The link between medical tourism and telemedicine

While medical tourism involves travelling for health and wellness, telemedicine involves e-consultation for the same

Famous Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who has been diagnosed with stage-3 lung cancer left for the US for medical treatment on August 11 after posting on social media: "Hi friends, I am taking a short break from work for some medical treatment". Many actors have died while undergoing treatment or after treatment aboard. Though there are advanced treatment facilities in Mumbai itself, his travelling to the US was mostly aimed at maintaining secrecy about his health status. When people who live in one country travel to another country to receive medical treatment anticipating equal to or greater care with higher quality than they would have in their own country it is called international medical tourism, which is divided into inbound medical tourism and outbound medical tourism. Inbound medical tourism refers to tourists (basically also of outside origin) entering a particular country for medical purposes while outbound medical tourism refers to people traveling from their own country to another country. On the other hand, domestic medical tourism is when people travel to another city, region or state within one's own country to receive expected advanced medical care at affordable rates. Traveling for health and wellness care has a long history. The history of medical tourism begun in the 1930s and this phenomenon became popular among the rich residents of USA and European countries, who wanted to get good quality health services abroad. Since 1983 there has been a pronounced focus on staying fit and healthy and according to the Future Foundation´s Changing Lives Survey, this trend shall continue. In the past years more and more people around the world have learnt about medical tourism and today it is one of the fast developing parts of tourism industry. India is known globally for its low cost and high quality (also varied) medical services. Our services can be availed at about one-tenth the cost of similar services in the United States. Moreover, here too now post-operation treatments and follow-ups are provided through innovative video consultations, which bring confidence of patients in the system. India has also been a prominent exporter of specialty health services in the world. 
In 2015, India ranked as the third most popular destination for medical tourism, when the industry was worth $3 billion. About 234,000 foreign tourists came to India on medical visas that year. The number of arrivals rose to more than double to 495,056 by 2017, according to government data. Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal depend on India for specialty health services. A large number of patients from these three nations come to India for health treatment. In 2013, a total of 56,129 people came to India on medical visas, of which 9,482 were from Afghanistan, 17,814 from Bangladesh, 1,090 from Pakistan as per the tourism data of the Union Ministry. Most of these patients have been treated in hospitals located in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi.
There is a strong connection between telemedicine and medical tourism for through telemedicine people from across the world can consult healthcare specialists from any place of their choice from the confines of their home. Interestingly, Tele is a Greek word meaning "distance "and mederi is a Latin word meaning "to heal". Time magazine called telemedicine "healing by wire". Although initially considered "futuristic" and "experimental," telemedicine is today a reality and has come to stay. Telemedicine is all about using technologies to provide healthcare to patients who have the disadvantage of geographical distance. It has the potential to bridge this distance and facilitate healthcare in remote areas.The World Health Organization (WHO) defines telemedicine as, "The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and injuries, research and evaluation and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities."
Today Fit NorthEast too has joined the bandwagon to offer consultancy services of specialists across the country to patients through telemedicine.
There has been a fast growth of telemedicine during the last few years with enhanced use of telecommunications technology. Incidentally the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has played an important role in its development. NASA's efforts in telemedicine began in early 1960s when humans began flying in space.
Representative image
Image: Representative image
Today Fit NorthEast too has joined the bandwagon to offer consultancy services of specialists across the country to patients through telemedicine. The goal is simple- making NE the happiest and healthiest part of this great nation.

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