Medical tourism or Health Tourism is considered a lucrative business and a country like India has great potential to attract people from other countries to provide excellent service at relatively low cost. Some of the hospitals in the country can compare very well with top ranking counterparts in the west. With medical expenses becoming too exorbitant for most people within the country, the hospital industry has to depend on foreign nationals, especially from rich countries who can afford the prevalent costs for hospitalization and required treatment regime. One of the areas that has not received attention by the hospital industry in India is the food service provided to the patients. In most hospitals food service is provided by contractors because of the reluctance of the management to get into day to day logistics of food procurement, preparation and serving. How ever most frequent complaints about hospitals relate to quality of food served, though patients do not cringe much because of their preoccupation with recovery and discharge from the hospital. A new trend is now emerging in some western countries where hospital managements are upgrading their food service portfolio that enables patients to have a high sense of satisfaction from the culinary department without costing any thing extra. This is an approach worth trying in Indian hospitals also.
"We also want to make it like part of a five star experience for our patients and part of that is quality food service. In the past we did cold, batch cooking, heated only at the point of service. It was prepared the day before. Now when a patient checks in it's much like a nice hotel where you check in, your menu is in the room, you are able to order food when you want it, what you want, and it be prepared by a trained culinary staff," said Beeker. Chef Donnell Johnson says patients can pick from a wide variety of foods. "We have pot roast. We have green beans, turkey, we have so many items that you'll want to eat. We have pizza. And so it's real exciting and the cooks are very excited about it, serving that type food," said Johnson. They can even order from the grill".
It may be a debatable point whether patients suffering from different types of afflictions will really care about the quality or the presentation of foods to them during their sojourn in a hospital. The food service in hospitals are generally tuned to design and prepare special foods under the guidance of diet experts with different patients requiring different nutritional content. Though at present catering is a supplementary line of earning, major hospitals can always make their food service a high end affair open to even the public if necessary to make it viable. Railways through their Food Plaza strategy has shown the way as to how general public can also be attracted by designing their eating establishment with access to the public besides those traveling by trains. Similarly the hospitals can also design their food outlets in such a way that general public can also patronize them. One of the major advantages the hospitals enjoy is that customers will have a better perception about their credentials in ensuring quality, nutrition, safety and health aspects of the food served by them. Hospital restaurants are also better equipped to offer "authentic" health foods for customers with different types of food related problems.