Northeast: Prospects & Constraints in Healthcare Sector


Tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon related to the movement of people to places outside their usual place of residence. An inexpensive vacation package combined with a low cost medical treatment has led to the evolution of a new but rapidly growing industry called medical tourism. Medical tourism is organized in such a manner that leisure time inculcate with enjoyment and recreation together with wellness and health care packages in a country other than the place of residence.  People may travel to other countries either because the cost of treatments in other countries is relatively lesser or because their own country does not offer the same standard of treatments or lacks the facilities that are required for a specific treatment. Besides, medical tourism might help improve healthcare services and lead to more employment, help in improving the infrastructure, technology, and education, in order to attract more tourists.

Nevertheless in this rapidly growing consumer-oriented health industry, quality has become the integral part. Without providing quality services, no business can survive. Quality is a very important concern for patients while planning to get treatment. The fast growth of the medical tourism industry has created a great demand for professionals who are trained in medical tourism and have a thorough understanding of medical tourism as a business. Most hospitals now have dedicated teams who work with international organizations and medical tourism companies to attract more and more international patients. Even smaller hospitals and private clinics are pushing their way through to attract more clients and increase revenues. Professionals who have good understanding of marketing concepts and have a formal training in medical tourism is what employers are commonly looking for.

Customer service has become very important where patients may draw a line between their choices among the available options. This becomes very important for patients that affect their choice of nation, medical facility and the doctor.  For the medical patient, the technical quality is a prime object because the proper treatment of patients largely depends upon the proper diagnoses of the diseases through up-to-date equipment. Thus, delivering quality services to the customers is a must in order to attract more foreign patients. Healthcare is actually a very individual and critical service and a whole lot of deliberation needs to be exercised in the particular decision of turning to medical vacation. Healthcare is actually an area where the end result of the actual service will be shared between the service provider and the particular patient. Hence, the proper allocation of time toward the patients should be consistent in terms of service. Therefore, individual focus should be given to customers. A certain amount of time should be provided to the customers for their proper treatment. As medical tourism is a part of the overall service industry, hence, patients are the core for this business to grow.

The North-Eastern states that comprises of eight states- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura are well blessed by nature and it lies at the centre of one of the world’s richest bio-geographic areas. It has a rich cultural and ethnic heritage and exotic presence of flora and fauna that can easily make it a tourist spot. Besides having spectacular biodiversity, wildlife, snow-capped Himalayas, tropical forests, shrines of diverse religions, and prominent archaeological sites, the Northeast India provides an immense opportunity for medical tourism. So, medical treatment in Northeast means adding new life to health. The region is blessed with abundant natural resources for industrial development and social development as well however they have not been utilised to their full potential. Though, a number of literatures available with regard to the tourism industry and the competitiveness of the destination, nevertheless, the major aspects which determine the satisfaction of medical tourists are hardly focused specifically on Northeast India.

India has historically been a regional healthcare center for neighbouring countries. Besides with the emergence of private sector and introduction of technology in medicine, there is greater access to medical care for the Indian public and a growing international patient-base. While mainland India has turned into a well-established destination, Northeast states Health sector is ailing, traditionally, due to several factors like the lack of medical awareness, low penetration of medical insurance, and low doctor to population ratio. However, it has come a long way and has witnessed a healthy growth in past few years is some states like Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya in medical tourism. In recent years, Guwahati has become a new destination of health services.

Northeast states still lags behind in health related infrastructure in the primary health care sector, when compared to other mainland states. Improvement of health infrastructure of hospitals and other complementary structures, as well as technologies and skills are required. Skill shortage is a biggest barrier to the promotion of medical tourism in Northeast India. Except Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya (post graduate institute), the rest of the Northeast states do not have a single credible medical college. To sustain the medical tourism in Northeast India, states should give more focus in medical education.

Leaving aside technical quality, the northeast states has well-educated, English-speaking medical staff in state-of-the art private hospitals and diagnostic facilities, however it has insufficient transport and communication facilities, unavailability of average standard accommodation, inadequate public services systems, frequent power cut-offs, communication gaps between tourists and people, flash floods, heavy rainfall, waterlogged and potholes roads, landslides, insurgency problems of the states, poverty and poor living standards of the people etc. It is well known that tourism is widely sensitive to political instability and political environment, which has a great impact on the tourism industry in any region. Northeast states are struggling to achieve economic growth and to escape from its political and economic dependence.

Northeast India is gaining attraction of foreign and domestic investors under the Act East Policy. The northeast region has certain distinct advantages. It is strategically located with access to the adjacent countries such as Bangladesh and Myanmar. The region is also an entry point for the South-East Asian markets. All the eight states have different developmental prospects and resources to support their efforts in contributing to the regional as well as national economy. Medical tourism has the potential to bring huge investment in Northeast India and generate jobs. Government and ministries (tourism & health) need to work closely with public and private sectors for policy building and in decision making for the development of medical tourism. The socio-cultural factors emphasize that people are aware of the importance of medical tourism and appreciate such developments for the State.

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