Medical tourism growing in Malaysia, targeting market high in 2016

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The global medical tourism market is a significant market, although revenue streams for 2015 were said to be $439 billion, a grossly overestimated figure in a recent report by Visa, and subsequently revised to approx $50 billion when challenged by the International Medical Travel Journal. Whatever the figure may be, data authorities can agree upon, is the significant double digit growth predicted over the next decade. The US has always been a popular destination for medical travelers, but as of late Australia, India, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Germany are catching up fast.

Malaysia believes it is a significant player in this market and can back up their claim through a network of accredited hospitals, awards and their claim to the highest quality care to rival anywhere in the world, all at an affordable cost.

Malaysia has grown steadily as a healthcare destination with 2015 numbers reflecting year-on-year growth, expectations are for the trend to continue on an upward trajectory through 2016 and beyond. Although the flow of medical travelers to Malaysia was dominated by Indonesia which accounted for 62% of patients in 2015, with the target for total revenue set at RM 854 million.

IV_MHTC_1

Investvine caught up with Sherene Azli, CEO of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) to discuss the medical healthcare Market in Malaysia and the plan to attract further medical tourists to the country and how they can create a sustainable diversified stream of patients.

Did you hit your target of 1 million medical tourist’s in 2015 and 1 billion MYR in revenue?

We have yet to receive the official numbers for tourist arrivals & receipts for 2015, as that data is still being collated and rationalised by the Department of Statistics; we are expecting over 850,000 medical travelers and revenue generated at approx 900 million MYR, we are sill track for hitting our KPI’s year on year. The reason we did not get to 1 million is partly due to the economic situation worldwide in 2015, so most markets were affected except Singapore and the UK.

We did see over 880,000 arrivals in health travelers to Malaysia in 2014, amounting to RM777 million in healthcare receipts, and we had aimed at seeing those numbers achieve 1 million visitors, bringing in RM 1 billion in healthcare revenue.

What’s the revenue target for 2016?

1.3 Billion RM in revenue and we are very confident that we will see year on year growth.

quote2Growth within the region/ASEAN integration? 

We see huge growth from ASEAN, so much so that we have set up our offices in Vietnam, Myanmar, Jakarta and outside ASEAN an office in Hong Kong and a representative office in Bangladesh. We are working closely with these countries, by sending our doctors there as we are looking to strengthen our position by breeding familiarity, as other than Indonesia there is not a strong awareness yet. We see strong potential in attracting patients from within the region with the ASEAN integration in effect as it will only increase the ease of access and we need to ensure we do our job in promoting our USP’s.

Bangladesh, why and what other markets? 

Look, we are not changing our focus, ASEAN is still our primary focus, Indonesia has been a strong market, then there is South Asia, Middle East and then there are secondary markets such as Australia, New Zealand, UK and Japan. Developed countries are looking at more affordable options with the same quality that is afforded to them in their own countries. The focus though will remain for us on ASEAN, China, South Asia and the Middle East due to the close proximity and direct connectivity.

How have you engaged the Middle East market?

Prior to 2015, even though it was a target it was never a focus. We never went all out to that market and even though we get a lot of tourists to Malaysia from the GCC there has been a lack of awareness of the quality of medical care provided in Malaysia. So now we are focusing on the extension of that service to medical tourism and highlighting the many advantages that we can offer from pricing, quality, being a Muslim country, the Halal market and hospitality.

We have a lot of advantages over Thailand, and we need to highlight that more, lets look at if from a few levels from G2G , B2C and G2C, i’m talking about targeting the different markets. G2G is when we start approaching the different governments and agencies that send their medical travelers to various countries like Thailand, and others and getting them to choose Malaysia as a destination. B2C and G2C we are beefing up or efforts to establish with medical travelers, trust on our quality of care and the fact that Malaysia is ranked as Number one in the world. Our ranking is constantly in the top three, Thailand i’m not sure makes the top ten consistently. We are now more visible due to events, campaigns and actively engage with the media to showcase our offerings, and we are very active on social media to reach out further. Our campaigns are increasingly focusing on internet based and social media to engage audiences, we believe if we are not at ‘the top of mind’ for the consumers, agencies and others then it’s very hard to compete in a competitive market.

