KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 – As travel restrictions are eased, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) explains why Malaysia is among the best health care travel destinations in the world.
MHTC recently launched its Malaysia Healthcare Travel Blueprint 2021-2025 to detail its plans to achieve RM1.7 billion in health care travel revenue by 2025.
The five-year plan to create the best Malaysia health care travel experience by 2025 is based on three strategic pillars: the Healthcare Travel Ecosystem, the Malaysia Healthcare Brand, and the Markets for Malaysia Healthcare.
In an interview with CodeBlue, MHTC chief executive officer Mohd Daud Mohd Arif shares what makes Malaysia such a special health care destination for medical travellers who will enjoy a safe and seamless end-to-end health care journey.
“Upon arrival, healthcare travellers will be greeted by our Malaysia Healthcare Concierge and Lounge personnel who will greet them at the aerobridge, take them through fast-tracked immigration baggage claim and host them at the lounge until their hotel or hospital transport receives them,” said Mohd Daud.
“At every step of the way, MHTC will be there to assist and guide health care travellers throughout their journey until they return home.”
Framework For Digital Adoption
The Covid-19 pandemic brought a newfound urgency for digital adoption in the local health care travel industry. MHTC revealed that it is working on a digital framework focusing on enhancing digital touchpoints in the patient experience journey.
“Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption (and the positive attitude shift of patients) towards the use of digital. Private hospitals have adopted and beefed up their teleconsultation services to minimise in-person hospital visits and ensure continuity of care is preserved,” Mohd Daud said.
“Currently, we are at the tail-end of formalising our digital framework and will soon be embarking on the implementation phase. This framework was based on a 14-week study on the patient journey and resulted in the identification of gaps and opportunities for improvisation, i.e., key touchpoints where digital interaction plays a significant role.”
The design of the framework visualises the future state of the health care traveller’s journey over the next five years and involves private and public sector stakeholders across three sectors: health care, travel, and hospitality.
MHTC has already been working on various niche branding initiatives in order to achieve its goal and to spearhead the health care travel industry in the region.
Malaysia As Fertility And Cardiology Hubs Of Asia, Cancer Centre of Excellence
Malaysia has gained an international reputation as the Cardiology and Fertility Hub of Asia, besides being known as a Cancer Care Centre of Excellence.
Health care facilities in Malaysia invest in the latest and state-of-the-art devices, equipment, and technology in cardiovascular and thoracic care.
The National Heart Institute (IJN), for example, has recorded a number of achievements, such as being 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.
Malaysia’s private health care sector is host to 57 cardiothoracic surgery specialists and over 200 cardiologists, while 48 of 73 MHTC member hospitals are equipped to cater to demand.
“Malaysia is the trusted and preferred choice for cardiology treatment in Asia Pacific,” Mohd Daud said. “Over the years, our hospitals have treated many international patients from over 10 countries from as young as six months and we have received many recognitions from industry players and positive feedback from patients.”
On Malaysia as the Fertility Hub of Asia, MHTC estimates there are around 90 million couples in China looking to conceive a second child since the abolishment of China’s one-child policy in 2015. Forty million of these couples are over 40 years of age. These are among the demands and gaps Malaysia can be fulfilling with a niche expertise in the field of fertility.
“Malaysia’s fertility centres offer promising treatment success rates. For example, Alpha IVF & Women’s Specialist reports that the transfer of a single good graded euploid blastocyst produces pregnancy rates as high as 82.9 per cent and Sunfert International reports 68 per cent success in embryo transfers for women above 41 years of age with Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT).
“In 2017, an average of 6,000 to 7,000 IVF cycles were performed. In 2018, MHTC estimated the figure to increase to 20,000 cycles by 2025, however this estimate is pending further review following the Covid-19 situation,” said Mohd Daud.
There are only 30 fertility centres worldwide that have International Reproductive Technology Accreditation Certification (RTAC) accreditation. The RTAC committee created the Code of Practice for the accreditation of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) units to set and maintain minimum standards of ART units and ensure continuous improvement in the quality of fertility treatments worldwide. Eight of these RTAC-accredited centres are located in Malaysia.
Mohd Daud also said that fertility treatments in Malaysia are conducted by highly experienced doctors and embryologists in a seamless end-to-end service with relatively affordable prices. Among the cutting-edge technologies in Malaysia are Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), Time Lapse Embryoscope and 3D Laparoscope.
Malaysia, as a Cancer Centre of Excellence, has 128 medical and clinical oncologists in both the public and private sectors who are equipped to cater to demand.
