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Malaysia 2019 | HEALTH | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Chong Yee Mun, CEO of Prince Court Medical Centre (PCMC), on healthcare trends, medical tourism, and expectations of growth.

What are the implications of Prince Court's recent acquisition by Khazanah?

The acquisition has not changed the philosophy of Prince Court in any way. Our focus areas have also remained unchanged, for example providing quality healthcare services with an emphasis on customer service. We are doing well with both foreign and local patients and want people to know that Prince Court Medical Centre is a hospital for Malaysians, expatriates, and international patients.

What are the most important trends and developments transforming the healthcare sector?

The biggest changes have been the internet and digital health. Digital health is a subset of the internet; the availability of knowledge is now so widespread, and it is not restricted to just specialists and doctors. This is a great development because it allows patients to be more informed and aware. Another trend is technological innovation, Prince Court is a leader in adopting and using new technologies, and we were among the first hospitals to use the da Vinci surgical robot. We acknowledge that the trend will increasingly move toward robotics, though we are waiting to see greater acceptance from insurance companies and the medical community as a whole. However, with the increasing use of technology and robotics in Healthcare, medical equipment is becoming even more specialized and more expensive resulting in increasing healthcare cost. Healthcare technology continues to develop, and we must ensure that we do not deprive people out of healthcare services as we head toward more robotics and innovation. Digital equipment and wearable technology will also continue to develop and will change especially, in primary healthcare.

What needs to happen for Malaysia to develop further as a prime medical tourism hub in the region?

We just need to put all of our ingredients together and cook them well. Malaysia has all the necessary ingredients to become a prime medical tourism destination. The general tourism industry offers a broad range of attractions, including urban cities, mountains, jungle, and beaches as beautiful as anywhere else if not more. In order for our medical tourism sector to develop, our general tourism must also take off. Thailand is a great example of a place that has a strong general tourism industry that transitioned into strong medical tourism. We are working with the public sector to determine the best way to develop medical tourism in Malaysia. Matters such as ease of visas to visit Malaysia for medical treatment should be addressed. Moreover, medical tourists often come with or as a family, so we should work towards attracting families. We can package our general tourism services with our healthcare tourism services to create the perfect mix. Healthcare standards in Malaysia are high while the charges are very reasonable in comparison with our neighboring countries which is a great incentive for medical tourism. We need to do a better job of presenting and creating awareness of such positive features to the market.

What are the main source markets for foreign patients that come to PCMC, and which markets show signs of strong growth?

We would like to stress that PCMC is a hospital for Malaysians, expatriates, and international patients. However, due to its quality clinical and service standards as well as its location, we receive tourists and travelers as well as expatriates from many different nationalities across the world. We have the most diverse patient load in the country. Patients from Indonesia, UK, US, and Japan are important markets for PCMC. We work closely with many Embassies to support their staff, their citizens working as expatriates in Malaysia as well as visitors and medical travelers. PCMC also attracts Singaporeans and expatriates from Singapore mainly because of Singapore's strong currency. We have catered to many large groups from China that are interested in health screening as well as our IVF services.

How will you realize your vision of becoming a leading healthcare provider in Asia?

For the last few years from 2016 to 2018, PCMC has been chosen by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQUA) to be among the World's Top Ten Hospitals for Medical Tourism and the Top in Malaysia. PCMC has many firsts among its services, and among them are: the first private hospital in Malaysia to have the da Vinci Robot for surgery; the first and still the only private hospital doing kidney transplant including ABO or incompatible transplant; the only private hospital to have a full-fledged Burns Unit; the first corneal transplant; and the only Dialysis Centre in Malaysia using beds and not recliners for the comfort of our patients. One of the frequent accolades from our patient is that PCMC does not look, feel or smell like a hospital. We have 'zen' areas within the hospital building itself which provide quiet and peaceful sitting areas where patients and their families can have peace of mind. One common grouse of hospital stay is the quality of food. PCMC is well known for the quality of our inpatient meals. We employ two 5-star hotel chefs who oversee our kitchen and every patient meal is cooked à la carte. Despite being well established for the high quality of our clinical, nursing, and customer services, we will not rest on our laurels but will continue to strive to improve our services in all areas.