BARACK OBAMA ENDORSEMENT OF INDIAN HEALTHCARE
May 20, 2011
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“My preference would be that you don’t have to travel to Mexico or India to get cheap healthcare. I’d like you to be able to get it right here in the United States of America that’s high quality.” – This statement of President Barack Obama has evidently raised the blood pressure in the India medical professionals much higher than I imagined!
The umbrage evidently has on the use of the term “cheap healthcare”. I think it is finally a matter of perception and how you choose to interpret the same to your convenience. President Obama has already launched his election campaign. He has also proved, yet again, that all politicians are prone to the weakness for political rhetoric targeted at the masses!
For starters the following data should be of interest. Those interested in reading the full article – http://www.businessworld.in/bw/2011_04_16_World_Health_Opportunity.html. There are other articles too but this one is amongst the latest! India has been emerging over the last decade as a dependable destination of quality and affordable healthcare.
Coming back to main part, I would not take offence to the statement but rather look at the same as being very complementary of the capabilities of the Indian healthcare industry, albeit in specific areas and probably islands of excellence! The very fact that the Indian healthcare industry has come on the radar of the President of USA is the best compliment that the Indians can get. It is that context that titled this post as an endorsement of the Indian Healthcare system by President Barack Obama! The medical tourism industry is estimated to be about a billion dollars and going by the above data the contribution of America can at best be in its high teens. If that is troubling the President then we should be truly very proud of the potential!
The larger issue as far as USA and good part of Europe is concerned they are faced with a double whammy not only in terms of cost being extremely exorbitant even by their own standards but also in terms of the cost. On the other hand similar medical treatment was costing a fraction with a holiday thrown in free of cost. One has to see to believe the type of reception these foreign medical tourists get when they are in India. Most of the hospitals that these tourists from these developed nations go to are also have the same quality if one is to go by the fact that they are also accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) the same body that accredits the healthcare organizations in the USA! So other things being equal the only differentiator can be cost and time where India has the advantage!! The caveat being that the dollar is kept artificially high by countries that hold large volumes of treasury bills of USA. I am conscious of the use of the term “volumes” against “value” as not sure if they have the value that purport to have!! In any case the industry will have to make a case for the medical travel not just based on costs but outcomes.
The Indian healthcare industry would do itself well if it goes about the task in a very systematic manner and the opportunities would not be restricted to the biggies. There is enough play for the next level players akin to the tier II and III vendors in the software industry. Initially it would appear as if the only the larger corporates have an opportunity. The industry would have to focus on its processes and protocols where the western world derives a lot of comfort from. The processes would also go a long way to de-risking the profession from any potential medical negligence. What is even more encouraging is that all the delivery is based in India and many more industries can participate in the delivery processes and there is huge opportunity to embark on complementary selling to reduce the market costs even further. For example the travel & hospitality industry could package it attractively so that they benefit out of the process too. The government will also have to play its part in facilitating the process with a little more defined policy on visas for medical travel which from industry feedback appears to be a stumbling block.