Its not even though you bring it up, about us competing directly with Thailand, its about reaching out to the different segments, yes there is an advantage in that we are cheaper than Thailand when its comes to Bumungrand or Bangkok Hospital. We will continue campaigning as we have done with the focus on our quality of care for your peace of mind at an affordable price.

What has been the growth for the Middle Eastern market?

There has been minimal growth, not what i would have liked there to have been, there has been incremental growth in numbers for tourism, many Middle Easterners come back on repeat trips but they still don’t know what we have to offer, its something we are addressing as we are affordable and among the best in the world. We have among the highest growth within the region, the beauty is it’s the industry growing as a whole not just a hospital, in Thailand you know there are just 1-2 hospitals which are very big on medical tourism, for Malaysia its the industry from the hospitals, to medical devices, pharmaceuticals and the eco-system.

Other than awareness, how do you build the trust with patients on Quality of care and being service orientated?

quote1We have beefed up in terms of vetting our specialists that can do sessional rotational visits to various hospitals, we have also started end-to-end where staff will actually take care of the patient from the moment they arrive to the country at the airport to handing them over to the hospital, and then following treatment we will then ensure the patient’s trip out is seamless. We have also implemented associate members that includes travel agents & airlines. We are also looking into wellness two-fold which focuses on before you get sick or the post treatment phase focusing on recovery and rehabilitation, working with hotels and resorts that can offer those services. We currently have two hotels in Malaysia recognised as world healing hotels, on is in Bukit Tinggi which is close to Genting Highlands so if you come with your family there are many activities nearby and the Orchard in Melaka, they are perfect for post recovery whether its short term or long term. We package all this together so when people ask us about specific hospitals or treatments, we can gove you those answers whilst offering a lot more.

We have done many innovative treatments and procedures in Malaysia, being the first in the region and world to carry out certain procedures, having breakthroughs within the industry. The value proposition is further enhanced as we have the TCM (Traditional and Complimentary Medicine) act that was introduced in 2013 that where we have certified practitioners for traditional Chinese, Malay and Indian medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy and other disciplines to compliment ‘modern’ medicine. 

If I was a medical tourist coming to Asia pacific for treatment, I could see from very minimal research that Thailand, Singapore or India would be the best destinations for me to head to for my needs, how do you get into the reckoning of being a primary rather than a secondary destination?

Malaysia is one of the strictest countries when it comes to regulation in healthcare, patient safety is paramount and our advertising guidelines are also strict, so we cannot have testimonials of patients and we concern ourselves with providing the best service to our patients and not shouting the loudest about it when you go to google. We have to ensure the safety and privacy of the patient is protected as well as the integrity of the industry. How do you know if a patient testimonial is paid for, hence our strategy focuses on the highest accreditations of the hospitals to ensure peace of mind. We provide a complete mechanism from the hospital to the governing body to ensure the patient is protected and should there be a dispute that the hospital is unable to resolve, there are bodies in place to handle the matter accordingly and swiftly.

IV_MHTC_2

Thailand is a great example of the public sector promoting their key hospitals effectively to foreign markets, how do you work with the private sector and what have been the results?

One thing about Malaysia that is unique, I have yet to see in other countries; the public sector is promoting the private sector. Everywhere i go people comment on it, that shows a strength that we have. When it comes to the hospitals that we promote naturally we cannot promote all of them as we have over 250 hospitals, there are approximately 70 (22 healthcare operators) that are interested in promoting themselves for medical tourism. They have strong centres of excellence, and very strong niches for example IJN (National Heart Institute), specialises in the treatment and management of heart diseases.

