For the last two years, I've had to run several times to hospitals to get my family members treated. It's been tough. And if it wasn't for some close relatives and friends who are doctors, it would have been even tougher. That's because for every little thing in India, one needs a second opinion just so you know that the hospital is not fleecing you and doctors are not asking you to get medical tests done without reason.
When we plan a holiday, we just click on any travel portal, check on the airline tickets and hotels and get feedback on which hotel is better for a stay.
This is also the case with medical tourism. I did a Google search with the terms "medical tourism India" and came across at least four good Web sites that had a lot of information about the hospitals in India, along with cost comparisons with at least 6 to 7 other countries, that give the patient a valid reason to take a trip to India for his medical procedure. The portals also help with other procedures concomitant with medical tourism.
Two days back, I received a press release on India's first national health portal--guidemytreatment.com--with which Indians can book thier appointments with doctors or diagnostic centers. It also has some information for people seeking help for medical services.
This is probably just a start. What India needs is more such portals where one can expect some honest views and reviews on the local hospitals and the various services they offer. This process would bring about more transparency in the system, while providing millions of people across the country access to information about hospitals.
But before that, I think some new regulations can help bring about a change in this sector. I wonder what's stopping the Indian government to come out with regulations for telemedicine, and also a process whereby hospitals and doctors can be rated?
While foreigners continue to come in large numbers to India each year and enjoy the world-class medical facilities in our hospitals, Indians across the rural parts of the country continue to perish due to lack of proper healthcare facilities. Medical insurance is yet to reach the poorest of the poor. And the only way primary healthcare services can be improved is by taking technology to rural India--be it through NGOs (non-governmental organizations), mobile heathcare buses or telemedicine.
While it will take quite some time for good healthcare services to penetrate the smaller towns and villages of India, more information for patients through portals and some simple technological innovations can go a long way in making a difference to our healthcare sector.