Our collective circumstance for the past one and a half years has been far from ideal. Globally, travel restrictions have been slowing economies and in my former capacity as the Senior Director of Tourism Policy and International Affairs Division at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia, I was striving with my team to look for sustainable solutions for the local travel economy.
Thus, when I was offered to take up the portfolio of Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), I must admit the circumstances made me slightly apprehensive.
MHTC was not only faced with the travel restrictions but has the added responsibility of facilitating healthcare experiences – experiences which need continuity. Over the past decade of providing healthcare services to patients from abroad, Malaysia is a healthcare destination which many depend on for critical illness treatments – something we simply cannot turn a blind eye to. MHTC had already built a foundation for continuity of care, but the future of Malaysia Healthcare needed a plan that will take the industry beyond the pandemic.
Malaysia Healthcare’s tremendous growth over the past 10 years also has resulted in the industry being earmarked as a key export service industry, responsible for creating some 15,000 jobs since 2011. In 2019, the industry was able to rake in RM1.7 billion in hospital revenues with a spill over effect to other economic sectors (such as travel and lodging) at an estimated RM7 billion.
At the end of the day, my passion for the nation’s growth drove me to take this opportunity and play my part in charting a sustainable course for the future of Malaysia Healthcare.
My immediate vision was to catalyse the groundwork for forging industry resilience. This began with building relationships with stakeholders and partners who are driven towards fortifying Malaysia Healthcare’s resilience. I was very encouraged to meet different ministry leaders and decision makers of dedication towards the industry, who added fuel to passion for my new role.
It was clear from the beginning, and from my prior experience working with MHTC that there was a solid structure on which the industry is built upon. The public-private partnership between the Government ministries, the private healthcare sector and other private auxiliary services has been founded and firmed.
It was not long after that where I sat down for my first Board of Directors (BOD) meeting as CEO of MHTC. The product of the discussion was undeniable support for the industry’s growth and maturation. Receiving the support of the BOD was the vote of confidence the industry needs to move forward in terms of building upon the patient experience journey and demonstrating Malaysia as a safe and trusted destination for healthcare.
As the pandemic persists, Malaysia Healthcare has our work cut out for us in engaging our customers and keeping ourselves as the top-of-mind destination for healthcare. We focussed on building Malaysia Healthcare’s brand awareness through speaking engagement opportunities, targeted marketing and promotion, branding exercises, as well as turning to a key stakeholder, global media members. A large part of my role was to connect with Malaysia Healthcare’s advocates to share on our plans and efforts in creating a safe and trusted environment for our healthcare travellers to experience – especially when the borders have reopened.
Over the past 100 days, we worked hard on solidifying a five-year plan to revive the healthcare travel industry, which has been perhaps the most exciting part of my career here so far. The plan includes a digitalisation framework to enhance the end-to-end patient experience in the eventuality of travel resumption. Malaysia Healthcare can also look forward to the Flagship Medical Tourism Hospital Programme roll out this year, which will push private healthcare facilities in terms of medical and service excellence. All in all, this plan will take the industry through a recovery and rebuilding phase which will ultimately empower us to position Malaysia as the leading healthcare destination by 2025.
With the implementation of this framework, I foresee an industry which will play a significant role in reviving the industry while elevating the delivery of healthcare services for both Malaysians and our healthcare travellers to enjoy. In due time, this framework will be officially launched and shared with everyone on how Malaysia Healthcare will forge forward towards a sustainable future.
However, the ultimate way we can all move forward is to overcome the pandemic globally. It is not just about Malaysia exiting the foray of the pandemic, but the entire world. We only attain success if we attain it together.
The road towards success includes practising physical distancing, the best hygiene practices as well as looking out for one another and building each other up. In these troubling times, we must seek out individuals who need help and offer them our support and resources. Let us also continue to look to the Almighty for strength and hope.
It is my hope that we do everything in our capacity to rise above our circumstances. For Malaysia Healthcare, this is the cornerstone of our plan for a sustainable future.
Let us fight with resilience today for a better tomorrow.