A reversal of medical tourism now has Americans making a beeline for India, seeking latest and cheaper treatments.
Source : Indo-Asian News Service
Until recently, it was the other way round, with Indians rushing to the US for better cure facilities.
However, with the state-of-art medical procedures, equipment and facilities now available in India, patients from developed countries like Canada and Britain are flocking to Indian hospitals.
The Indian medical fraternity conquered the "final frontier" when Americans too started coming here for the latest medical procedures, which are either not available in their country or are much more expensive.
Robert Walter Beeney was unable to walk due to a stiff hip when he landed in India Jan 24. Twenty days later, he not only recovered after a rare hip replacement surgery at Apollo Hospital here but also visited the famous Taj Mahal in Agra after that.
The 64-year-old real estate consultant from San Francisco underwent successful surface replacement surgery using the anatomic surface replacement (ASR) hip system Jan 27, reportedly becoming the first US national to come to India for the treatment.
Another patient from Florida will be landing in Chennai for a similar procedure at the Apollo Hospital there later this week.
A team of doctors, led by orthopaedic surgeon Vijay Bose, carried out the procedure for Beeney.
Jayaramchander Pingle, a member of the medical team, told a news conference Tuesday that while in the conventional hip replacement surgery, the total hip was replaced, in the new system, the patient's original head and neck of femur were preserved and only their surface is replaced with metal on metal articulation.
With the use of very advanced metallurgy in this device, the wear and tear is reduced to a fraction in the artificial joint as opposed to the conventional total hip replacement.
Another advantage of the latest procedure is that in the event of any problem that may occur in the long term, the conventional total hip replacement can be done at a later stage.
Beeney, who came to know about the procedure in India through the Internet, said that since this was not yet cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration, he decided to come here.
"This is despite the fact that the device that is fixed in the hip is made in the US," he said.
He also had other options like going to Britain or Belgium for treatment. "But I preferred India as the treatment costs there are huge," he said.
The treatment in India cost him $6,600 (Rs.300,000) while the same as a part of clinical trial in US would have cost $24,000. Even in Britain, where this procedure was first developed a few years ago, it would have cost 12,000 pounds.
Sangita Reddy, executive director of Apollo Hospitals, hoped that doors of the $1.7 trillion US healthcare industry would now open for Indian hospitals.
While the patients from Afro-Asian countries, the Middle East, Canada, Britain and other parts of the world had been coming to India, Beeney's case was significant as he chose India after a thorough research, she added.
The Apollo group, one of Asia's largest private healthcare providers, gets seven percent of its turnover from international patients. The group's total turnover during 2003-04 was Rs.5 billion.
The Apollo group in India treated 43,000 foreign patients during the last three and a half years.