“If I had not travelled to India for treatment then God knows what would have been my destiny!” This comment from 42 year old Satish Vijaywargi of Uzbekistan having received fast and affordable life-saving surgery at The Apex Heart Institute in India.
For people who are faced with the difficult choice between bankruptcy, long-waiting times with associated risks and death, medical tourism has been the answer and India is quickly becoming the premier destination for foreigners seeking those quality treatments – and in particular a hospital and doctor that has been in worldwide headlines in the last twelve months.
One year ago Dr Tejas Patel, a renowned interventional cardiologist and Chairman of Apex Heart Institute in Ahmedabad, India, created world-breaking history through tele-robotics by performing an angioplasty on a woman from 32 kilometres away. In July 2018, Dr. Patel was involved in the animal study of distant tele-robotic stenting carried out at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. It was done on several pig models who were laid in the cath-lab on the 12th floor and the procedures were done by giving commands to the robot using the internet bandwidth sitting on the console at the 2nd floor of the same building.
Apex is said to be the first hospital outside the US that use Vascular Robotic Technology for coronary intervention.
Following the landmark surgery in December 2018, Patel and his team went on to complete four additional angioplasties with stent implantation in separate patients from his console that was based at the Akshardham temple. The results of the surgeries, published in the Lancet in September 2019, were astonishing, with every patient being discharged after 24 hours with no complications.
The success of these surgeries could be a step forward for the treatment of the number one cause of death globally (according to the World Health Organisation). “I feel a lot of pride that I could do this for my country,” says Patel of the tele-surgeries. “When this grows, it’s going to be good for humanity. There are so many underprivileged areas where no senior doctor wants to settle. For patients with serious conditions there might be only junior doctors available where they live.”
It has built Dr Patel and his team a reputation for cardiac care that has spread globally and now he treats patients that come from all around the world as part of a medical tourism revolution that is predicted to be a $9 billion industry by 2020 according to Ministry of Tourism figures, and become 20% of the global market share. In fact, every day the institute books foreigners in for treatment from around the world and in particular, the US, UK, Nigeria and Uganda and with the medical visa process having been simplified to allow multiple entries and long-term stay it has made it even easier. Plus, in order to gain credibility and avert suspicions associated with quality of care, top hospitals have been certified by international accreditation schemes that enhance visibility and attract more patients.
Dr Patel, who is credited with over 100,000 cardiac procedures in his lifetime so far, said: “Patients come to The Apex Heart Institute for everything including medical management, coronary angiography, coronary stent implantation, pacemaker implantation, coronary artery bypass surgery, valve replacement surgery and aortic surgery. They come because we are well-known for our ground breaking work across the globe. When patients come from abroad, they do their homework first and then following their treatment they go to their respective countries and recommend our centre to their friends and families for high-tech cardiology and cardiac surgery treatments.”
He added: “We are a tertiary care super-speciality cardiac institute. A global centre of excellence for trans-radial PCI (angioplasty and stenting through the wrist artery), a global centre of excellence for Robotic PCI and a national centre of excellence for OCT imaging and rotational atherectomy”.
Harish Bhuptani sought treatment at the Apex Heart Institute after he was told devastating news about his condition: “I had three blocked arteries; one at 90%, one at 95% and the other was 70% blocked. We live in Uganda and so accurate diagnosis and effective treatment was not available to me. I considered options in South Africa, the UK and elsewhere in India. But following seeking the advice and opinions from close relatives who are doctors I became comfortable with the decision to get in contact with Apex. It only took 1.5 days to get booked in whereas if I had stayed in my own country I could have been dead by the time my treatment came – and in reality it would have cost me four times as much!” He walked out of the hospital three days later and flew home five days after that.
Similarly, 64 year old Ashok Patel was holidaying in India already when he was diagnosed with severe heart blockages: “I had booked flights to return to London immediately with my wife and made an appointment to see one of the best cardiologists I could find. However, I took the blessings of my Guru – Mahant Swami Maharaj who said without a moments hesitation that I should not return to London – I should remain in India and Dr Tejas Patel and his team would look after me. I took this on board – cancelled my tickets and sought his assistance immediately.”
He added: “The NHS has incredibly long waiting times; an urgent MRI would take around a week to schedule and doctors can been seen (if you’re lucky) within 4 weeks. Privately you would see consultants within around a week and it would take 2-3 days to schedule tests and a similar timeline thereafter to receive results. In India it is all instant. You can have all tests and results done within less than 24 hours and see the relevant consultants in this time frame too. There was exactly one week between my first consultation with him and the actual operation. In addition I had worried about hygiene in Indian hospitals, but it was top level and it will make me think twice before ever questioning care in my home country ever again.”
Dr Patel commented: “The ongoing vision for The Apex Heart Institute is to be the leaders not only in cardiac treatment, but also in research – and we are well placed to achieve it. I have instituted TRICO (Transcatheter Intervention Course) considered as one of the premier interventional courses in the world. It is an effort to bring together the interventional cardiologists from all over the globe and provide a stage to teach, innovate and improve the practices in coronary and peripheral interventions, imaging, physiology, robotics and structural interventions.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
About Dr. Tejas Patel and Apex Heart Institute
Dr. Tejas Patel is Chief Interventional Cardiologist and Chairman of Apex Heart Institute. He has been awarded Padma Shri by the Government of India for his contribution in coronary intervention. Apex Heart Institute is a centre of excellence for cardiac ailments with two ultra-modern cath labs and two state of the art cardiac surgical theatres.
It has 85 beds comprised of 3 medical ICUs, 2 surgical ICUs, 1 HDU, a general ward and rooms in various categories.
The institution has an outstanding team of doctors, who ensure delivery of quality care with highest level of expertise. At Apex Heart Institute, well-trained paramedical staff, world class infrastructure, efficient systems and processes ensure effective services aiding to speedy recoveries. The institution has instituted TRICO (Transcatheter Intervention Course) by leveraging the knowledge and practices of world renowned interventional cardiologists, which today is the largest and the most popular radial course in the world.