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Wednesday, 11 February, 2009, 17 : 00 PM [IST]

MoT plans to extend MDA scheme to cover JCI and NABH to boost Medical Tourism

Ministry of Tourism (MoT) is planning to extend its Market Development Assistance (MDA) scheme to cover Joint Commission International (JCI) and National Accreditation Board of Hospitals (NABH) certified hospitals. A policy announcement of this effect is likely soon. The MDA scheme offsets overseas marketing costs for travel companies earning foreign exchange. By introducing the MDA scheme, hospitals will be made eligible for financial assistance including publicity through printed material, travel and stay expenses for sales-cum-study tours and participation fees for trade fairs and exhibitions, subject to an upper ceiling.

“The MDA scheme for Medical Tourism is under active consideration and will be applicable only to accredited hospitals. It should be finalised within a week,” informed Dr Prabhakar Dubey, Director, Ministry of Tourism. There are about 60 accredited hospitals in India, of which the big groups have independently facilitated tie-ups with US-based insurance companies such as Bluecross Blueshield and Anthem Wellpoint but smaller players have relied on agents due to high costs.

According to Pradeep Thukral, Group Head-International Marketing, Apollo Hospitals, “The Ministry is prompting all players to form a government-industry partnership on the lines of Nasscom to strengthen the Indian healthcare brand overseas. Efforts will be made to launch uniform pricing bands and to combine medical packages with travel products. The potential for forex earnings through this route is huge. On an average, a medical traveller spends about USD 7,000 as opposed to a holiday traveller who spends USD 3, 000.” Thukral further added that with the change in global dynamics, it is the right time for government to provide impetus to this industry and learn from countries like Singapore and Thailand, which have participated with hospitals to draw patients.

A study by global consultancy Deloitte pegs the global market for Medical Tourism at USD 60 billion. India received an estimated 4, 50,000 medical tourists in 2007, double the volumes registered in 2005, offering services at one-fifth the costs of developed nations. Analysts expect the industry, which is growing at an annual rate of 44 per cent, to get a boost from this move as it will help develop business linkages.
 
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