The hospitals were first and foremost developed for Malaysians, now we are seeing them aggressively market to non-Malaysians and they have the capacity to do this as diversification of the market is good for their business and we work very closely with these hospitals.

Other than the lack of awareness, what are the other challenges in increasing revenue and patient numbers, given that the quality of care, infrastructure and competitive prices should put Malaysia on par with Thailand? (Thailand earns in excess of $3 billion, whereas Malaysia is under $200 Million)

Remember our figures are purely based on medical treatments within hospitals that are licensed. We don’t include wellness including spas, resorts, hotels, clinics and those that provide aesthetic treatment in the data for medical spend. We are very specific on only including data for hospital and doctor charges, which are both regulated. Regulation is key as you have to stick to certain price levels, if you simply compare the price levels between Malaysia and Thailand, you will see a significant difference in price. There are examples of a procedure in Thailand costing up to 3 times more than in Malaysia, so that will also have a part to play in the revenue difference. Its not purely a case of let’s go out get revenue, it’s a balancing act, if we remove the price capping and target revenue, its the patients that suffer.

 

IV_MHTC_3

Will technology disrupt the healthcare sector in Malaysia in the near future? What innovation can be expected whether its from big data, the administration process or medical procedures?

Technology in the healthcare field worldwide has not really taken off, its a high spend industry yet has not been truly disrupted as has been seen with other sectors. In Malaysia, it’s always been a trust thing, i want to see you eye to eye, how can you take care of my ailments if i don’t even see you?

Talking about technology in treatment, especially from the public sector, we do welcome innovation. Especially when its comes to efficiency in treatment, precision in diagnostics and cutting the cycle/wait time.

Areas that are still lagging are those that still require further research like stem cells and genomes. We are in a highly regulated industry and for good reason, so adoption has to be carefully selected as patients safety is paramount.

 

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

The global medical tourism market is a significant market, although revenue streams for 2015 were said to be $439 billion, a grossly overestimated figure in a recent report by Visa, and subsequently revised to approx $50 billion when challenged by the International Medical Travel Journal. Whatever the figure may be, data authorities can agree upon, is the significant double digit growth predicted over the next decade. The US has always been a popular destination for medical travelers, but as of late Australia, India, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Germany are catching up fast.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The global medical tourism market is a significant market, although revenue streams for 2015 were said to be $439 billion, a grossly overestimated figure in a recent report by Visa, and subsequently revised to approx $50 billion when challenged by the International Medical Travel Journal. Whatever the figure may be, data authorities can agree upon, is the significant double digit growth predicted over the next decade. The US has always been a popular destination for medical travelers, but as of late Australia, India, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Germany are catching up fast.

Malaysia believes it is a significant player in this market and can back up their claim through a network of accredited hospitals, awards and their claim to the highest quality care to rival anywhere in the world, all at an affordable cost.

Malaysia has grown steadily as a healthcare destination with 2015 numbers reflecting year-on-year growth, expectations are for the trend to continue on an upward trajectory through 2016 and beyond. Although the flow of medical travelers to Malaysia was dominated by Indonesia which accounted for 62% of patients in 2015, with the target for total revenue set at RM 854 million.

IV_MHTC_1

Investvine caught up with Sherene Azli, CEO of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) to discuss the medical healthcare Market in Malaysia and the plan to attract further medical tourists to the country and how they can create a sustainable diversified stream of patients.

Did you hit your target of 1 million medical tourist’s in 2015 and 1 billion MYR in revenue?

We have yet to receive the official numbers for tourist arrivals & receipts for 2015, as that data is still being collated and rationalised by the Department of Statistics; we are expecting over 850,000 medical travelers and revenue generated at approx 900 million MYR, we are sill track for hitting our KPI’s year on year. The reason we did not get to 1 million is partly due to the economic situation worldwide in 2015, so most markets were affected except Singapore and the UK.

