Challenges in medical tourism

By Priya Chetty on September 25, 2012

Medical tourism is a recent buzzword in the market combining the two of the fastest growing industries in the world; healthcare and tourism. Medical tourism is not a new concept however as this practice of traveling for seeking the best healthcare was present in ancient times also. The only difference is that earlier the wealthy patients from less developed countries used to travel to developed countries in order to avail the technologically most advanced medical facilities. Over the time the scene is reverse and now the less wealthy population from developed nations is increasingly seeking expert healthcare services at most affordable rates and quick response in the developing countries. India is considered to be one of the best destinations for medical tourism due to the availability of specialized team of doctors and world-class medical treatments along with world famous exotic tourist attractions. The medical tourism sector has lot of potential to grow but is also confronted with many challenges that need to be tackled. The major challenges in the field of medical tourism that countries face across the globe are as follows:

Follow-Up problems

The follow up care is very difficult in case of medical tourism. If the patient gets any complications after surgery and is back to his own country, the follow up is not only difficult but expensive also. Though Information Technology (IT) has helped a lot in this but sometimes personal meeting with the doctor becomes inevitable. This is a challenge that countries are still struggling against in medical tourism because this reduces the demand.

Language barriers

Language barriers pose major challenge in medical tourism. The country may offer expert doctors and highly sophisticated medical systems but if the doctors, nurses and other medical staff do not understand the language of the patient, the whole process becomes extremely difficult for the patient as well as the staff. So the cultural and language barriers also influence demand.

Brain drain

In the countries with a pool of talented doctors and nurses like India, it is a major challenge to retain these professionals. There is shortage of such skilled professionals in most countries across the globe and thus they are offered the best salaries abroad. Brain drain takes place due to lack of opportunities in the home country.

Lack of infrastructure

Many developing countries including India face problems due to poor infrastructural support in medical services. There are problems related to proper water and power supply, poor hygiene in hospitals including unhygienic surroundings, untidy staff and low quality food and lodging, along with poor air connectivity to support patients’ inflow in the country.

Lack of professionalism

The medical staff in most developing countries lacks professionalism and behavioral aspects. The soft skills of medical workforce like warmth, concern, and friendliness, and professional skills like interpersonal skills, loyalty and appearance are still underdeveloped and it negatively influences the customers’ service experience.

Difficulties in promotion

The countries like India also suffer from problems of promotion in medical tourism. There is a lack of quality accreditation and regulation in the hospitals and other medical service providers. Apart from this there is no uniform pricing and standardization of services acting as barrier in building customers’ trust on the services offered.

Legal problems

One of the serious concerns in medical tourism relate to differences in laws in different countries. There are no uniform laws and moreover, in most countries there are weak laws for malpractice in medical services which leave patients with fewer options to fight for their rights in case they are cheated or if something goes wrong during the whole medical process.


  • Dawn, S. & Pal, S. “Medical Tourism in India: Issues, Opportunities and Designing Strategies for Growth and Development. Vol.1 Issue 3, July 2011. Zenith International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research.
  • Swain, D. & Sahu, S. “Opportunities and Challenges of Health Tourism in India”. Conference on Tourism in India-Challenges Ahead. 15-17 May, 2008.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).



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