Medicare Tourism used to refer to people from underdeveloped countries that traveled to countries with modern medical facilities for treatments that were not available in their country.
However, in recent years, we have seen the reverse whereby citizens of developed countries have started to seek affordable treatment in developing countries.
Singapore may be one of the best medical tourism destinations in the world with its long-established professional expertise and latest in medical advancements, however, everyone knows how costly everything, and especially healthcare can be in the island city-state.
With other medical tourism destinations in the Asia region fast catching up, especially Bangkok and Malaysia where we have seen rapid advancements in the recent years in the range of medical services and procedures offer to medical tourists at lower rates compared to Singapore.
A 2016 Straits Times report points out that while a hip replacement surgery costs about S$14,000, the same procedure only costs S$8,800 at the Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca, Malaysia where they treat upwards of 80,000 foreign patients per year. And according to BMI Research, a heart bypass in Singapore can cost as much as 106 percent more than in Malaysia.
To stay ahead, private medical groups in Singapore have also expanded overseas, most notably to Malaysia, where Regency Specialist Hospital (part of Singapore’s HMI Group) and Gleneagles Medini (part of Parkway Hospital (IHH) have set up shop across the border in Iskandar Malaysia, where Singaporeans and Singapore PRs can also make use of their Medisave when they seek treatment.
Further up north, the Makhota Medical Centre in Malacca and Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur also allows the use of Medisave for hospitalizations and day surgeries through the local Medisave-accredited institution/referral center in Singapore.
In 2015, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) reported revenues of MYR900 million, up 16 percent from 2014, with Europeans, Japanese, Middle Eastern citizens amongst the foreign patients, with the Indonesians making up 75 percent of the total international patient population.
Supported by the government’s efforts to turn the industry into a key economic driver, the multi-million medical tourism industry is also expected to fuel the rise of greater healthcare hubs in Johor, Penang, and Malacca.
A rapidly growing medical tourism industry will give rise to a strong impetus in the local employment market, driving a direct demand for medical professionals including doctors and nurses, with a multiplier effect expected for jobs in hospitality, transport, and logistics in the surrounding area of the medical facility.
Having an influx in medical tourists provides a potential boost in the local economy by drawing affluent patients from around the world where they are likely to stay in the destination post-treatment for relaxation, leisure and sight-seeing, hence encouraging them to return, visit again, or even eventually setting up home and becoming a local resident in the area.
With the growth of international patients seeking medical treatments in Malaysia – especially those seeking treatment for surgery or chronic diseases – who may choose to stay in the country or travel repeatedly for treatments, some might consider it better value for money to purchase a home to stay in while seeking treatment.
They can choose to keep the property for investment, use it as a holiday home or rent it out when their medical treatment is over.
Even the developers are taking note of this rising trend and have responded accordingly, Malaysian property developer MB Group developing the Sungai Pulai Wellness Resort, a mixed-use project. With a 160,000 sq ft wellness clubhouse that offers a variety of services including chiropractors, physiotherapists, preventive and regenerative care, there will also be a medical services concierge to link patients with specialists and hospitals in the area.
In other words, aside from education, connectivity, retirement, and economy, be sure to add medical or healthcare options as a key focus when looking at the next property hotspot or project to invest in.
Interested to invest? Join us at the Malaysia Home and Investment Expo on the 23 to 24 June 2018.