The impact of medical tourism extends beyond economic benefits. It plays a pivotal role in job creation, profit generation, and foreign exchange earnings for hospitals and healthcare institutions in India. Moreover, the reputation built as a preferred healthcare destination has bestowed upon India a valuable form of soft power, positioning the country as the Healing Centre of the world. This elevated status further strengthens India's global presence and influence in the realm of healthcare.

Some of India's most sought-after medical procedures encompass a wide range of specialities. Dental work, arthroplasty, cataract surgery, bariatric and cosmetic surgeries, reproductive care, tissue and organ transplants are among the most popular treatments offered. Patients from abroad find India appealing due to the low prices and minimal waiting times for these procedures.

India has also been recognised as a preferred destination for advanced medical treatments. Cardiac bypass surgery, eye surgeries, orthopaedic procedures, dental treatments, and reproductive care such as in vitro fertilization are commonly sought after by international patients. India's healthcare institutions have successfully carried out complex procedures, attracting patients seeking advanced medical solutions.

One of the most compelling aspects of medical tourism in India is the stark contrast in costs between India and other countries. Medical procedures that may be financially burdensome in developed nations can be significantly more affordable in India. For instance, a heart surgery that costs around $45,955 in the United States can be performed in India for approximately $4,595. This vast difference in cost, coupled with the assurance of high-quality healthcare services, has been a driving force behind the rapid growth of India's medical tourism industry.


  • India's emergence as a global leader in medical tourism can be attributed to its unique blend of affordable, high-quality healthcare services, world-class medical infrastructure, skilled medical professionals, specialized treatments, and diverse tourist attractions.
  • As the medical tourism sector continues to grow and expand, India is solidifying its position on the global healthcare map, attracting patients from all corners of the world in search of excellent medical treatment at a fraction of the cost.
  • However, the healthcare system's growth should be inclusive and ensure a reasonable, if not the same level as the private sector, level of medical care to every Indian citizen.