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The future of medical value travel in a post-pandemic world

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Gaining strategic importance, the medical value travel sector has the ability to earn foreign exchange, encourage cultural exchanges and create employment in a country, according to Kapil Chadha, Chairman and CO-founder at eExpedise Healthcare who explains how the sector is adapting to COVID-19 norms

Healthcare is a vigorous industry closely related to other industries such as communication, information technology, wellness, travel, and tourism. Medical tourism has gained momentum in the past decade or so in search of comprehensive healthcare solutions to treat different medical ailments. The industry has even evolved to well-being enhancement and leisure travels, further shaping the aspects of the health tourism industry.

The technological advancements in the health sector have resulted in critical developments globally, making treatments more affordable, accessible, and reliable. The infusion of technologies in healthcare has made healthcare records secure and readily available through mobile devices like wearables, digital sensors, remote patient monitoring, virtual rehabilitation, and biotelemetry.

The challenge

The global medical tourism industry was valued at USD 82.27 billion in 2017 and was expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.8 per cent by 2027 and reach USD 274.37 billion. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 negatively impacted market growth as the countries shut their borders and imposed travel restrictions hampering the market rise. The COVID-19 era presented a wave of hurdles to the healthcare sector with a shortage of resources like vaccinations, medicines, masks, ventilators, ICU, and healthcare professionals. The pandemic has generated an enormous shock of demands from patients running now at total capacity.

India currently ranks 5th on the Medical Tourism Index globally amongst 41 major medical tourism destinations. The world-class treatments, expert professional services, affordable and pleasurable stays make India a preferred destination.

How is the medical value travel business adapting to COVID-19 norms

Taking precautions

Guidelines are prescribed by GHA (Global Healthcare Accreditation) relating to in-hospital visits and air travels, hotel stays, and transportation provisions to assure patients about risk prevention. The protocols and norms are prescribed from the moment patients step off the plane till their return to their native country post-treatment. Best practices in screening and testing have come to the forefront. Imposing visitor restrictions, availability of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning procedures will ensure more patient safety.

Telemedicine – In the wake of COVID-19

Allowing health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat the patients from a remote location, telemedicine is a new approach becoming an integral part of healthcare infrastructure. The rise of IT and the proliferation of smart devices have opened up possibilities to deliver remote healthcare to patients while being in their place. The use of software and electronic communication to provide clinical services to the patients via secure video and audio connections is the new age of health management.

Technology and medical travel

Technological advancements offer touch-free travel experiences, reduced hospital stays, better record keeping, and access with improved recovery time. Service providers are presently expanding their telehealth platforms to reach patients across borders.

Innovations in partnership with hospitals and hospitality partners

Amongst the several segments of the tourism industry, partnerships of the hotel industry with wellness programmes is a critical piece of development. The patients and their companions travelling to other countries for medical treatments have many needs such as transportation, accommodation, food-serving etc. The cost pressures of hospital treatments force a timely discharge of patient compelling hotel partnerships to offer stays nearby at a comparatively low cost.

The hotels and accommodations, partnerships with insurance providers, and transportation facilitators are also strategically situated to accommodate patients’ needs and their companions’ needs. With training to staff for first aid, infrastructural setups, and benchmarking, both healthcare and hospitality sectors can hope to witness greater opportunities than ever before.

In conclusion, the medical travel industry sees a handsome amount of opportunities. Still, hurdles like large financing requirements, community engagement and training, management systems, legal issues, and standardisation must be considered and taken care of.

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