Malaysia’s role in health tourism: What can the patient expect?
Andrew Coutts takes a look at what awaits the healthcare traveller in Malaysia.
The Malaysian Government identified the growth potential of medical tourism in the late 1990’s and took the strategic decision to pool the collective strengths of the private and public sectors to harness the country’s medical tourism industry. It was a decision which proved to be extremely productive.
The unique private/public collaboration which saw health tourism promoted by the Government and fuelled by the corporate sector provided tourists with the stamp of regulatory approval in terms of quality, safety standards and medical related legislation. This endorsement combined with significant investment powered the development of the sector until it was so rudely disrupted in early 2020 by the Coronavirus pandemic. Up until March 2020 health tourism in Malaysia had seen monumental year on year increases in terms of both the numbers of patients travelling for medical treatment and income generated by the activity. Between 2011 and 2018 the number of healthcare travellers’ who visited Malaysia more than doubled from 643,000 to nearly 1.3 million.
Central to the exponential growth of medical tourism has been the considerable influence and work of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), the Malaysian government’s medical tourism arm. MHTC grasped the notion early on that branding is the key to effective marketing and with this in mind, it has developed a unique brand which has become synonymous with a portfolio of services designed to promote and support the ‘whole’ patient experience. Recognising that the medical procedure only forms part of this experience MHTC facilitates the overall patient journey in aspects of accessing information, the most appropriate treatment options for the patient, whilst collaborating with the country’s hotel, travel and leisure sectors to create a memorable truly Malaysian experience. A package of care which has ticked a number of boxes: facilitating the most appropriate treatment options for the patient whilst stimulating the country’s hotel, travel and leisure sectors.
MHTC’s work has also benefitted from the resources it has had at its disposal. The country is blessed with a wealth of available and skilled medical and technical expertise, political and economic stability, excellent infrastructure and transport links and a tourism sector with an exceptional track record in attracting visitors in their millions from all over the world.
What Can Patient’s Expect?
The country offers healthcare, accommodation, entertainment and travel at very competitive prices. Tourist resorts sit in a tropical climate, ideal for rest and recuperation and there is no need for visitors to obtain a visa for stays less than 90 days in general. The vast majority of care providers speak English and there are no waiting lists for whichever medical treatment you require.
Many of the country’s 200 private hospitals provide excellent rehabilitation and wellness facilities to ensure travellers can access help and support for recovery purposes and each is recognised by internationally accredited bodies including the Joint Commission International (JCI) and the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua) reflecting their commitment to high-quality care.
This commitment to upholding the highest standards of care and service has consistently attracted external recognition in the form of both travel and healthcare awards. The country has been awarded the “Best Healthcare In The World” category in the International Living Annual Global Retirement Index in four out of the previous five years. At the most recent ‘International Medical Travel Journal Awards’ the country’s total belief in patient-centred philosophy was acknowledged by the awarding of 9 out of the total of 15 honours announced; a feat not matched by any other country in the world.
The Future of Health Tourism in Malaysia
MHTC recently staged the fifth annual, ‘insigHT’, the region’s medical travel market intelligence conference. This virtual event staged during the Coronavirus pandemic brought together leaders from worldwide medical tourism hubs to discuss the future of the sector.
As borders begin to open and patients prepare to travel once more in 2021 flexibility, innovation and collaboration were identified as the key drivers for renewal and growth. Malaysia hopes that the blueprint for private and public sector collaboration it initiated in the late 1990’s to promote good health will now enable it to achieve a far quicker recovery than in countries less prepared. The conference acknowledged that the pandemic has also accelerated the need for healthcare to embrace Innovation and digitalisation and harness available technology to assist communication between patient and provider.
The future may not be as certain as it was at the beginning of 2020 but you can be assured that Malaysia with a track record stretching over twenty years is very well placed to harness existing technology and ensure that patients remain at the very centre of the medical and tourism service it provides.