Learning how to develop medical tourism

Dr Shankar Chelliah from the School of Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia, offered some insights on what Malaysia can do to further capitalise on the global medical tourism market in his talk on Medical Tourism: An Emerging Research Niche, organised by WOU’s School of Business and Administration and Centre for Graduate Studies at the main campus.

Dr Shankar elaborates on medical tourism.

Dr Shankar elaborates on medical tourism.

“Some countries are leading because of price, facilities and how they brand themselves,” he said, adding that Malaysia has yet to really brand itself as a world-class care provider at affordable cost.

Since Malaysia is a relatively new market entrant to medical tourism, he suggested identifying relevant competitive strategies for the industry to adopt, to enhance customer satisfaction and capture a larger market share in the region.

“We also need to identify what factors affect customer satisfaction the most and contribute to competitive advantages for the healthcare centres,” he said, stating that a survey in Penang found that customer satisfaction, especially for the Japanese, depends on the quality of service.

Dr Shankar is from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Dr Shankar is from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Dr Shankar emphasised that the Malaysian government should step up promotions to countries with inadequate medical facilities, high treatment costs and long waiting lists.

He shared that factors that drive medical tourism are a lack of health insurance, reduced cost of international travel, highly trained physicians, improvement of technology and standards of state-of-the-art medical facilities, a reduction of waiting hours, government encouragement (incentives, tax deduction, flexible visa), hygiene and safe medical services, and a favourable exchange rate.

Some of the issues that need to be addressed are the lack of impressive promotional activities and customer service, the shortage of medical professionals, nurses and specialists, and the lack of information about medical tourism on the websites of the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism.