Healthcare is expected to be one of the key features of the Prime Minister’s speech on India’s 76th Independence Day.There is a possibility that the Prime Minister could present an umbrella healthcare programme replacing current flagship schemes. The aim would be to provide affordable equitable and high quality healthcare.One of the features of the scheme likely to be unveiled by the Prime Minister is “Heal India” which will be to push medical tourism into India and “Heal by India” which will possibly encourage the idea of doctors from India going abroad to practice as well.The inbound medical tourism initiatives will aim to create a platform to provide international patients to choose their hospitals as per their package rates, facilities, services in any part of the country.Where does medical tourism stand today?Most of the patients are from Middle East, North Africa, Bangladesh and the Maldives coming in for elective surgeries. This inflow of patients had dwindled to almost nil due to COVID-19 and has picked up significantly since flights opened earlier this year.In the past six months, most multispecialty pan-India hospitals such as Fortis, Max, Manipal have seen international patients recover to or close to pre-COVID-19 levels. The recovery is especially visible in the April-to-June quarter of FY23. For example. Fortis which has over 4,000 beds across the country, saw its international patient revenue grow 126 percent year-on-year to Rs 89 crore in Q1, now contributing to 7.5 percent of its total sales versus around 4 percent a year ago and 6.5 percent last quarter.Similarly, Max, which has 85 percent of beds in metros got around 8 percent of their business from international patients and indicated footfalls are back at pre-COVID-19 levels despite negligible inflows from Afghanistan, which is one of its key territories.Meanwhile Apollo Hospitals, which is one of the largest chains in the country with close to 10 000 beds, saw its contribution of international patients pick up, but still not back to pre-COVID-19 levels. It expects international patients to be around 12 percent of its business this year versus 15 percent which was one of its peaks.What makes medical tourism so lucrative in India?The key advantage, experts say, is the pricing of medical procedures in the country, which is affordable or at par with competitive countries such as Singapore and Turkey. The other advantage is clinical skill sets in India and softer advantages such as lower language barriers, all this means India provides quality healthcare at affordable rates.Hospitals in fact expect factors such as pent-up demand, air travel and issuances of medical visas to help further the recovery. An initiative such as “Heal India” by the government is also expected to further boost demand. It will also help provide credibility authenticity to the medical tourism initiative in India according to experts.