KUALA LUMPUR: As Covid-19 vaccines roll out, Malaysia aims to surpass the RM1bil revenue mark of healthcare travel to hospital facilities within the next two to three years, which will contribute up to RM6bil to the country’s economic growth.
Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council chief executive officer Sherene Azli (pic) said the target to achieve healthcare travel revenue of more than RM1bil would be possible in the next two to three years as there would be more certainty towards policies for healthcare tourism, including the medical travel bubble coupled with the availability of vaccines.
In 2019, Malaysia’s healthcare travel revenue stood at RM1.7bil, which contributed around RM8bil to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
However, for this year, she expects the country’s healthcare travel revenue to tumble 70% to RM500mil compared with RM1.7bil in 2019, dragged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There was a still small amount of medical tourism in the country due to the medical travel bubble.
“As healthcare tourism is a significant contributor to Malaysia’s economy, the revenue decline of RM500mil would only contribute around RM2bil to RM3bil in 2020 compared with RM8bil in 2019, ” she said during the virtual conference of the 13th edition of Medical Fair Asia 2020.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Sherene pointed out that the country’s original target for healthcare travel revenue was around RM2bil for this year.
Malaysia, which ranked first for having the world’s best healthcare systems last year in the international Living Annual Global Retirement Index, recorded around 1.3 million healthcare travellers in 2019.
Given the uncertainity lingering around the logistics of the vaccination, Sherene said it would be “difficult” to predict the number of healthcare travellers coming into the country next year.
In the past five years, Malaysia’s healthcare industry grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 17% against the Asia-Pacific’s year-on-year growth of 12% to 14%, reflecting the potential healthcare travel holds for the region.
Sherene pointed out the pandemic has caused an “urgency” for the healthcare industry in the country to adopt technology and refine the hospitals’ internal processes from a paper platform to a digitalised platform.
Embracing the new norm of digitalisation, she said hospitals have adopted virtual consultations or telemedicine, which allows patients to meet doctors virtually.
“We are embracing the new norm of digitalisation as a silver lining for the current situation, ” Sherene added.
On the other hand, healthcare experts believe the digitalisation of hospitals in the country would continue even as the vaccines roll out.