Internet narratives focused on health travelers' experiences in India: Qualitative analysis

Joseph Brown, James Johnson, Margaret E. Ozan-Rafferty, Manoj Sharma, Salvatore Barbera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The medical tourism industry is currently popular in India, but there is no confirmation of the common perspectives among the country's medical travelers. Objective: This qualitative research study analyzed web-based narratives from health travelers visiting India and described the themes of their experiences. This study aimed to answer the following primary question: What can we learn about health travelers' experiences in India from an analysis of their web-based narratives? The secondary questions were as follows: (1) What are the primary health care reasons for which patients in the examined narratives traveled to India? (2) What can be derived from the narratives regarding medical tourists' satisfaction with the outcome and result of the treatment they received in India? (3) What are some positive and negative factors influencing medical tourists' perceptions and overall experiences about their health travel to India? (4) What are the characteristics of medical tourists who write web-based narratives regarding their health experiences in India? Methods: Publicly available narratives written by medical tourists who visited India were obtained from a Google search. The narratives included blog posts and discussion board posts by medical tourists. The analysis process consisted of initial open coding being conducted on the narratives to create initial codes and identify common themes with a focus on the primary research question and subquestions. Results: Although Mumbai, Chennai, and New Delhi were not the only destination cities mentioned, these were the most popular cities patients visited for care. The medical tourists, who stated their origin country, came from one of the following continents: Africa, Europe, North America, and Oceania. Dental care, Ayurveda treatment, and eye care were the most popular types of care that medical tourists sought. The results showed that most of the medical tourists were happy with the overall experience of receiving care in India. The most popular themes with regard to the patients' satisfaction were low costs, good customer service, and services being offered that were unavailable in their home country. When negative feedback was provided, it was mainly concentrated on the overall environment of India being unorganized and unsanitary. Conclusions: Primarily, the study's findings can benefit health care providers and patients. Providers hosting medical tourists in India can use negative feedback to improve their services; similarly, providers who are losing patients to medical tourism can identify opportunities for improvement (ie, why are we losing patients). Indian providers hosting medical tourists should keep their prices competitive and continue to provide exceptional service; however, they should do their best to lessen the crowdedness of their facilities while making sure they are esthetically pleasing. Providers losing patients to medical tourism need to identify ways to ensure their services match the benefits that their international counterparts are providing, such as competitive pricing and expansion on the services provided.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15665
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume22
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • Data collection
  • Delivery of health care
  • Global health
  • India
  • Medical tourism
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Personal narratives
  • Qualitative research
  • Travel
  • Travel-related illness

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