Medical Tourism in Malaysia: Making a Comeback
Mention medical tourism in Malaysia, and most people might make a blank stare at you. After all, it’s not a common term that’s thrown around often, but people are becoming more and more aware of it. That’s because Malaysia is one of the top destinations for medical tourism. Medical tourism is when people travel abroad to seek treatment overseas. While this usually referred to cases where one had to seek treatment options not available in one’s home country, this is no longer the case as people are now flying overseas to receive treatments that they can get back in their hometown. Medical tourism in Malaysia had actually existed for more than 20 years now: the Ministry of Health formed the National Committee for the Promotion of Medical and Health Tourism (NCPMHT) in 1998, and it was replaced by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) in 2009. Currently, Prince Court Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur has been rated at number 6 among the World’s Best Hospitals for Medical Tourists by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance. Prince Court Medical Centre is also not shy about its role in medical tourism in Malaysia either. But why would it even exist? Let’s explore several reasons for this.
One of the main reasons for medical tourism in Malaysia is cost savings. For instance, the average cost for a heart bypass in the United States is about $123,000 (around RM514,000) as of 2019; in contrast, the same procedure in Malaysia would cost only a fraction of it, at about $12,100 (around RM50,570). That’s not even factoring in all the extra hidden costs at US hospitals. Why the huge disparity? There are several reasons why American healthcare is prohibitively expensive. Thus, when people discover a much more sensible solution in seeking out treatment in a developing country like Malaysia, medical tourism is born. According to MHTC, Malaysia has received over a million healthcare travellers in 2017 alone, and the healthcare traveller revenue has breached RM1 billion since 2016; both numbers have been consistently growing since 2011.
Cutting in line
Another reason for medical tourism is the long wait times in countries like the United Kingdom; prior to COVID-19, more than 229,000 patients had waited over 6 months to even begin treatment, and 1,032 patients had waited over a year, compared to the previous year where 3,464 patients had waited over a year before they even received treatment, and a total of more than 620,000 had to wait over 16 weeks. So for those who want to skip ahead and can afford to do so, they would book a medical procedure at one of the private hospitals around the world for the next day or so, and they can then immediately book a flight and have the procedures done within the week.
One more reason for medical tourism to be popular is due to the convenience of getting medical procedures done for cheap while on vacation, especially in conjunction with the other two factors mentioned above, which puts the ‘tourism’ in ‘medical tourism’. This is especially true in the case of Malaysia, given the affordable cost of living and competitive quality of life offered here compared to other places where the balance between the two are thrown off: the services are cheap, but the living conditions leave something to be desired, or the environment is excellent, but the prices are significantly higher.
For the last year and a half, the world has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a big loss of economy in many sectors around the globe, especially when international travel has been severely restricted. This is no different for medical tourism in Malaysia, which took a 75% hit: MHTC had predicted that Malaysia would have a medical tourism revenue of only RM500 million, down from the recorded RM1.7 billion from the previous year. However, with international borders opening soon when Malaysia is closer to becoming a fully vaccinated nation, medical tourism in Malaysia would be on the road to recovery. This particular market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.29% during the period of 2021–2026.
So there you have it, dear readers. I hope you have learned more about medical tourism in Malaysia and how it is possibly making a comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic becomes n endemic. Let us know what you think about this interesting industry! Were you a medical tourist? Tell us what was the motivation behind your decision to be a medical tourist in the comments section below!
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