Singapore and Malaysia

Singapore and Malaysia

Jerry Eades (University of London, UK) and Malcolm Cooper (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8574-1.ch020
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Abstract

This chapter assesses the status of medical tourism in two of the most developed countries in Asia; Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore was an early participant: in 1986, private medical services were added to the government's inventory of facilities, with the objective of making the island into an international medical hub. In 1986 this was not labelled medical tourism as the connection had not been identified. Following the identification of medical tourism as a growth sector by the Malaysian government later in 1998, that country too saw significant public and private sector investment in the development of the industry. Malaysia now compares favorably to India, Thailand, and Singapore in terms of its medical facilities, skills and costs. Both destinations can add excellent medical services at a reasonable cost to the mix of easy access, reasonably-priced hotel rooms, excellent public transport systems, and good visa regulations for visitors. All of these factors help to make the choice of destination for medical treatment an easy decision for the potential patient.
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Introduction

This chapter assesses the status of medical tourism in two of the most developed medical tourism markets in Asia; Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore was an early participant in this form of tourism (Wong, & Ghazal, 2012). In 1986, the Singaporean government approved the further development of private specialized medical services, with the overall objective of the country becoming an international medical center (Chee, 2010). In 1986 this was not labelled medical tourism as the connection had not been identified. In 2003, the country created Singapore Medicine, a government-industry partnership intended to develop Singapore as an international medical hub, not only for medical travelers but also for medical research, conventions and education. While most international patients in 2014 are either Indonesians or expatriates based in Indonesia, a ‘significant number’ also come from Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Medical Tourism Magazine, 2014). Health-care providers now say they are handling more patients from India, Mongolia, Cambodia, and China, on top of these traditional sources; while two years ago, Russia and the Middle East were identified as growing markets.

These trends are in line with the projections of the Singapore Tourism Board in 2010, when Asia was expected to be a key player in driving the industry's growth as it recovered from the global financial recession, and medical tourism a key niche market within this. The Singaporean private medical organization the Parkway Group, for example, saw a 38 per cent rise in patients from India in 2013 compared with 2010 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore, 2014). Treatment for blood disorders, and kidney and liver transplants, are the top three areas for which patients seek help in Singapore, while the country also recently launched the region’s first cardiology clinic catering especially for the needs of women. This is in recognition of the fact that cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is the top killer among women in Singapore and in many other countries in the Asia Pacific (Kananatu, 2002; Patients beyond Borders, 2011).

In turn, Malaysia compares favorably to India, Thailand, and Singapore in terms of its medical facilities, skills and costs (Woodman, 2010). Following on the identification of medical tourism as a growth sector by the Malaysian government in 1998, significant governmental and private sector investment has been channeled into the development of the industry over the last 15 years. This development is unfolding within the broader context of social services being devolved to for-profit enterprises and market-capable segments of society becoming sites of intensive entrepreneurial investment by both the private sector and the state (Chee, 2010). Malaysian Tourism, which began promoting medical tourism to Malaysia in 2002, now sees an estimated 1 million visitors travelling specifically for medical treatments out of the twenty-five million tourists visiting the country each year (Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board, 2013). Some of the most popular treatments available in Malaysia include cosmetic surgery, dental work and dermatology, however, 80% of all medical tourists coming into Malaysia are from its neighboring countries, including Thailand and Singapore - medical tourism destination themselves. The primary reasons for this pattern are that the main Malaysian destinations, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, can add excellent medical services at a reasonable cost to the mix of easy access through air travel from around the world, the existence of many reasonably-priced hotel rooms, excellent public transport systems, and the fact that most nationalities are given a three-month visa upon arrival without question All of these factors help to make the choice of destination for medical treatment combined with tourism an easy decision for the potential patient (Carrera & Bridges, 2006).

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