For many years, India targeted Europeans and Americans for cosmetic surgery and other non-essential treatment at a very low price. It has reluctantly found that most people seeking these services when offered prices a tenth or a fifth of at home, are scared off as cosmetic surgery requires pampering and care, and it is not an area where people compromise on quality to save money; and however good Indian cosmetic surgery actually is, the European and US mindset is that if looks cheap then it must also be low quality.
Also, offering Americans and Western Europeans conveyor belt surgery at knock down prices, even if the medical service is perfect, misses the mark. Apart from people already in India for other reasons, most of those attracted from the West are of ethnic Indian origin and accepting of low cost surgery with few extras.
On the other hand, people from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa often do not have home based alternatives, accept a more basic standard of customer care, and are more price driven. Many of these come for chronic and serious medical treatment which is why there are divisions emerging between those keen to emphasize the serious nature of treatment and those still promoting the older "come to India for low price treatment and have a holiday, too" approach.
Market research consulting firm RNCOS estimates that 2010 saw 600,000 patients travelling to India and spending $1 billion in getting treated there. But even they admit that these are industry estimates, as the government does not have any official statistics. Hospital groups such as Apollo, Fortis Hospital and Max estimate that the business is growing by 30% to 40% year-on-year.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 80% of foreign patients going to India are from neighbouring Asian countries and from Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, and increasingly from Africa. PwC admits that they and the industry expected most patients to come from the US and for cosmetic and regenerative treatment. But the majority actually comes from other countries and for cardiac treatment, cancer treatment, knee replacement and other serious ailments. Therefore, tourism is not really of importance.
[Source: International Medical Travel Journal]