Why do international patients visit this Malaysian state?


In 2017, Penang’s healthcare industry generated RM500 million (US$165 million) in revenue, according to data from the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC).  Local hospitals are expanding aggressively, and the state government is determined to encourage more health visitors.

The Penang government is focusing on development and improvement of healthcare tourism in the state as it contributes a high percentage of their gross domestic product. 

Indonesians make up the biggest group of inbound medical tourists in Penang. The state is similar to Indonesia in weather, food, culture and language. It also has direct flight connections from several Indonesian cities.

The 11th Malaysia Plan has identified Penang, Johor and Melaka as healthcare hubs, but the two southern states are still some way away from overtaking Penang’s position. 

Local hospitals are medical tourist friendly and Island Hospital, a 300-bed private medical facility in Georgetown relies on Indonesian medical tourists. Popular treatments sought at Island Hospital are orthopaedic, gastroenterology, general health screening and cardiology. The hospital prioritises patient convenience by offering same-day results for health screening and other clinical investigations. The hospital works with partners to help manage the inflow of patients, such as medical agents who assist in making appointments and travel arrangements. 

Most medical tourists going to Malaysia do not travel overseas alone. They arrive with their family; benefiting local hotels, restaurants and shops.

While Penang has done well in attracting medical tourists, there are some structural issues that need to be addressed such as visa entry and extension requirements for patients and their caregivers, flight connectivity and access that could improve Penang's attractiveness as a medical tourism destination. The state government is looking at more direct flights, which is key to opening up new markets, with China and Singapore both targeted.



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