KUCHING: Malaysia is increasingly becoming a major destination for foreigners seeking medical treatment over the past five years, with efforts under way to diversify source markets.
According to the Ministry of Health Malaysia, the first five months of 2012 saw some 236,836 of foreign patients travelling into the country for medical care, spending RM200.4 million in total.
Based on these preliminary figures, the sector was expected to attract over 600,000 foreign patients and generate more than RM600 million in revenues by the end of 2012, Oxford Business Group (OBG) stated in its latest Malaysia Report.
In comparison to the region, Malaysia’s favourable exchange rate and the cost of healthcare services is at an extensively lower cost than that of other countries.
Some surgeries, in particular, are cheaper by half as compared with Singapore or Indonesia.
OBG, however, pointed out that spending by medical tourists was significantly higher than that of other types of visitors in general, medical tourists spent around four times more than their leisure counterparts.
“The medical tourism segment is almost entirely served by private sector health care providers.
“In 2011, facilities in Penang attracted around 49 per cent of total foreign medical revenues, while institutions in KL and the greater Klang Valley attracted 21 per cent of total spending and those in Melaka took in about 10 per cent,” it highlighted.
The government is currently working to boost private sector participation in the industry, with the goal of expanding health care options for Malaysians and attracting a large share of the medical tourism market.
“Incentives aimed at encouraging private participation in the sector include tax exemption for firms that build new hospitals or expand existing hospitals with the goal of attracting more medical tourists, and other tax incentives for companies that obtain accreditations,” it explained.
As of mid-2012, Malaysia was home to eight hospitals with JCI accreditation, including Gleneagles Hospital, the National Heart Institute, the Penang Adventist Hospital and the Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya.
Additionally, 85 hospitals – 32 of which are private facilities – hold accreditations from the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Health Indonesia had announced a plan in early 2012 to boost accessibility to health care for nationals in an effort to encourage Indonesians to stop travelling abroad for care.
“If this plan comes to fruition, Malaysia could possibily see a decline in its medical tourists from Indonesia, with this likely to have a significant effect on revenue figures.
“With this in mind, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council is currently working to promote the segment in nearby countries such as Singapore and Japan as well as further afield in burgeoning health care markets including China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and a handful of nations in the Middle East,” it concluded.