Improvements in local hospitals is leading more domestic clients to stay in Indonesia for medical treatment, including for specialty health services such as in IVF treatment and heart, minimal invasive and robotic surgery. Could the global pandemic reverse Indonesia’s high volume outbound medical travel?
For years, Indonesia has sent hundreds of thousands of medical tourists overseas, mainly to Malaysia. Global management consultants, Oliver Wyman estimated that in 2018 Indonesia lost US$48 billion in annual revenue from outbound medical tourism.
Indonesians are keen on outbound medical tourism, due to a lack of trust in the local health system and infrastructure. The 1,800 private hospitals in Indonesia have been mostly dependent on the state health insurance BPJS scheme. BPJS is in financial trouble so needs to pressure local hospitals for serious cost savings, which will eventually put their medical service quality at risk. Most of these private hospitals have also lacked good quality human resources and medical staff due to a supply shortage.
But there are improvements, where local hospitals are providing competitive healthcare products. More domestic clients are staying in Indonesia to obtain their medical treatment, and this trend shows increasing confidence in local services. More Indonesians are staying in Indonesia for specialty health services such as in IVF treatment and heart, minimal invasive and robotic surgery.
Many Indonesian hospitals are struggling to cope with a shortage of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital beds and ventilators. They are limiting the provision of non-COVID facilities and services. But this is also happening in neighbouring countries.
Currently, arranging travel out of Indonesia is extremely difficult, nonemergency and elective procedures are not prioritised and mostly deferred.
Government policy will now need to play an important role in providing an environment that is conducive to domestic medical tourism. Indonesia has a once in a lifetime opportunity to promote Indonesia’s medical services to stop citizens from traveling abroad for outbound medical tourism, and to attract inbound medical travellers from overseas in the longer term.