It is a chilly January morning, the cool breeze is freezing the bare hands of the two gentlemen who have just stepped out of an auto-rickshaw not far away from the Huda City Centre metro station in Gurgaon.
Despite the chills, the regular bustle of a Monday morning is visible outside the Tech Park at Sector 49 in Gurgaon which is swarmed by men and women in corporate attires, speeding towards their respective offices and departments.
Thirty nine year old Manish Chandra and thirty five year old Pankaj Chandna have a work experience of fifteen years with IRCTC e-ticketing, British Telecom; and twelve years with Lybrate and ‘Doctor on Call’ respectively. Other than being co founders of Vaidam, both share a common alma mater, IIM Lucknow.
Vaidam officially started as Vaidam Health in May 2016, from funds raised by the duo through a Singapore-based venture. A booming start up in the healthcare sector, Vaidam aims to be the know-all place for medical tourists in India.
The organisation focuses on patients travelling to India for treatments giving them a two-way traffic platform to research and inquire about doctors, hospitals, treatment costs in the city through a detailed inquiry-based application system provided in their official website.
As the future forecast for India’s medical tourism industry is a bright one, the government is doing its best in assuring that the bulk of medical travellers from around the globe choose the subcontinent as their primary destination. In the process, many not-for-profit organisations and non-government ventures have skyrocketed, with dedicated websites on treatment-related information for medical tourists. These companies are developing digital connect with the global audience through their websites that take care of the tiniest details – from getting visas, to procuring affordably good accommodation, treatment costs in hospitals, airfare and daily transport.
Medical Dialogues, Plan my medical trip, Doctor on call, Deva medical tours, myMEDholiday, India hospital tour.com, Peace medical tourism and Delhi Medical Tourism are some non-government associations that are assisting medical tourists from Middle East, Africa, Australia and around the world. These organisations function as information-providers for a potential medical tourist at first, and then take up the entire facilitation of treatment of tourists through their network of professionals.
The process starts when a foreign patients drops a query on the website regarding his disease and treatment. The organisation then accesses the patient’s previous medical reports and checks for the patient’s preferences, collating a list of doctors, hospitals and treatment costs.
“Most of the foreign medical tourists we receive are from Middle East, Africa and CIS countries,” says Pankaj Chandna from Vaidam, when asked about their frequent customers.
These organisations across Delhi generally have their own workspaces within industrial units in Noida, Gurgaon, and New Delhi itself. These are usually tradtional office set ups with cubicles and desks laden with stationery items and coffee cups all over, separate counters demarcating one department from another.
Chandna explains, “We have a proper team divided into sections to cater the needs of medical tourists who look to us with a sense of trust.”
He talks about the managing team behind these organisations – doctors, digital marketing experts, software engineers, interpreters, patient accounts managers and other personnel for ferrying patients to and from the airport.
Within the organisation, a team is also engaged in visa assistance, travel planning and lodging during the stay. Patient account managers perform the tedious task of browsing through applicants economic status and preferences, specially of those coming from war-torn regions like Kenya, Ghana, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, to determine the suitable costs and packages for the required surgery. Cost becomes a huge factor for medical tourists facing problems in the hands of middlemen operating within the private hospital ecosystem.
“Factors that attract medical tourists to India other than costs are easy access and facilities,” says Chandna. On asking about touts and middlemen, he shares how a lot of people are troubled due to language barriers and that often to get easy timelines within their visa period, they get into the hold of middlemen to speed the procedure.
Having worked with both private and government health institutions in USA, Chile, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand, Chandna knows the pros and cons of the industry well. While he personally has not heard of cheats in his one year association with Vaidam, he does agree there is a lot misleading and misguiding under covers. “One of the major reasons for the boom in medical tourism organisations is in fact to help people know about cost effective and reliable institutions for their health against inexperienced relatives and doctors guiding them wrongly,” says Chandna.
He expresses that there are patients who come under unregistered organisations and professional thugs who, in the absence of regulatory authorities are dampening future prospects of the medical tourism industry. “Of course these patients coming through registered organisations come to us directly through website and generally we do not come across any troubled one but everyone has a story to tell,” says Chandna closing a patient’s file with his signature approving the final choice of the surgery due in India in the coming month.
Below is a list of international embassies in the Indian Capital, Delhi who can be contacted in case of any queries: