Times of India,
By Shabnam Minwalla
A few months ago, Dr Niteen Dehia of Laser Eye Vision received an unusual request. A busload of Britishers, who were planning a trip to Goa, wanted to stop over in Mumbai to correct their vision through Lasik surgery.
The doctor was happy to oblige, and is now preparing for the 15 bespectacled tourists who will be arriving in December.
When Dr. Aniruddha Malpani decided to invest Rs 25 lakhs in equipment for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis - a technique used to rule out genetic disorders in the embryo- he knew that "only the rich and desperate" in India would come forward. But he suspected that international patients might be interested.
The hunch paid off. Half the inquiries that Dr Malpani has fielded in this connection have come from abroad. And in January, he will be undertaking the highly specialised procedure for an American couple.
Recently, a surprised Dr. Kanir Bhatia found himself scheduling appointments around flight timings and tourist itineraries.
An American who was coming to India to see the Taj, had decided to undergo a complicated dental procedure as well.
If these cases are any indication, more and more visitors are arriving in India for reasons which have as much to do with stethoscopes as sight-seeing. For, given the fact that top-of-the-line medical treatment is available in Mumbai for a fraction of the Manchester or Muscat rate, international patients have actually begun to contemplate facelift-cum-Fatehpur Sikri trips to India.
"Even if you include the price of the ticket and some sight-seeing, dental work like teeth implants and smile design work out cheaper here," says Dr Bhatia, a cosmetic dentist and implantologist. Concurs Dr Vijay Sharma, a cosmetic surgeon with a steady international clientele, "The entire country is focused on the IT revolution. But if we play our cards right, healthcare could well be the next boom."
To say that 'medical tourism' is already a trend may be overstating maters somewhat. But there is an undeniable trickle of international patients, especially in areas like cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, infertility treatment and eye surgery.
These branches are often denied insurance in countries like the U.S. and Canada, or are considered extremely low priority by national healthcare systems in countries like the UK.
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