Image:Courtesy of MHTC

Malaysia Health Tourism Council (MHTC) has seen an encouraging number of Bruneians travelling to Malaysia seeking medical treatment due to value-for-money, high quality care, state-of-the-art technology, highly-skilled medical professionals and competitive pricing.

MHTC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sherene Azli, in an interview during a recent media trip to Kuala Lumpur, said that popular treatments sought by Bruneians are particularly in cardiology, pediatrics, oncology and even cosmetic surgery.

Image: Azrina Zin

“Last year, there was an increase of 14 to 15 per cent of medical tourists arriving in Malaysia although, for Brunei is at only 11 per cent which is still below the average compared to other countries,” she said.

Furthermore, Malaysia is aiming to become a fertility hub in Asia by 2020 and it is hoped to attract more Bruneian couples seeking to conceive, the CEO added.

In previous report, MHTC Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Nik Yazmin Nik Azman in an interview with The Bruneian during the MoU signing with Darussalam Holdings (DH) said that the council have recorded about RM5 million ($1.7 million) revenues coming from Bruneians with just under 2000 patients in 2017.

Image: Azrina Zin

“These figures are just for patients coming to our private hospitals not including clinics or smaller healthcare facilities,” she said, adding that the numbers are still small despite doubling over the past five years.

“Most of them go to Gleneagles KL and we also see some patients coming in for fertility treatment as well which is not necessarily done in hospitals. It can be done at fertility centres as well,” the CCO said.

MALAYSIA: DESTINATION OF CHOICE AMONG MEDICAL TRAVELERS

MHTC, which is an initiative by Ministry of Health Malaysia, is a Malaysian government agency tasked to raise Malaysia’s profile as the preferred destination for world class healthcare services.

The country has welcomed over 1.2 million medical travelers in 2018, which contributed close to RM1.5 billion in revenue from visiting international health tourists over the same period.

The council is now targeting several new ASEAN markets as it continues to establish Malaysia as a leading global destination for healthcare and it is known for its services in orthopedics, ophthalmology, cardiology, IVF, neurology, gastroenterology, oncology, dentistry, cosmetic surgery and health screening.

Image: Azrina Zin

Medical travelers today look for destination packages that are complete such as one that includes quality healthcare treatment, ease of communication, ease of travel and accessibility.

Medical tourism is certainly a growing industry in Malaysia and the country has been recognised for its medical and health tourism attraction in Asia since 2015.

QUALITY OF HEALTHCARE AND ACCREDITATION

One of the drivers for medical tourism is the quality of healthcare – Malaysia has state-of-the-art facilities, highly skilled doctors and nurses and high-quality care.

As competition in medical tourism becomes fiercer, industry players have adopted a number of strategies to strengthening their service value and quality in order to distinguish them from their competitors.

With the medical industry at the forefront of many technological advances, the state government has also invested heavily in developing research infrastructures that leads to important new developments in healthcare.

Apart from the availability of state-of-the-art technology and highly skilled professionals, accreditation is another factor that determines the key success in the medical tourism industry.

Image: Azrina Zin

Hospitals which have been certified with quality service by international accreditors such as the Joint Commission International (JCI) tend to attract more medical travelers.

According to MHTC, Malaysia has about 13 hospitals accredited with JCI in 2019 which includes Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur, Pantai Hospital KL and Institut Jantung Negara, among others.

In addition to that, Malaysia’s private healthcare system has been recognised as the ‘Best Country in the World for Healthcare’ from 2015 to 2019 by US-based International Living.

AFFORDABILITY

Countries that offer high-quality healthcare services at affordable and highly competitive prices are taking a higher share of the health tourism market.

With economically affordable treatment options and favourable government initiatives, Malaysia is anticipated to acquire one of the top market positions in the global medical tourism industry.

According to MHTC CEO, the currency exchange rate also plays a part in the growth of the healthcare travel industry in the country.

Medical travelers coming to Malaysia for medical care can save up to 60 to 80 per cent in costs – an amount that they might spend if seeking treatment in Western countries, where it is also 60 per cent and 20 per cent more affordable than Singapore and Thailand.

Image: Azrina Zin

However, according to MHTC, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health regulates ceiling rates for healthcare treatment thus ensuring services remain realistically affordable.

Moreover, patients are attracted to the low cost of living with high quality of life which Malaysia is known for and that it is perfect for those who need to stay longer for pre- and post-surgery.

EASE OF TRAVEL AND COMMUNICATION

What makes a travel better is easy access throughout the whole journey and for medical travelers, it is a crucial factor for them.

For MHTC, it offers services ranging from recommendations on specialists and hospitals, advice on visa and immigrations requirements and many more.

In addition, the MHTC also provides a fast-track services for patients that include transportation right from the airport to the hospital.

The collaboration between Darussalam Holdings and MHTC which deal was signed in 2018 aimed at providing easier accessibility for patients and their families from Brunei the sultanate when they travel to Malaysia.

The council will be offering medical services from selected healthcare providers in Malaysia whereas DH will provide flight, accommodation, transport and related facilities to medical travelers from Brunei.

Moreover, it is convenient for medical travelers to communicate in Malaysia as it is a multilingual and multicultural country; languages spoken in Malaysia include English, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil and Hindi.

MUSLIM-FRIENDLY FACILITIES

Malaysia offers healthcare facilities that accommodate the needs of Muslim medical travelers, where a large core number of medical tourists arrive each year from neighbouring Muslim country such as Indonesia.

All Malaysian hospitals offer Muslim-friendly services such as serving halal food, prayer facilities as well as providing doctors and nurses that are the same gender as the patients.

Image: Azrina Zin

Furthermore, hospitals are offering patients porcine-free medical products such as using sutures manufactured by a Malaysian firm made from animals slaughtered under the Islamic law.

The CEO concluded that the council is keen to increase its healthcare market penetration in ASEAN countries and to further collaborate with local hospitals such as RIPAS Hospital.

This article was first published on May 18, 2019 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 38

KUALA LUMPUR | The Bruneian

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