Thirty-one hospitals of 73 MHTC member hospitals focus on multiple types of cancer, including breast, lung, nasopharyngeal, colorectal and lymphoma.
Mohd Daud said MHTC is also working closely with the Health Informatics Center of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Cancer Registry to improve cancer data comprehensiveness in Malaysia.
“MHTC is facilitating through gap analysis studies, workshops and trainings together with both agencies to increase data participation from private hospitals.”
Establishing The Malaysia Flagship Medical Tourism Hospital Programme
MHTC is also working on developing a flagship medical tourism hospital programme.
The council said that this initiative will establish Malaysia as a globally renowned icon for health care travel delivering exceptional end-to-end patient experiences anchored on outcome-based medical service excellence and best practices.
The programme has three aspirations: service excellence, medical excellence, and international branding.
The programme aims to recognise selected private hospitals to be Malaysia’s Flagship Medical Tourism Hospital, on par with renowned international hospitals, and to elevate the hospital’s profile to become an icon of health care travel, propelling Malaysia’s profile in the global health care travel landscape.
Apart from that, MHTC also aims to build a competitive edge for Malaysia as a formidable force in providing world-class medical tourism hospitals; to encourage private hospitals to promote evidence-based capabilities to improve the overall quality of patient outcomes and care; to optimise patient experience delivery; and to improve patient safety and quality of Malaysia’s medical services.
In 2019, a number of hospitals were shortlisted to participate in this programme, including IJN, Sunway Medical Centre, Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara, Ramsay Sime Darby Subang Jaya Medical Centre, Prince Court Medical Centre, Mahkota Medical Centre, Island Hospital, Gleneagles Penang, and KPJ Ampang Puteri.
Malaysia As The Hepatitis C Treatment Hub Of Asia
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 58 million people have chronic Hepatitis C virus infections globally. Approximately, 1.5 million new infections occur every year. In 2019, about 290,000 people died from Hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).
In the Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes some Asian nations, about 12 million people are chronically infected in each region. In the Southeast Asia region and the Western Pacific region, an estimated 10 million people in each region are chronically infected.
MHTC plans to position Malaysia as the Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia. Health care travellers from next month will be offered a new treatment for Hepatitis C, a combination of antiviral drugs ravidasvir and sofosbuvir, with a 97 per cent cure rate.
“In July 2021, Malaysia became the first country in the world to receive conditional approval for ravidasvir in combination with sofosbuvir to treat Hepatitis C,” said Mohd Daud. “Ravidasvir combined with sofosbuvir offers an affordable and efficacious treatment for Hepatitis C.”
Malaysia As An International Retirement Living Destination
Malaysia is one of the favourites among retirees to settle down in. Malaysia is continuously ranked as the top Asian country for retirement in US-based International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index from 2015 to 2021. This year, Penang ranked third on 15 Best Islands in the World to Retire On by the same agency.
According to Mohd Daud, this index, which Malaysia ranked highest for, considers multiple factors, including the availability of high-quality, affordable, and accessible health care.
“From 2015 to 2017 and most recently in 2020, Malaysia was recognised as the Destination of the Year for health care travel by UK-based International Medical Travel Journal which lauds Malaysia’s health care system and medical institutions for offering a seamless patient experience, upholding patient safety, and earning patient trust. This is a strong point of attraction for expatriates and potential foreign retirees,” Mohd Daud said.
Leveraging on this, MHTC is joining hands with the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) to develop an International Retirement Living programme.
“The programme is designed to attract healthy and active foreign retirees to enjoy the country’s natural landscape, warm weather, thriving local culture and well-equipped facilities. As a form of foreign investment, the programme will be an excellent boost to multiple economic sectors, driving growth in medical, aged care, tourism, property development and investments,” said Mohd Daud.
“Apart from health care, retirees will be able to enjoy travel both locally, and internationally, due to Malaysia’s position as a travel hub in Southeast Asia, easing travel back to their home countries as well.
“In terms of accommodation, international retirees can enjoy luxurious living spaces at affordable costs, whether they choose to own or lease the property. Malaysia’s identity as a safe and secure country affords retirees peace of mind in choosing our country as a trusted retirement destination.”
With a variety of quality health care services – including for heart disease, cancer, fertility issues, and Hepatitis C – coupled with tourism spots and attractive factors for retirement living, medical travellers can expect the best health care travel experience to Malaysia when international borders reopen.