Bali wants in on the medical tourism action

Bali wants in on the medical tourism action

As Asia continues to lead the world's medical tourism scene, Indonesia enters the game. But what should a patient consider before flying abroad for treatment?
During dialysis procedures, patients at BIMC Nusa Dua's clinic can use the Internet and watch TV from their own chair.

Facelift followed by a week on a beach in Thailand?

Hip surgery with a side of shopping in Singapore?

Over the last 10 years, Asia’s rise on the medical tourism scene has been quick. Eastern nations dominate the global scene.

Now Bali wants a slice of the action.

The Indonesian island recently opened its first facility specifically targeting medical tourists with packages and services, Bali International Medical Centre (BIMC) Nusa Dua. BIMC already has an international hospital in Kuta, which opened in 1998.

The new internationally managed facility offers dialysis treatments, surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and dental care.

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Like most of the region's international hospitals, BIMC is designed to feel more like a spa or resort than a medical facility.

The 50-bed hospital has a 24-hour medical emergency entrance and hotel-like foyer at the front of the building servicing the hospital’s medical, dialysis and dental centers.

If you're a celebrity who doesn't want everyone to know you're popping by for a bit of lipo, no worries. There's a private entrance that leads to the CosMedic Centre, which offers views of a golf course.

BIMC has even teamed up with the nearby Courtyard by Marriott Bali, which provides specific after-care services like tailor-made meals and wellness programs for patients.

Stiff competition

A Thai cardiologist checks a Norwegian patient at Bumrungrad International Hospital, one of Bangkok's most popular facilities for medical tourists. (File photo)State-of-the-art technology and cool interiors are a start, but breaking into a regional industry that already has some of the world's top international hospitals will be tough, says Josef Woodman, CEO of U.S.-based medical travel consumer guide Patients Beyond Borders (PBB).

"As a newcomer, Bali faces stiff competition from nearby international healthcare providers [e.g. the Singapore hospital system, including Parkway], value healthcare in Kuala Lumpur, the very established medical tourism destinations in Bangkok and to a lesser extent, JCI-accredited facilities in and near Manila," he says.

"To compete, Bali will need to demonstrate a quality level of care and promote its services to the region and the world. On the positive side, Bali is blessed as one of the region's safest, most popular tourist destinations, with a built-in potential to attract medical travelers."

The Indonesian island couldn't have picked a better time to get into the game, says PBB.

“The world population is aging and becoming more affluent at rates that surpass the availability of quality healthcare resources," says the company's research.

"These key drivers are forcing patients to pursue international healthcare options. We estimate the worldwide medical tourism market is growing at a rate of 25-35 percent [per year].”

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According to PBB, the top 10 destinations for tourists seeking healthcare (elective or necessary) outside their country of origin are Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey.

Woodman explains why Asia is dominating.

"In order to effectively serve their citizens and to compete as global healthcare destinations, Asian nations have made great strides over the past two decades building out their medical and healthcare infrastructure, including internal and international accreditation; measurable quality care and patient satisfaction in its hospitals; excellent doctors, specialists and service staff; medical schools, training hospitals, research institutions and more," he says.

What to consider

Medical tourism isn’t without risks.

Though the most successful medical tourism facilities are accredited and staffed by top level doctors, choosing smaller, cheaper clinics can be risky.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are almost unheard in some nations, so if something goes wrong don’t expect much in the way of compensation.

For example, in Thailand, the legal process requires that the foreigner remain in Thailand for the duration of any trial.

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"Pursuing a medical malpractice suit in Thailand may be financially unwise," according an article by Siam Legal on the Global Legal Resources website. "Thai courts typically award far lower damages than Western courts."

So what should a potential medical tourist look for in an overseas facility?

"Patients should choose hospitals with internationally recognized accreditation [for example, Joint Commission International], board-certified doctors and surgeons and a hospital with a patient-centered international services center," says Woodman.

Woodman says it's not simply a matter of hopping on a plane and heading to Singapore or any other city.

"First, the medical tourist needs a clear diagnosis of his or her condition, along with suggested treatment options. Then, if the patient chooses to travel for care, a search can begin for the best match."

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Karla is a digital producer with CNN Travel based in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Read more about Karla Cripps