Malaysia’s medical tourism to focus on traditional markets in 2022
BY FATIHAH MANAF
DESPITE being regarded as an essential service, Malaysia’s healthcare also experienced a significant drop in its travel revenues in the past two years. According to the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021-2025, the industry aims to reach RM1.7 billion in revenue by 2025.
During the 2nd Annual Future Hospital Strategy & Development Forum 2022, a panel discussion titled “How a tightened border control has impacted medical tourism” was conducted, discussing the prospect of Malaysia’s medical tourism. The session was moderated by Siddhartha Mishra, the Director-Healthcare APJ of VMWare and featured four key panellists.
One of the panellists, Mohd Daud Mohd Arif, CEO of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), shared: “In 2019, we registered at RM1.7 billion in revenue from foreign patients alone. That was our highest throughout the history of Malaysia’s healthcare. But in 2021, it was at its lowest point. The revenue dropped to RM585 million.
“In 2021, MHTC tried to get private hospitals to enhance the ecosystem that we have in Malaysia to enhance patient experience once we opened our borders.
“This industry is a need, not a want. We understand that continuity of care is very crucial. Many patients from Indonesia, Bangladesh and China requested continuity of care, especially in oncology, cardiology and fertility.”
Focusing on the traditional market
Mohd Daud agreed that Malaysia’s medical tourism must diversify its market and not solely depend on the Indonesian market.
“For 2022, we need to focus specifically on rebounding the market. We need to tackle our traditional market. We were heavily dependent on the Indonesian market. We need to diversify and look into new markets, but not for this year.
“This year is a rebound year. The key strategy that we want to go for in 2022 is to create confidence for people to start travelling again.”
Adopting technologies in healthcare services
Mohd Daud said MHTC wanted to find a digital solution to make patient journeys accessible and meaningful. The council has already talked to some digital solution providers like Huawei to see what they could bring to enhance this experience.
“MHTC is investing in a one-stop portal for all medical healthcare travel information and services needs for all of our member hospitals. We want to gather all this information into one portal to make it easy for patients to seek information.”
Dato’ Akmal Arief Fauzi, Deputy Group CEO of Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), said that IJN’s revenue coming from medical travellers had reduced similarly to other healthcare providers. He shared that the institute also adopted technology to provide the best services for patients.
“Teleconsultation has assisted us in providing continuous care to our patients, especially those from foreign countries,” said Akmal.
Quality remains the top priority
Ariesza Noor, Chief Corporate Officer of KPJ Healthcare Berhad, said all healthcare providers were looking at optimising cost structure without compromising the quality of their services.
“We have never compromised quality in healthcare. When we look at medical tourism, quality becomes a central focus at the end of the day.
“The government’s move when they announced that we were opening our borders and there were fewer restrictions would help us be more competitive as a medical tourism destination.
“We have had the medical travel bubble enforced the past two years, but it was still quite expensive as the patients still had to pay for quarantine.”
Dr Jillian Yeoh, Regional Director of Temos International Healthcare Accreditation, also emphasised the quality of the services, saying all stakeholders need to work together to make Malaysia the preferred medical tourism destination again.
“Revenue is important to any private business. But what’s equally important is to have this focus on quality, patient safety, etc.,” Akmal added. — The Health