We did see over 880,000 arrivals in health travelers to Malaysia in 2014, amounting to RM777 million in healthcare receipts, and we had aimed at seeing those numbers achieve 1 million visitors, bringing in RM 1 billion in healthcare revenue.

What’s the revenue target for 2016?

1.3 Billion RM in revenue and we are very confident that we will see year on year growth.

quote2Growth within the region/ASEAN integration? 

We see huge growth from ASEAN, so much so that we have set up our offices in Vietnam, Myanmar, Jakarta and outside ASEAN an office in Hong Kong and a representative office in Bangladesh. We are working closely with these countries, by sending our doctors there as we are looking to strengthen our position by breeding familiarity, as other than Indonesia there is not a strong awareness yet. We see strong potential in attracting patients from within the region with the ASEAN integration in effect as it will only increase the ease of access and we need to ensure we do our job in promoting our USP’s.

Bangladesh, why and what other markets? 

Look, we are not changing our focus, ASEAN is still our primary focus, Indonesia has been a strong market, then there is South Asia, Middle East and then there are secondary markets such as Australia, New Zealand, UK and Japan. Developed countries are looking at more affordable options with the same quality that is afforded to them in their own countries. The focus though will remain for us on ASEAN, China, South Asia and the Middle East due to the close proximity and direct connectivity.

How have you engaged the Middle East market?

Prior to 2015, even though it was a target it was never a focus. We never went all out to that market and even though we get a lot of tourists to Malaysia from the GCC there has been a lack of awareness of the quality of medical care provided in Malaysia. So now we are focusing on the extension of that service to medical tourism and highlighting the many advantages that we can offer from pricing, quality, being a Muslim country, the Halal market and hospitality.

We have a lot of advantages over Thailand, and we need to highlight that more, lets look at if from a few levels from G2G , B2C and G2C, i’m talking about targeting the different markets. G2G is when we start approaching the different governments and agencies that send their medical travelers to various countries like Thailand, and others and getting them to choose Malaysia as a destination. B2C and G2C we are beefing up or efforts to establish with medical travelers, trust on our quality of care and the fact that Malaysia is ranked as Number one in the world. Our ranking is constantly in the top three, Thailand i’m not sure makes the top ten consistently. We are now more visible due to events, campaigns and actively engage with the media to showcase our offerings, and we are very active on social media to reach out further. Our campaigns are increasingly focusing on internet based and social media to engage audiences, we believe if we are not at ‘the top of mind’ for the consumers, agencies and others then it’s very hard to compete in a competitive market.

Its not even though you bring it up, about us competing directly with Thailand, its about reaching out to the different segments, yes there is an advantage in that we are cheaper than Thailand when its comes to Bumungrand or Bangkok Hospital. We will continue campaigning as we have done with the focus on our quality of care for your peace of mind at an affordable price.

What has been the growth for the Middle Eastern market?

There has been minimal growth, not what i would have liked there to have been, there has been incremental growth in numbers for tourism, many Middle Easterners come back on repeat trips but they still don’t know what we have to offer, its something we are addressing as we are affordable and among the best in the world. We have among the highest growth within the region, the beauty is it’s the industry growing as a whole not just a hospital, in Thailand you know there are just 1-2 hospitals which are very big on medical tourism, for Malaysia its the industry from the hospitals, to medical devices, pharmaceuticals and the eco-system.

Other than awareness, how do you build the trust with patients on Quality of care and being service orientated?

quote1We have beefed up in terms of vetting our specialists that can do sessional rotational visits to various hospitals, we have also started end-to-end where staff will actually take care of the patient from the moment they arrive to the country at the airport to handing them over to the hospital, and then following treatment we will then ensure the patient’s trip out is seamless. We have also implemented associate members that includes travel agents & airlines. We are also looking into wellness two-fold which focuses on before you get sick or the post treatment phase focusing on recovery and rehabilitation, working with hotels and resorts that can offer those services. We currently have two hotels in Malaysia recognised as world healing hotels, on is in Bukit Tinggi which is close to Genting Highlands so if you come with your family there are many activities nearby and the Orchard in Melaka, they are perfect for post recovery whether its short term or long term. We package all this together so when people ask us about specific hospitals or treatments, we can gove you those answers whilst offering a lot more.

