MHTC urges medical tourism industry to work together

 

insigHT2020 brought together 700 participants from 32 countries, including medical experts, travel agencies, technology and healthcare service providers, and government stakeholders.

Sherene Azli, CEO of MHTC commented; “With the industry landscape evolving rapidly, our combined knowledge and insights will play a vital role to fast track the industry towards recovery. In Malaysia, we have seen how collaboration between various sectors can lead to fruitful results during the peak of the pandemic when both public and private sectors worked hand-in-hand toward a unified goal of public safety. In preparation for the international borders to fully reopen, both the healthcare and travel industry players are in preparation to ensure the best in healthcare and seamless patient experiences are provided. Fostering stronger collaborations between industries and stakeholders will be crucial to achieve excellence in this area, and help regenerate the travel industry.”

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba launched Malaysia as the cardiology hub of Asia in this conference, and stated that collaborative efforts are the key to bring greater changes in the healthcare system in Malaysia, particularly digitalisation in healthcare. He went on to say; “Initiatives such as tele-consultations and digital services will begin to take precedence in the healthcare system. The Malaysia Health Data Warehouse will be a driving force to increase accuracy and precision in our decision-making processes. We also foresee a future where public-private partnerships will play a much bigger role in servicing the Malaysian public and building a more patient-centric approach to healthcare.”

The state has allocated RM35 million (US$8.6m) in its Budget 2021 for the medical tourism industry. Adnan adds; “We see MHTC playing a significant role in bridging both public and private sectors for better industry outcomes. Malaysia’s firm commitment to quality has gained the trust of patients and pushed Malaysia to be the cardiology hub in the Asia region – being known as the Heartbeat of Asia.”

MHTC anticipates a 70% reduction in hospital receipts to between RM500 million (US$122.3 million) and RM600 million by this year-end. 2019 was a record-breaking year for Malaysia’s medical tourism sector, with 1.3 million medical traveller arrivals.

Medical tourism arrivals have been reduced due to tight border controls and travel restrictions plus stricter government requirements that medical travellers have to abide by, as well as complex logistics and safety measures that medical facilities must undertake.

The pandemic has altered the profile of medical tourists to Malaysia. Prior to the pandemic, Thomson Hospital used to receive customers mainly from South East Asia seeking fertility treatment, which is an elective procedure. Now medical travellers are approaching the hospital for critical procedures such as brain or cardiovascular surgery.

The pandemic and travel crisis have put private hospitals in Penang, a top medical tourism destination in Malaysia, in survival mode. To reverse the slide in foreign customers, Penang Adventist Hospital has invested in digital solutions to allow doctors to conduct tele-consultations with patients who are unable to travel to Penang for treatment, as well as to prescribe digitally, receive virtual payments and deliver medicines to the homes of foreign patients.

The Mahkota Medical Centre in Melaka also notes a mind-shift among doctors who have learnt to adapt and use online platforms for tele-consultations.

MHTC has stated it is helping to drive a rebound in the industry through a three-prong strategy: aggressive publicity and branding campaigns showcasing Malaysia’s excellence in healthcare while at the same time building trust and new partnerships; providing support to end-to-end infrastructure including the adoption of digitalisation; and building Malaysia as a thought leader in medical tourism.

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