Over 70 per cent of people suffering from non-communicable diseases from the northeastern States of the country migrate to other States for treatment, according to the “State of Healthcare in Rural India (2023)” report, highlighting the need for greater attention to “domestic medical tourism”.
While services for international medical professionals have gained momentum, “domestic medical tourism” has been overlooked, said the survey by the Development Intelligence Unit (DIU), a collaboration between Transform Rural India and Sambodhi Research. This was evident from the significant 63 per cent of Indians with family members suffering from NCD (non-communicable diseases) choosing to migrate to States outside of theirs to access better healthcare services, it added.
“73 per cent in the northeast travel for treatments of NCD. This statistic is at 60 per cent for people in the northern states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, 44 per cent in central India’s states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh…,” the study said. It was conducted with a sample size of 6,478 respondents across 20 States.
Shyamal Santra, TRI Associate Director of Public Health and Nutrition, said it was evident that there are no alternatives to improved, modernised and transformed healthcare services at primary level with a specific focus on underdeveloped regions to reduce the need for long-distance travel for treatment. “The compulsion of travel in the quest for quality medical treatment adds emotional and financial stress to the patients and their families.
Calling for a comprehensive and equitable approach, Santra said attention was also required to build trust within local healthcare ecosystems (bringing innovations, start-ups, public, private, etc) and communities to create a conducive environment for patients to access comprehensive care services within the locality.
Other insights from the report included the need to mainstream AYUSH. About 28 per cent patients in Southern India are inclined to traditional medicines and treatment methodologies. Furhter, it pointed out, the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY programme had been effective in ensuring social security, among vulnerable people by providing cashless secondary and tertiary medical treatment and care. “However, out-of-pocket-expenditure (OOPE) in various contexts have surfaced in this survey thereby calling to action for strengthening of comprehensive primary health care.” it said.
Pointing to some of the Centre’s initiatives, the report said, 91 per cent of respondents had not availed telemedicine services for household members. “This creates a ground for strengthening the healthcare delivery system through tele-health and mobile medical units (MMU),” it pointed out.