We have done many innovative treatments and procedures in Malaysia, being the first in the region and world to carry out certain procedures, having breakthroughs within the industry. The value proposition is further enhanced as we have the TCM (Traditional and Complimentary Medicine) act that was introduced in 2013 that where we have certified practitioners for traditional Chinese, Malay and Indian medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy and other disciplines to compliment ‘modern’ medicine. 

If I was a medical tourist coming to Asia pacific for treatment, I could see from very minimal research that Thailand, Singapore or India would be the best destinations for me to head to for my needs, how do you get into the reckoning of being a primary rather than a secondary destination?

Malaysia is one of the strictest countries when it comes to regulation in healthcare, patient safety is paramount and our advertising guidelines are also strict, so we cannot have testimonials of patients and we concern ourselves with providing the best service to our patients and not shouting the loudest about it when you go to google. We have to ensure the safety and privacy of the patient is protected as well as the integrity of the industry. How do you know if a patient testimonial is paid for, hence our strategy focuses on the highest accreditations of the hospitals to ensure peace of mind. We provide a complete mechanism from the hospital to the governing body to ensure the patient is protected and should there be a dispute that the hospital is unable to resolve, there are bodies in place to handle the matter accordingly and swiftly.

IV_MHTC_2

Thailand is a great example of the public sector promoting their key hospitals effectively to foreign markets, how do you work with the private sector and what have been the results?

One thing about Malaysia that is unique, I have yet to see in other countries; the public sector is promoting the private sector. Everywhere i go people comment on it, that shows a strength that we have. When it comes to the hospitals that we promote naturally we cannot promote all of them as we have over 250 hospitals, there are approximately 70 (22 healthcare operators) that are interested in promoting themselves for medical tourism. They have strong centres of excellence, and very strong niches for example IJN (National Heart Institute), specialises in the treatment and management of heart diseases.

The hospitals were first and foremost developed for Malaysians, now we are seeing them aggressively market to non-Malaysians and they have the capacity to do this as diversification of the market is good for their business and we work very closely with these hospitals.

Other than the lack of awareness, what are the other challenges in increasing revenue and patient numbers, given that the quality of care, infrastructure and competitive prices should put Malaysia on par with Thailand? (Thailand earns in excess of $3 billion, whereas Malaysia is under $200 Million)

Remember our figures are purely based on medical treatments within hospitals that are licensed. We don’t include wellness including spas, resorts, hotels, clinics and those that provide aesthetic treatment in the data for medical spend. We are very specific on only including data for hospital and doctor charges, which are both regulated. Regulation is key as you have to stick to certain price levels, if you simply compare the price levels between Malaysia and Thailand, you will see a significant difference in price. There are examples of a procedure in Thailand costing up to 3 times more than in Malaysia, so that will also have a part to play in the revenue difference. Its not purely a case of let’s go out get revenue, it’s a balancing act, if we remove the price capping and target revenue, its the patients that suffer.

 

IV_MHTC_3

Will technology disrupt the healthcare sector in Malaysia in the near future? What innovation can be expected whether its from big data, the administration process or medical procedures?

Technology in the healthcare field worldwide has not really taken off, its a high spend industry yet has not been truly disrupted as has been seen with other sectors. In Malaysia, it’s always been a trust thing, i want to see you eye to eye, how can you take care of my ailments if i don’t even see you?

Talking about technology in treatment, especially from the public sector, we do welcome innovation. Especially when its comes to efficiency in treatment, precision in diagnostics and cutting the cycle/wait time.

Areas that are still lagging are those that still require further research like stem cells and genomes. We are in a highly regulated industry and for good reason, so adoption has to be carefully selected as patients safety is paramount.

 

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