A UAE company debuted what is being called the world’s first medical tourism card last month. Ambika Soni, India’s Minister of Tourism and Culture launched the Oceanic HealthPlus (OHP) card at World Travel Market 2006.
The card offers premium healthcare and treatment at special discounted prices to tourists travelling to India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand or UAE. OHP is the brainchild of Oceanic HealthPlus, a subsidiary of Ocean Computers based in Dubai Internet City, and offers discounts on travel, hotel and other leisure facilities in addition to special packages on medical checkups at top-rated hospitals.
Research shows that open-heart surgery could cost up to $70,000 in Britain and up to $150,000 in the US; in India’s best hospitals it could cost between $3,000 and $10,000. Knee surgery (on both knees) costs Rs350,000 ($7,700) in India; in Britain this costs £10,000 ($16,950), more than twice as much. Dental, eye and cosmetic surgeries in Western countries cost three to four times as much as in India.
“Tourists from around the world are beginning to realize the potential of modern and traditional medicine offered in the East,” said Prasad Manjali, general manager, Oceanic HealthPlus. “Hospitals and medical establishments in countries like India, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia have realized the potential of this niche market and have begun to tailor their services for these foreign visitors. The price advantage is, of course, a major selling point. The cost differential across the board is huge: only a tenth and sometimes even a sixteenth of the cost in the West.”
The OHP Card offers the holder one complete executive check-up at hospitals like Wockhardt, Apollo in India, and KPJ Hospitals in Malaysia. Additional medical discounts cover treatments following the executive check up, follow up surgery, accommodation, diagnosis, and pharmacy. For tourists there are also special discounts from hotels, resorts, entry tickets to amusement parks, cinemas, etc.
“We have tried to accommodate the needs not just of the tourist but also for the expatriate returning to his/her country of origin and may want to take advantage of additional discounts on investments like real estate,” said Manjali. “Visitors, especially from the West and the Middle East find Eastern hospitals a very affordable and viable option to grappling with insurance and National medical systems in their native lands. Many prefer to combine their treatments with a visit to the 'exotic east' with their families.”
Medical Tourism can be broadly defined as a health holiday along with a provision for ‘cost effective’ private medical care in collaboration with the tourism industry for patients needing surgical or other forms of specialized treatment. It combines wellness and healthcare alongside leisure and relaxation aimed at rejuvenating a person; mentally, physically and emotionally. It revolves around the idea of drawing the tourist away from his daily routine to a relaxed surrounding in an exotic location.