Malaysia has gained fame as a medical-tourism destination because its healthcare is among the world’s best—and cheapest. Malaysia has both public and private healthcare with medical expertise equal to or better than that in most Western countries. You can however access public hospitals where the costs are lower, and where some of the hospitals operate on a non-for profit basis.
In Malaysia, medical staff are friendly, professional, and genuinely happy to see you. The majority of the doctors and dentists are trained in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. It’s really a country where medical tourism has been taken to the next level.
More affordable air travel, mounting healthcare costs in developed countries, long waiting lists, and an ageing world population have all contributed to a global explosion of medical tourism in the past decade—and Malaysia is leagues ahead in terms of its world market share.
It’s a secret that the rest of Asia has known for a long time. In fact, 80% of all medical tourists coming into Malaysia are from its neighboring countries, including Thailand and Singapore—medical tourism enclaves themselves.
So why are medical tourists flocking to Malaysia? Both Penang and Kuala Lumpur are serviced by airlines from around the world; have a plethora of reasonably priced hotel rooms; an excellent public transportation system (second to none in the region); and when you arrive in Malaysia most nationalities are given a three-month visa upon arrival. All of which help to make your stay—in a hotel, hospital or short term let—easy.
Given Malaysia’s reputation for graceful and attentive service, it is not hard to see why Penang and Kuala Lumpur have quickly become the medical tourism hubs of Asia.
More than 80% of all medical tourists in the world traveled to Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore in 2016, with Penang and Kuala Lumpur (in Malaysia) leading the pack.
The cost of hotel rooms and treatment are both far more expensive in Singapore than on the Malaysia island of Penang, making it the most popular place for medical tourism in Southeast Asia.
Malaysian Tourism, which began promoting medical tourism in Malaysia in 2002, is delighted with the progress, but would now like to see more Western tourists booking in for what Asian tourists have been benefitting from for many years.
Some of the most popular treatments available include cosmetic surgery, dental work, and dermatology.
To give you an idea of the cost of just one procedure, a full-face lift in the U.S., including a chin lift (sometimes done separately or not at all), can be as much as $35,000. In Malaysia it’s less than half the price. When you think that you can add on a week of rest and recuperation somewhere, like on the exotic island of Langkawi, in a 5-star hotel, and still save $10,000 on what it would have cost you in the U.S., it’s no wonder that Malaysia’s medical tourism industry is on the rise.
Dentist studios are state-of-the art. A checkup costs $12. A filling and a cleaning costs about $32.50. In the U.S. this treatment costs on average $180. To replace a cap on a tooth costs on average $300, while at home this would cost closer to $1,200.
Western accreditation is also a vital component for confidence in undergoing foreign medical treatments, and hospitals in Penang and Kuala Lumpur were among Southeast Asia’s first recipients of the United States’ prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) certification, which is seen as the gold standard for healthcare service providers around the world. Now Malaysia has eight JCI-accredited hospitals for medical tourists to book with. Some hospitals in Penang also have entire wings specializing in tourists, and have translators for 22 different languages, including Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish and Russian, as well as teams of English-speaking staff.
“According to Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, more than 1 million visitors came to Malaysia in 2017 for medical tourism and the number is swiftly rising,” says Kirsten Raccuia, IL Southeast Asia Correspondent who lives in Penang, Malaysia.
“With 13 JCI accredited hospitals in the country and almost every doctor fluent in English, it’s not surprising. In fact, most doctors were trained in the UK, U.S., or Australia so communicating is flawless. Face lifts and tummy tucks start at $4,100 so it makes sense to look into Malaysia as a medical tourism destination.”
Written by International Living