Building medical travel to Indonesia

Indonesia is seeking to increase medical tourism, and has ambitions to put itself on par with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The country also hopes that the new Bali International Hospital, which broke ground last month in Sanur, the country’s first health-focused special economic zone, will be able to reverse the US$7 billion being spent annually by Indonesians seeking medical treatment in neighbouring countries.

To support this plan, Indonesia will encourage the entry of foreign health professionals to improve the quality of its hospitals, as part of the effort to transform its healthcare services sector. It will also boost local pharmaceutical production to cut down medical import spending.

Indonesia’s largest tourist destination Bali will soon offer medical check-ups and cancer treatments. Bali had 6.2 million international arrivals in 2019 and 1.05 million in 2020, but only 45 in 2021.

Construction has begun at the Bali International Hospital in Denpasar City within Sanur, the country’s first health-focused special economic zone. The government hopes the new state-run facility, which will be built with advice from the US-based Mayo Clinic, will help Indonesia recoup US$7 billion in annual losses from two million Indonesians travelling to receive medical treatment in neighbouring countries Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, India, Japan and Thailand, due to a poor perception of local hospitals and doctors. The country hopes that it will also attract inbound medical tourists.

While Mayo Clinic is collaborating on the Bali International Hospital, it is not invested in the project and is not involved in building, operating or owning it. It is advising on its development, planning and design, through Mayo Clinic Global Consulting. This consulting arm helps clients improve administrative efficiencies and effectiveness to enhance medical practice and patient care, through the application of Mayo Clinic’s integrated clinical care and practice models. One of the services it offers is “Greenfield to excellence,” which is planning and developing new hospitals for a client, like Indonesia.

The new state owned Bali International Hospital is expected to be completed and open for patients by mid-2023. The 300-room facility will provide various medical services, including cancer treatment and cardiac surgery.

Indonesia also aims to create medical tourism destinations in Medan, North Sumatra and in Jakarta. The government is negotiating with international investors to build hospitals in Jakarta and Medan.

For medical tourism to take off in Indonesia, the country needs to learn from other countries in Asia, particularly Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, which are far more advanced in medical tourism services.

The main reason why Indonesians go overseas to seek treatment is because the health care service in their own country is seen as much less friendly, efficient and effective compared to other countries. The current main advantage that local, state run hospitals in Indonesia have over foreign hospitals is that they are all covered under Indonesia’s universal health care scheme. There is also the issue of cost of treatment, as sometimes treatment in Malaysia and Singapore can cost less than local hospitals in Indonesia.