MHTC promotes Malaysia healthcare to the UK


Malaysia promotes itself as a leading healthcare destination for medical tourism. This claim is justifiable: the country earned RM1.3bn (US$314m) in medical travel revenue in 2017, with an estimated RM4bn (US$967m) from other non-related healthcare expenditures such as transportation, accommodation and tourism activities.  The government hopes to double this figure to RM2.8bn (US$676.9m) by 2020.

In 2005, the Malaysian Ministry of Health established the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) to facilitate and promote the private healthcare travel industry, by coordinating industry collaborations and building public-private partnerships. 

In 2018, MHTC moved to the Ministry of Finance because the government recognised medical tourism as a large economic contributor that would not only help generate revenue for the country, but would sustain long term development of the healthcare industry for locals and tourists.

The number of healthcare travellers to the country has increased from 643,000 in 2011 to 1.2 million in 2017. Malaysia’s medical tourism sector has recorded a compound annual growth rate of 16% to 17% over the last five years. 

So, what is making Malaysia’s healthcare industry so desirable for international patients?

Emphasis on quality and standards of care

‘For me, it’s three things,’ said Keith Pollard, IMTJ’s editor in chief at MHTC’s Malaysia Healthcare Experience event. ‘One is, if you’re going to sell your healthcare to the world, you need to be very good at it, and you need to make sure things don’t go wrong.’  

Pollard explained what’s different about Malaysia is its emphasis on the quality and standards of care and who can provide care for international patients. 

‘The second thing is the overall patient journey, right from the point of first contact until the time they go home, and several months beyond that,’ Pollard continued. ‘By comparison, if you take the UK, the quality of the customer experience that we as a country offer to our international patients is not in the same league as Malaysia.’

Pollard’s third point outlined how Malaysia is a lot more focused and clear about what services it provides best and how it meets the needs of its international patients. 

Focus on the patient journey

Malaysia puts a great deal of emphasis on the whole patient experience, aiming to provide end-to-end seamless care for both its international and local patients from the first point of contact until the recovery period. This is what makes Malaysia such a big player in medical tourism. 

This patient journey is seen to begin for a health traveller from the moment they disembark from their plane. An MHTC representative will be waiting to welcome the patient to ensure they’re not lost and have the appropriate support when navigating through the airport.  The representative will guide the patient through immigration and customs, arrange their transport from the airport to their hotel or hospital, and check hospital appointments. 

‘The reality is that when you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to worry about is getting lost at the airport,’ said Yazmin Azman, chief commercial officer of MHTC. ‘It’s about making sure someone doesn’t mess up your bookings, and about getting better. That’s the one thing we’re really proud of in Malaysia, that we manage the full end-to-end system well.’ 

IVF services with high success rates

Another factor that makes Malaysia a top healthcare destination for some international patients is its high fertility success rates. 

‘The other aspect we’re quite pleased to share with people is that we are one of the best fertility providers in the region,’ said Azman. ‘People travel to Malaysia because we have one of the best success rates in the world.’

Malaysia’s IVF success rates are above the global average, and as such the country is recognised as the preferred healthcare destination in the region. Malaysia boasts a 65% success rate for its IVF treatments compared to the global average rate of 50%.  

Most of Malaysia’s IVF revenue is earned from other countries in the region such as Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.  China, in particular, accounts for a significant proportion of this, due to changes in the one child policy. 2018 saw a 102% growth from China in fertility treatment.

‘We’ve seen double digit growth in IVF treatment every year from China. Our top ten countries also include Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Australia,’ said Nadiah Wan, chief executive officer of Thomson Hospital. 

The focus on a stress-free, whole patient journey could be another contribution to Malaysia’s high IVF success rates. ‘It’s not just the procedure that is related to IVF, but the whole process, from the first consultation, to meeting the patient’s family, right until the very end,’ said Savitha Dharan, head of strategic partnerships at Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare.

‘So, I think the reason we have such good rates is because we are looking at it as a whole package. It seems to be the direction of healthcare in Asia, and it seems to provide the patient with ease and peace of mind because everything is looked after as a whole and not just the reproductive area.’

Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare has seen a huge influx of IVF patients from China, but is also starting to see patients travelling from Singapore and even the UK.

‘What really helps us reach out to other countries is word of mouth, I personally believe it’s the greatest marketing tool,’ Dharan added.

Using trust and word of mouth to promote awareness

As Malaysia’s medical tourism market looks to grow, its success so far has been attributed to word of mouth and the element of trust that is developed throughout the international patient journey. 

‘The biggest growth we’ve seen is when people have come to Malaysia, experienced our healthcare, returned home, told their family and friends and shared online, and that helps build trust for us,’ Azman said. 

‘Patient experience is the best way to build trust. Above all that, our hospitals are top notch. The ones we work with are internationally accredited, they have top specialists who are trained internationally, and strongly governed by the ministry.

‘The main priority for our Ministry of Health is to make sure healthcare does not become commercialised. Yes, we promote medical tourism, but what we believe everyone should have access to good quality healthcare. Wherever you are in the world, you should be able to get healthcare immediately; you should be able to get it affordably; and you shouldn’t have to sell your home to get access to good quality healthcare,’ Azman concluded



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