Cardiovascular and fertility wellness to be main draw for medical tourists

Medical tourism is likely to reach RM2.8b in revenue by 2020 on the back of a 30% YoY growth projection


Cardiovascular and fertility wellness is expected to be the main attraction for the country’s healthcare tourism, with the National Heart Institute’s (IJN) new imaging centre as the main destination.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said Malaysia has what it takes to be on the radar as a destination for cardiology, with a centre of excellence that could attract tourists and patients from overseas.

“With the acquisition of new Positron Emission Tomography (PET)-Computed Tomography (CT), as well as CT scanners, it has completed the equipment we require to cure heart diseases for international patients,” he said at the IJN imaging centre launch ceremony in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said the machines will provide the institute with one step forward to curing heart diseases ailing both locals and foreigners.

“By utilising less invasive methods to carry out complex heart surgery, implementing comprehensive solutions, and helping patients prevent and manage life-threatening illnesses, the centre has set a high benchmark for local health providers as well,” he said.

Lee added that on a broader scale, the new technology is expected to allow IJN to provide affordable services to those in need and reduce the workload of public hospitals.

“The government is fully committed to continue investing in healthcare to ensure that essential medical services are accessible to Malaysians regardless of their social status or economic background,” he said. 

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR)previously reported that medical tourism is expected to reach RM2.8 billion in revenue by 2020, on the back of a 30% year-on-year (YoY) growth projection.

In 2017, the business posted a revenue of RM1.3 billion and over one million travellers in volume.

On another note, IJN has reduced the cost of its CT scans due to the increase of its CT capacity.

CEO Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub said IJN’s PET-CT imaging rates have been set at a maximum price of RM3,000 for oncology screening, versus the RM4,000 rate in private centres.

“This is made possible by PNB’s (Permodalan Nasional Bhd) contribution. We can pass on the savings of acquiring this new technology to our patients by reducing the costs involved,” he said.

Both the machines and imaging centre renovation were sponsored by PNB.

The machines have capabilities that include faster and more accurate diagnostic results, and minimal radiation exposure.

A PET scan involves introducing small amount of radioactive substances called “radiotracers” into the body, which then give off radiation to help doctors evaluate the organs or tissues’ metabolism.

Moreover, a CT scan utilises multiple X-ray images taken from different angles around the body — whereby through computer processing, the X-rays are combined to create cross- sectional images, known as slices of the targeted body part.

The new PET-CT scanner combines both methods in a single machine to give a more precise image of a particular organ, and assess the heart muscle’s functionality via changes in its metabolic activity.

The upgraded CT scanner provides 512 slices versus the previous 64 slices of older machines.

TMR earlier reported that one in two adult Malaysians suffer from high cholesterol, with about half of them under the age of 40.

There are approximately 38,000 patients admitted with a heart disease annually and the figure has not changed since 2013.

Meanwhile, the healthcare industry is targeted to reach RM80 billion in spending in 2020, following the RM52 billion posted last year.

According to Dr Lee, takingthe global financial situation into account, both the public and private sectors need to work together.

“By sharing our resources and expertise, we can ensure that the national healthcare environment remains strong and is able to facilitate healthcare access to all,” he said.