KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 ― The outlook of Malaysia’s medical tourism industry is expected to be positive in the long term with the burgeoning demand for healthcare services, both domestic and international, coming from especially an increasingly affluent and ageing population, due to reasonable pricing.
Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) Research Equity Analyst, Athila Razali, said most treatments, such as cardiovascular as well as upper and lower gastrointestinal, will cost more overseas compared to Malaysia.
She said the neighbouring countries, Indonesia and Singapore, formed the largest chunks of medical tourists, with the industry also seeing an increase in the flow from West Asia and other Western countries.
“Malaysia, with rising medical expertise in various healthcare areas, is also seeing an increase in interest in wellness/disease prevention treatments coming from countries with higher spending capacity,” she told Bernama.
However, Athila said, medical tourism was still a small contributor to the Malaysian economy, citing the figures by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC).
As of 2015, the revenue generated via medical tourism stood at RM1 billion, contributed by more than 850,000 medical travellers to Malaysia and the government aimed to increase this to RM1.3 billion.
“We do think that despite the small contribution currently, it will grow further, especially with the addition of new private hospitals throughout Malaysia providing various medical expertise and support,” she said.
MIDF said the current currency condition has also made Malaysia a more attractive medical tourism destination as it became increasingly affordable to seek treatments here.
“The good reputation of Malaysian healthcare system abroad also encourages the inflow of medical travellers.
“The government is also encouraging the private healthcare players, such as IHH Healthcare and KPJ Healthcare, to have their hospitals MHTC-certified to increase the chances of being the preferred medical tourism destination,” she said.
Meanwhile, Prince Court Medical Centre (PCMC) Chief Executive Officer, Chong Yee Mun, said Malaysia, a multi-cultural country with doctors internationally recognised and qualified, has a high standard of healthcare.
“Malaysia has a wide cross-section of different cultures, races and religions.
“In addition, it has a wide range of languages, coupled with international qualifications from UK, US, India and Australia, Malaysia is seen as an ideal location to attract visitors,” Chong said.
Chong said visitors to Malaysia would find it worthwhile to “kill two birds with one stone” as medical seekers were able to enjoy the tourism part, with numerous historical locations, cheap shopping and varieties of food.
With more people seeking treatment here, local industries such as travel, hospitality and retail would flourish, he said.
“Together with the local travel industry, these will bring in foreign tourists to support the local economy,” he said.
Currently, Chong said, the general medical examination, fertility treatments, orthopaedic surgeries, cancer services and specialised health checks were among the top sought treatments for foreigners.
“We are seeing increasing demand for specialised health checks by expatriates, especially in the oil and gas sector, as the occupational health requirements for this sector are pretty stringent,” he said.
In the US, a heart bypass surgery will typically cost around US$70,000 to US$200,000 in comparison with the average price of US$9,000 here.
Gleneagles Hospital and Medical Centre (GHMC) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Adzuan Rahman, said Malaysia has an efficient, cutting-edge technology and a widespread of healthcare system that added to the attractiveness of medical tourism.
“Malaysia has over 139 public and 260 private hospitals respectively. Therefore, one need not worry about being placed on a long waiting list,” he said.
Adzuan said GHMC was the first hospital in Malaysia to be equipped with Gamma Knife, a neurological treatment that offered patients painless, incision-free stereotactic surgery performed with extreme precision to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues surrounding the targeted area.
With medical tourism on the rise, he expected the Malaysian health and wellness sector to grow at 11 per cent.
“The sector is forecast to grow at 11 per cent between 2015 and 2020, and could exceed US$20 billion (US$1 = RM4.43) by 2025,” he said, adding that medical tourism contributed 10 per cent to GHMC’s revenue last year.
“Malaysia, being a halal-friendly country, is an added bonus to Muslim foreigners which means that halal alternatives such as medicine and food are easily available here,” he said.
On the outlook, Adzuan said the government aimed to increase and develop healthcare as an engine of economic growth through private sector partnerships and investments.