THE LIGHT AT THE END

Malaysia 2017 | HEALTH | FOCUS: THE THREE CORRIDORS

Seeking to attract even more medical travelers and leverage on its existing strengths in the healthcare sectors in Penang, Malacca, and Johor, the Malaysian government seeks for these three corridors to drive the industry forward.

The Asia Pacific healthcare market, divided into pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and healthcare technology, represents 30% of global revenue and had an annual growth rate of 11.5% for 2016 compared to the global rate of 6.9%. Malaysia's system is two-tiered, with a government-run scheme that provides universal healthcare services and a private sector that is increasingly tailoring to medical travelers coming from abroad. Malaysia is often the country of choice for medical tourism because of its location and high quality, cost-effective healthcare.

Following an international trend of growing appetite for wellness and preventative care, Malaysia is well positioned to attract more medical travelers seeking a vacation combining wellness and health. The Malaysian Health Travel Council (MHTC) actively promotes Malaysia as a medical destination and has outlined three medical corridors in the country where extra efforts are being made to attract a larger foreign patient base: Penang, Malacca, and Johor.

Penang has an international airport that is well connected to key markets in China and Indonesia and has traditionally been a geographical hub. Its connectivity has attracted many private hospitals to set up their facilities there and provide medical services to patients from various countries. As the only island destination, this destination is popular for group tours via agencies that combine leisure and medical tourism with special packages.

Malacca has fewer medical centers, but can leverage on its attractiveness as a tourist destination and an environment that is less chaotic than Kuala Lumpur. The historic port city is easy to reach for Indonesian patients from Sumatra, who travel by ferry for treatments of all kinds. Mahkota Medical Centre is the destination of choice here, and the relative serenity of the city is seen as having beneficial effects on the recovery process.

Johor is located in the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia and leverages on its close proximity to Singapore to service a large number of Singaporeans who make up the bulk of its international patients. With the rapid development of new townships on the southern border of peninsular Malaysia, the city's hospitals will increasingly cater to domestic needs as well. Medini Iskandar, one such real estate project in Johor, includes a health cluster as a central part of its development, seeking to attract companies and research institutes within the field.

These three medical corridors will shape the development and the internationalization of the Malaysian health sector for years to come. In addition, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, the capitals of Sabah and Sarawak, respectively, in Borneo have been earmarked for future development. Kota Kinabalu has a well-connected international airport, located in close proximity to many healthcare facilities. As the airport expands and an increasing number of low-cost carriers fly from here, increasing connectivity, the medical sector is expected to grow alongside. Malaysia's leading private hospital chains, like KPJ, Regency, and IHH, plan to open their premises here—or have already done so. Kota Kinabalu will primarily attract medical travelers from China and other countries in northern Asia Pacific. Kuching, meanwhile, is located on the southern tip of east Malaysia and is an attractive destination for Indonesians coming from Borneo.

Malaysia's capital city, albeit not in one of the corridors, remains the seat of many of the flagship hospitals of the nation's hospital groups. Prince Court Medical Centre, PETRONAS' venture into the healthcare sector and one of the country's leaders in attracting medical travelers in the higher-end segment, positions itself as a Kuala Lumpur-only hospital. For Sunway Medical Centre, a large presence in the capital is only natural as the Sunway Group has an entire complex, including hotels, shopping and entertainment centers, and universities, that surround its healthcare facilities. In addition, most of the specialist clinics, like THONEH for eye care and the National Heart Institute (IJN), are based in Kuala Lumpur. Given the air connectivity and ground transportation links to the capital, many hospitals leverage these infrastructural advantages to further their internationalization. Also, the city makes it ideal to source talent, as it is easier to find highly qualified and multilingual medical staff there.