Penang tops Malaysia’s list for medical tourism

With no less than seven private hospitals participating in medical tourism in Penang, the island destination accounts for the major share of Malaysia’s medical tourism – which accounts for over a million annual arrivals in the country.

Hospitals such as Pantai Mutiara Hospital, Lam Wah Ee Hospital, Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital, Loh Guan Lye Specialist Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Penang Adventist Hospital and Island Hospital are favourites in Penang for care-seekers from Thailand and Australia.

Annual growth in medical tourism arrivals to Malaysia is expected to continue at around 15%. But why is medical tourism so strong in Malaysia, and in particular in Penang? Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council CEO, Sherene Azli believes the selling proposition that is strongest on top of the quality of the medical care is the affordability: “Due to heavy market regulation under the Ministry of Health, with fee schedules and price capping, our doctors cannot overcharge patients. This is especially comforting for patients coming from abroad, knowing that not only do we provide world class quality and immediate accessibility, but we are also very affordable. Within this region, the stronger players are Malaysia, Thailand, and historically, Singapore. Singapore however have priced themselves out, as they are three to four times more expensive than Malaysia. Thailand is priced higher than us, at around double our prices.”

According to Azli, a big growth market is China. “Our largest market is currently Indonesia, which accounts for 50% to 60% of our arrivals. Last year we exceeded our target of 1 million arrivals and close to 60% are Indonesians. That being said, we are seeing growth from other ASEAN countries like Myanmar and Vietnam – so much so that we have started opening representative offices in these two countries. At the same time, we have seen double- digit growth from China. China is growing – especially for fertility, India is also on the rise. Southeast Asia’s population is 690 million, combined with 1.4 bn in China and 1.2 bn in India we have quite a large volume of potential healthcare travellers”.

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Photo: Sherene Azli, CEO, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council