As medical tourism has to address two big eco systems, a separate regulator and a separate facilitator unit have to be designed as it's precondition. We have plenty of opportunities to learn from our neighbour and nearby nations.
Medical tourism is simply a joint domain of two domains, as suggested by its name. Renamed "medical value travel," it is described as a purposeful cross-country visit in order to obtain treatment or any form of healthcare service. Per se, tourism, and healthcare can be collaborated in other forms as well like emergency healthcare of a tourist or parallel healthcare product sell in the period of usual travel. Nevertheless, the term "medical tourism" should be exclusively used for the designated international trip to obtain medical services.
This is not only a phenomenon but also a trillion-dollar global industry growing in a leap frog pattern in the last two decades on the basis of its centuries-long history. Nepal should join the discussion in connection with the fact that seven out of the top ten countries renowned for their inbound medical tourism are from our own continent. Importantly, Nepal in itself is adopting tourism as a priority industry owing to its supporting factors of nature, culture, and adventure, which equally remain as predisposing factors for medical tourism. The same optimal factors that precipitate tourists' attraction commonly work for medical tourism too. The only steps forward that remain are preparing a suitable end-to-end packaged medical product in a step-ladder fashion topped by the coverage of legality, policy, strategy, ethics, and willingness.
Moreover, an entire eco system connected with two big eco systems of tourism and healthcare should be threaded in a single garland or, let's say, streamlined deliberately, which seemingly looks a bit challenging but becomes very productive in the long run for overall growth of both the sectors, tourism and healthcare. It's unnecessary to elaborate on the advantages of medical tourism; they're so evident. This, on the one hand, multiplies the potential of tourism as an added product, and, on the other hand, strengthens all facets of healthcare, thereby benefiting the entire country and all citizens, whether by advancing healthcare quality from every angle or by establishing standards, protocol, cost standardisation, regulation, ethics, and technology-driven scientific practice, all of which will be regarded as the fundamentals of practicing healthcare on a foreign citizen in an affluent country.
Having said this, we are not mature enough yet to draw any conclusive punchline regarding Nepal's potential in the same. Neither can we say Nepal can start catering to medical tourism right away in the status quo circumstances, nor can we say Nepal won't be able to scoop the pie of medical tourism at all. A balanced, pragmatic sentence would be, 'Nepal can obtain it if moved deliberately and prioritised accordingly." The example of a child delivery focused hospital about to be operated in Lumbini upon the interest and investment of the Sri Lankan government with the objective of letting Sri Lankan women deliver the baby in the Lumbini area, endorsing their deep rooted thought of instilling Buddhism in new-born babies, can be a good reflection of medical tourism practice.
From periodic discussion among stakeholders and potential key players from policy, politics, providers, and planners, Nepal can choose very few sectors in the first phase. Ayurveda, cosmetics, delivery, and fertility care could be among those start up segments. After the preparatory phase of policy, legality, discussions, and conclusion, the next phase of implementation can be started by calling on public hospitals, private players (including FDI), and tourism operators. The branding should be of international standards by creating a punchline like 'Heal in the Hill' for Ayurveda practice in the panorama of Nepal. 'Baby from the Land of Buddha (BLOB)', 'Mountain, source of age gain', 'brighten the face like a mountain' and many more phrases can be of high attraction.
As medical tourism has to address two big eco systems, a separate regulator and a separate facilitator unit have to be designed as it's precondition. We have plenty of opportunities to learn from our neighbour and nearby nations. Once we go for it and have real taste of the domain, we all start saying the title statement 'yes, medical tourism is a magical win-win'.
(Dr. Pyakurel is a medical professional and founding CEO of Health Concern, and founder of Mediflow solution.)