What new initiatives is the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) currently involved in?

LIN: MHTC is currently involved in both the promotion and marketing of our services in various countries. We also plan to build a medical concierge, and a medical lounge in our airport. MHTC has also recently installed a medical care line, where people from all over the world can call to receive information about any inquiries they have regarding Malaysia as a healthcare-travel destination.

What challenges is the healthcare sector in Malaysia facing?

LIN: Malaysia has a very fast-growing healthcare industry right now. I think one of the key challenges is the supply of manpower. I do not think this will be an issue in the years to come because we are really producing a lot of doctors and we are training a lot of specialists in the country. The growth of the medical tourism industry in Malaysia is going to increase at a very fast rate, and we are now looking at building and expanding our infrastructure.

How would you describe the dynamic between the public and private healthcare sector provisions?

LIN: The public provision is taken care of by the Ministry of Health. They are catering to the majority of the Malaysian public because the cost is very nominal; almost zero cost to the patient. Therefore a lot of Malaysians are part of the public hospital sector. This leaves a lot of room for the private hospitals to focus on foreigners.

How does medical tourism as a whole fit into Malaysia’s economic plans?

LIN: The medical tourism industry is growing very fast in this region and Malaysia has all the ingredients it takes to become a medical tourist destination. I think Malaysia will do well once we promote ourselves and let the world know that we have high quality medical services here. We have good doctors in the country, and we have all the high-end equipment, infrastructure, and hospitals that are able to cater to anyone coming to Malaysia for treatment.

What foreign markets have experienced the most growth?

LIN: It is very interesting to note that people from countries in the Asia-Pacific, for example Japan, Korea, China, Bangladesh, and India, are coming in very large numbers. Of course our traditional market has been Indonesia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

What competitive advantages does Malaysia’s healthcare industry have?

LIN: I think one of the advantages Malaysia has is that we are highly regulated. We have Ministry of Health backing for all the private hospitals and we ensure our quality is of a high standard. We have very competitive pricing for our high-quality care. The other area of competitive advantage is that all of our doctors speak English, which is an added advantage for people from all over the world who want to come here. Language is not a problem.

What are the positive aspects of Malaysia’s healthcare industry and what challenges does it still face?

LIN: Malaysia is beginning to become known throughout the world as a healthcare travel destination. A lot of people are interested to know about Malaysia being a medical tourism hub. Right now, we are receiving a lot of patients coming in for health screening, and when they come into the country the challenge will be getting them to return for high-end care. This is what we want to offer them, this high-end care; for example, cardiac treatment, cancer treatment, neurological treatment, and things like that.

What are the most popular areas of treatment?

LIN: The highest number of cases coming in for treatment are knee replacement, hip replacement, cardiac treatment, health screening, even eye and dental, as well as neurological treatment. These are the most popular ones.

How do costs in Malaysia compare to American and other Western markets?

LIN: I will give you an example based on heart bypass surgery. I think in the States it costs about $130,000, but in Malaysia it is only about $11,000-$13,000; less than 10%. If you look at this region we are very competitive in our pricing.

The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council is organizing MIHTE 2012, the first Malaysia International Healthcare Travel Expo and Conference. What are your goals for this event?

LIN: This expo is the first inaugural Malaysia Healthcare Travel expo we are organizing. The very purpose of this expo is to actually bring in all the stakeholders from the whole healthcare travel industry. This is where any patient coming in will have the end-to-end experience of finding the travel agents, the airlines, the spas. At the same time, when they come here for treatment they need all this. It is something we want to showcase to the world, that Malaysia has this whole spectrum of services available when one comes into Malaysia for treatment.