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Why and how to undertake medical/ health tour to India?

Treatment in India is world-class, cost-effective and quick
India is becoming preferred destination for medical [=health] tourism. What it means for an American or a European national is no lengthy wait, less expenditure and possibly some fun too. For an African or Asian national, it might sometimes mean a life saved. 
Let me explain. If you are in the US or Europe and have been diagnosed with some ailment that needs a surgical or non-surgical procedure, chances are that you would have to spend a lot of money besides waiting in the long queue. The treatment is available and yet it is inaccessible. On the other hand, the same treatment, and of the same standard, is available at a fraction of the cost in many Indian hospitals. The icing on the cake is that many hospitals have now arrangement with travel organisers in a way that you and your family can also visit tourist places while in India. It also helps in healing as you get a nice post-treatment experience. In most cases, an entire family can have a nice tour along with treatment in India within the cost of the same medical procedure in the home country. 

If you are in a country where medical facilities are not advanced, you gain by coming to India too. India will give you the same treatment in a fraction of cost of that in an advanced nation.

A comparison in the Companion Global Healthcare website shows that in many cases the medical costs in top class Indian hospitals are less than one-tenth of those in the US. For example, heart valve replacement costs $179,605 in the south-eastern US while it costs $10,000 - $14,000 in Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai and Bangalore. Similarly, hip replacement costs $91,787 in the US while it costs $7,000 - $9,000 in these hospitals.

Besides, India offers alternative therapies, which are better than the mainline allopathic system for many chronic diseases, and their value as preventive therapy and body-mind-healing is immense.

Most common treatments availed of by foreigners in India are cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, joint replacements, transplants, cosmetic treatments, dental care and orthopaedic surgery. Among the most popular diagnostic services are: full body pathology, comprehensive physical and gynecological examinations, audiometry, spirometry, chest X-ray, 12 lead ECG, 2D echo colour doppler, gold standard DXA bone densitometry, body fat analysis, coronary risk markers, cancer risk markers, high strength MRI. The medical infrastructure and technology available in hospitals treating foreigners are in par with those in the US and Europe. In addition, India has a wide range of tourist destinations that suit all types of tastes, and English language is spoken and understood in most parts of the country. Tele-consultancy is available for expert opinion and transmission facilities, and post-treatment facilities are also available in many centres.

There are dozens of hospitals offering medical facilities to foreigners and a number of tourism agencies have started providing tourism-cum-medical packages in association with such hospitals. Some hospitals have online query and booking service for international patients, some even have a cell to look after all visa, currency, travel, interpretation and other needs of foreigners. Some hospitals also have arrangements with hospitals abroad, especially in the neighboring countries.

Some of the well-known hospitals providing world-class treatment are: Tata Memorial Hospital [for cancer] at Mumbai; Fortis healthcare at many locations [includes Escorts Hospital and Research Centre at Delhi]; Max hospitals at Delhi; Wockhardt hospitals at Mumbai and Bangaluru; B.M.Birla Heart Research Centre at Kolkata; Apollo group of hospitals at Delhi, Chennai and many other places; Amrita Institute at Cochin; Metro hospital at NOIDA, near Delhi.

Foreigners coming to India for treatment and their attendants need a medical visa. The terms and conditions for obtaining such a visa are given below [the following is the text of relevant visa rules as of 2010]. This visa can be obtained from all Indian High Commissions / Embassies. After arriving in India, they are required to register themselves with the concerned Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) / Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) within 14 days; hospitals mostly help in getting this formality done.

Chapter 3A Medical Visa
42A Conditions
A medical category visa may be issued with the following conditions:
a. The Indian Missions/Posts abroad may scrutinize the medical documents very carefully and satisfy themselves about the bonafide purpose for which medical treatment visa is being requested.
b. Mission may satisfy that the applicant has sought preliminary medical advice from his country of origin/country of residence and he has been advised to go for specialized medical treatment.
In case the foreign national desires to go for treatment under the Indian system of Medicines, his case may also be considered.
c. This type of visa should be granted for seeking medical attendance only in reputed / recognized specialized hospitals/ treatment centers in the country.
Although non exhaustive, following illustrative list of ailments would be of primary consideration; serious ailments like neuro-surgery; ophthalmic disorders; heart related problems; reneal disorders; organ transplantations; plastic surgery;joint replacement etc.. The basic idea would be that the mission may satisfy about the need of the foreign national to come to India for medical treatment/ health enhancements.
42B Validity of visa and extension of visa
The initial period for such a visa may be upto a period of one year or the period of treatment whichever less, which can be extended for a further period upto one year be the State Government/ FRROs on the production of medical certificate/ advice from the reputed/ recognized/ specialized hospitals in the country. Any further extension will be granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs only on the recommendations of the State Government/ FRROs supported by appropriate Medical documents. Such visa will be valid for maximum three entries during one year.
State Government/ FRROs may permit one additional entry in emergent situation if required.
42C Registration
Foreigners coming on ‘M visa’ will be required to get themselves registered mandatorily well within the period of 14 days of arrival with the concerned FRROs/ FROs
42D Visa to attendant/ family members
Attendant/family members of the patient coming to India for medical treatment shall be granted miscellaneous visa co-terminus with the ‘M Visa’ of the patient. Such visa may be granted the spouse/ children or those who have blood relations with the patient. However, not more than two attendants may be allowed at a time for grant of miscellaneous visa. Such visa will be called ‘MX visa’. Such foreigners are also required to get themselves registered with the local FRROs/ FROs well within 14 days from the date of arrival.
42E Registration for Pak and Bangladeshi National
It may be clarified that ‘ Medical Visa’ will be available to all the foreign nationals including China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. However Registration formalities for Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals will be as per the provisions contained in para 106 in respect of Bangladeshi national and para 118 of the visa manual in respect of Pakistani nationals. Similarly entry and departure of these foreign nationals will also be governed as per the existing policy in respect o these nationals.

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