Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Malaysia... Challenging perceptions in health tourism

The rising demand for instantaneous quality care continues to drive Malaysia’s medical tourism industry. With only 150,000 medical tourists short of a million, Malaysia was crowned the International Medical Travel Journal’s ‘Health and Medical Destination of the Year', for the second time running. The global recognition of Malaysia’s endeavours is in spite of increasing competition and widespread economic challenges the country has faced in 2015.

For Malaysia, medical tourism is not a money-making, get-rich scheme. On the contrary, it is a market expansion approach for the country's already established world-class private healthcare facilities. High-quality medical treatment, aided by innovative medical technology is offered to every patient.

Malaysia health tourism is growing in spite of 2015…

According to Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), 2015 saw 850,000 medical tourists travel to Malaysia, a 3.6% decrease compared to the 882,000 who came in 2014. Despite this, they are growing because of the maturation of the Malaysian medical tourism sector. Revenue earned through medical tourism by hospitals alone grew by 17% from RM770 million to just under RM1 billion. Revenue growth, alongside the expansion of our medical offerings and market reach to North America, Middle East, Africa and Europe continues to drive the advancement of Malaysian healthcare. 

In 2015, approximately 80% of health tourists who visited Malaysia came from neighbouring countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. Health Minister, Dr. S. Subramanian revealed this year that “there was an influx of patients seeking treatment at Malaysia’s public and private medical centres from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, and from countries in the Middle East and Africa.” The shifting patient base demonstrates Malaysia’s move away from being merely a regional player in medical tourism to an international powerhouse in cross-border health tourism.

A Frost & Sullivan report anticipates that medical tourism, along with elder care, will drive healthcare sector growth in the medium to long-term.

Why is Malaysia growing?

When MHTC started in 2009, in addition to state-of-the-art health screening services, the government focused on long-term reactive care and diagnostic treatments in cardiology, oncology, orthopaedic, neurology and fertility. Concurrently, the private medical sectors for plastic and cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and LASIK developed rapidly as private clinics and medical facilities began to play a bigger role in developing its services in Malaysia.

As the market for medical tourism continues to develop, Malaysia has strengthened its medical tourism offering to preventive care. The holistic care available in Malaysia gives medical tourists the opportunity to combine their treatments with alternative recovery packages. The range of wellness treatments available in Malaysia offers wellness tourists a host of alternative medicine and treatments such as Yoga, Ayurveda, Traditional Complementary Eastern Medicine, Detoxification, Mental Health Retreats, and Anti-Ageing treatments.

Furthermore, Malaysia has the intrinsic advantage of becoming a Global Halal Hub, with most if not all medical and non-medical facilities designed to be Muslim-friendly. There is a wide range of Muslim-friendly, Halal-certified medical facilities, eateries, accommodations, public amenities like prayer rooms and mosques, and Halal medical alternatives and medications that are alcohol-, gelatin- and porcine-free. Another pull factor for Middle Eastern medical tourists in Malaysia is that they have many medical professionals and personnel, both men and women, who are Muslim.

The ideal combination for cross-border healthcare, Malaysia is equipped for the international medical tourists seeking world-class medical treatment at competitive prices in a multicultural and English-friendly environment all done in JCI, ISQua, ISO 9001, ACHSI, and MSQH accredited medical facilities. The depreciated Malaysian Ringgit offers medical tourists more value for money on surgery and holidays in Malaysia.

What this means is that international patients can already get 5-star treatment at 3-star prices in one of South East Asia’s economic power hubs with the assurance of personal safety and without sacrificing the quality of treatment received.

Where can Malaysia grow?

Realistically, the future of Malaysia’s medical tourism sector is a fine tuning process.

An analysis by Frost & Sullivan found that in comparison to other ASEAN countries, “Malaysia has a higher-than-average availability of medical personnel and high quality facilities providing treatments across different ranges of the cost spectrum, making it an attractive destination for medical tourist.”

But there is always room for growth. In the name of delivering outstanding patient experiences, Malaysia’s growth in medical tourism will be linked to more infrastructural development, an expansion of serviceable cities, investment in human resource and advanced international patient training, quality standardization, and enhance marketing to international markets on Malaysia’s vast benefits.

The International Living magazine ranked Malaysia as one of the world’s top four medical tourism destinations in terms of service quality, accessibility, standard of post-procedure recuperation options and cost-competitiveness.

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