KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) aims to achieve RM1.7 billion in health care travel revenue by 2025 which is expected to have a significant spillover effect on the economy.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, MHTC has drawn up a Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021-2025 that aims to elevate the country’s health care travel industry and to provide the best health care travel experience in Malaysia by 2025.
Malaysia’s health care travel industry grew from 643,000 health travellers in 2011 to about 1.220 million in 2019, with arrivals from countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.
Malaysia has gained an international reputation as the Fertility and Cardiology Hubs of Asia, besides being known as a Cancer Care Centre of Excellence.
In an interview with CodeBlue, MHTC chief executive officer Mohd Daud Mohd Arif shared MHTC’s planned initiatives under the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint for industry stakeholders.
Three Strategic Pillars: Healthcare Travel Ecosystem, Malaysia Healthcare Brand, Markets For Malaysia Healthcare
The five-year strategic plan — which works to achieve a common objective in creating the best Malaysia health care travel experience by 2025 — has three strategic pillars: the Healthcare Travel Ecosystem, the Malaysia Healthcare Brand, and the Markets for Malaysia Healthcare.
Under the Healthcare Travel Ecosystem strategic pillar, MHTC aims to improve quality of care, to enhance service delivery quality and experience of care, and to achieve sustainability through diversification.
The Malaysia Healthcare Brand strategic pillar aims to increase brand cohesiveness across all touchpoints and to amplify brand equity in core markets.
Meanwhile, the Markets for Malaysia Healthcare strategic pillar will see efforts to protect and grow the primary market, as well as to develop focus and niche markets.
“In accordance with the five-year timeline that was mapped out in the Blueprint, the focus on developing the key initiatives within the strategic pillars will shift dynamically as the Blueprint moves across the Recovery phase (2021 to 2022) to the Rebuild phase from (2023 to 2025),” Mohd Daud told CodeBlue.
“During the Recovery phase, more emphasis will be placed on the Healthcare Travel Ecosystem as readiness measures for the industry to recover and move into the Rebuild phase. Initiatives for the Malaysia Healthcare Brand and Markets will also continue in this phase to keep the markets engaged.
“During the Rebuild phase, the focus will shift to the Malaysia Healthcare Brand and Markets to boost brand presence in the region and scale up Malaysia Healthcare’s services.”
In achieving these pillars, the blueprint has various key strategies, which includes improving the quality of medical care, digitising the patient journey, continuing efforts to be a world-leading destination that provides affordable medical offerings to health care travellers, and elevating Malaysia’s offerings in hospitality alongside its position as a safe and trusted destination for both medical and leisure offerings.
Safe Health Care Travel Amid Covid-19
MHTC said Malaysia was among the first countries globally to implement a dedicated health care travel bubble in July last year, governed by stringent Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
As a combined effort between multiple organisations and agencies, including the National Security Council, the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Immigration Department, and MHTC member hospitals, the initiative was developed to maintain continuity of care, especially for those who require timely treatments such as cardiac and cancer patients.
“Firstly, the health care travel industry in Malaysia is strictly governed as it is under the purview of the Ministry of Health Malaysia. Hence, our health care system in Malaysia is well regulated and medical travellers are assured of safe travels to Malaysia,” Mohd Daud said.
“When travel activity can resume and accommodate a larger volume of inbound travellers, MHTC will be more aggressive in our approach to push and expand the health care travel bubble with stringent SOPs maintained.
“This will allow us to help facilitate the needs and continued care of our international health care patients, whilst also ensuring our community remains safe.”
Niche Milestones For Malaysia
Malaysia has built a reputation as a safe and trusted destination for health care travel for a variety of treatments, including for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), cardiology, oncology, orthopaedics, neurology, dental, aesthetics, and general health screenings.
“Malaysia offers advanced treatments including onco-fertility, and AI technology for fertility viability testing, strengthening its position as the Fertility Hub of Asia.
“Eight out of 30 fertility centres that have International RTAC accreditation are located in Malaysia alone,” Mohd Daud said.
Malaysia is also known as the Cardiology Hub of Asia due to the country’s expert medical fraternity and health care infrastructure.
The National Heart Institute (IJN) became the first hospital outside of the United States to implant a Micra AV pacemaker, an implantable device for the treatment of a slow heart rate via pacing.
“Such developments attract a niche group of patients to Malaysia, looking for quality care that is both reliable and affordable,” said Mohd Daud.
Apart from that, Malaysia is also seen as a Cancer Care Centre of Excellence with an Economist Intelligence Unit study listing Malaysia as the third most prepared country in the Asia Pacific to battle cancer.
MHTC is also working to develop a standardised definition of a ‘Centre of Excellence’ across health care providers to ensure quality in terms of best practices.
Besides that, Malaysia has gained a reputation as a top country for retirement in Asia.
“To leverage on this recognition and diversify our offerings, we will be positioning Malaysia as an International Retirement Living destination,” Mohd Daud said.
Fees for major procedures are more affordable in Malaysia than neighbouring countries in the region or Asia, such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, according to US-based resource Patients Beyond Borders. This is due to legislated price ceilings on medical procedures.
Compared to America, patients coming to Malaysia can save up to 60 per cent to 80 per cent in costs for major operations like hip or knee replacements, coronary artery bypass graft, laminectomy, and a full facelift, among others.
Award-Winning Health Care Travel Destination
All of these are possible due to the global positioning of Malaysia as a comprehensive, holistic, and affordable health care destination.
Mohd Daud added that there are several factors that contribute to this, which includes world-class quality, affordability, ease of accessibility, seamless end-to-end offerings, and Malaysia’s status as a tourist haven.
Malaysia has 210 private hospitals, excluding dental clinics and wellness centres. There are “virtually” no waiting times for appointments for consultations and treatments with specialists in private medical facilities. Malaysia also has a multilingual health care system.
Health care travellers in Malaysia can enjoy a “seamless end-to-end health care journey experience” through a concierge and lounge, plus a meet and greet service, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, and Penang International Airport.
MHTC listed several awards that Malaysia has won over the years for its health care services for travellers, such as “Destination of the Year” from 2015 to 2017, as well as in 2020, by the UK’s International Medical Travel Journal, as well as being ranked “Best Country in the World for Health Care” by US-based International Living from 2015 to 2020.
Malaysia is also consistently ranked as the “Top Country for Muslim Travel” in the MasterCard-Crescent Rating’s Global Muslim Travel Index since 2011.
With the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint, all stakeholders can work together to reach a common and inclusive goal of providing affordable and quality health care services to travellers in a post-pandemic world.