Facts about medical tourism in Malaysia

  • Yearly medical tourism flow: 1,000,000 people
  • Number of clinics served medical tourists: 83
  • Price level: low
  • Languages spoken: English, Malaysian, Chinese
  • Top treatments: Orthopedics, Cardiology, Fertility, Neurology, Oncology, Health Screening, and Dentistry

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Recently, we had an inspiring interview with Mr. Mohd Daud Mohd Arif, the MHTC's CEO.

Want to know how to build excellent patient-oriented service? Find out about Malaysia's medical tourism development plans in 2023? How to start serving medical tourists in Malaysia?

To find all these and much more, dive into reading the straight talk with Mr. Mohd Daud Mohd Arif.

About Mr. Mohd Daud Mohd Arif:

“During my career, I have been dedicated to developing ordinary tourism first and then medical tourism as well. I started my career in the public service field. I worked in the Government of Malaysia and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. My activity was related to export and import of goods and services. Medical travel is a kind of an export and import, too.

Then I joined the Ministry of Tourism, which is related directly to promoting Malaysia as a destination for travel, including medical one as well. Also, I took the position of Director of Culture and Tourism at the ASEAN-Korea Centre in Seoul for 3 years. When I came back, I joined the Ministry of Tourism again. And then, I joined the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. Now I'm more focused on medical tourism in terms of services exports.’

Table of Contents

MHTC Contribution

What is the MHTC’s contribution to the development of medical tourism in Malaysia?

The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) is an agency regulated by the government under the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH). The council has been entrusted to manage Malaysia's healthcare travel industry under the brand, ‘Malaysia Healthcare’, since 2009. Its goal has been to make Malaysia the leading global healthcare destination. Honestly, we don't wish for people to get sick, but we wish to provide excellent services.

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Currency, the MHTC solves such 2 tasks:

  1. To make Malaysia known as a trusted healthcare destination globally.
  2. To build a patient-centered ecosystem to provide exceptional medical experience among international patients. It includes close cooperation with airports, hotels, and immigration departments to satisfy patients’ needs.

Briefly, we do everything possible and impossible to make patient stay and treatment in Malaysia smooth and comfortable.

If we speak about the MHTC achievements in numbers, they are the following:

  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry had contributed significantly to the national economy. The number of healthcare travelers that came to Malaysia from 2011 to 2019 increased by about 90%. And in 2019, Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry recorded RM1.7 billion (~USD363 million) in revenue.
  • The healthcare travel industry brings economies of scale to the country in terms of healthcare. For every ringgit (a currency unit in Malaysia — ed.) spent on healthcare, an estimated 3 ringgits are spent on ancillary services such as food, transportation, and accommodation.

Now, medical tourism in Malaysia is recovering after COVID-19 pandemic. But we predict that by 2025, the industry will resume patient flow and revenue.

What inspires you personally and the MHTC team to develop medical tourism in Malaysia?

A patient is the center of policy and culture within the organization. It is a major thing for us because of 2 reasons: first, we want to make sure that patients picking Malaysia for the treatment will get excellent care and services; second, by satisfying inbound patients’ needs, we make a great contribution to Malaysia’s economy. So that will be the key motivation for us to move forward with this organization, especially after the pandemic.


What challenges have you faced while developing medical tourism in Malaysia?

Malaysia Healthcare's success almost entirely depends on international travel accessibility. One of the biggest challenges we faced was the total Covid-19 lockdown. But the pandemic taught us to be quick on our feet and adapt to new conditions. When borders were closed, we understood that some key patients in critical conditions require advanced medical assistance like cancer treatment.

So we agreed with the government to allow such patients to come to Malaysia following strict quarantine restrictions to provide Malaysian citizens safety. Our agility and creative thinking have resulted in Malaysia being one of the few countries to open a medical travel bubble in 2020. Our prompt decision allowed patients to continue receiving urgent medical care. It has maintained the patient's trust, which we have earned and grown over the years. 

Also, the pandemic has forced us to provide some medical services online. It primarily concerns remote monitoring and doctors’ consultations. Such services have boosted significantly. 

By leveraging the potential of digital solutions, healthcare providers in Malaysia work on establishing a digital infrastructure that builds trust in patients and ensures their safety while delivering high-quality healthcare services at the same time.

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What major difficulties do you need to cope with while promoting Malaysia as a health destination?

The regulation of medical services in Malaysia is among the strictest in Asia in terms of controlling a hospital, updating licenses, and adhering to regulations. 

The Ministry of Health checks all conformities, as well as advertisements and promotions of local and international healthcare providers. Doctors and hospitals cannot claim that they are the best. Even the size of a hospital name in ads is regulated. Malaysia’s neighboring countries are a bit more liberal. So medical marketing in Malaysia is very limited and general. You cannot promote something specific. 

Well, strict regulation is one thing that makes it challenging to develop medical tourism marketing strategies in Malaysia. But at the same time, it ensures patient safety and a high level of medical care due to regular control at the state level. 

Market Overview

Patients from what countries prefer treatment in Malaysia?

For the past decade, citizens from Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indochina (Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam) have been top countries for medical arrivals to Malaysia. We also serve patients from the USA, Europe, and the Middle East. Indonesia and China, before the lockdown, provided the greatest patient flow to Malaysia. Naturally, Malaysia is mostly chosen by nations located close to the country.

Malaysia medical tourism market overview

Are you going to expand patient flow from some other countries or open Malaysia as a new healthcare market for some nations?

Scaling any business and medical tourism as well requires enormous investments. The budget is limited, so we focus on the key destinations first. We want people to know that we are open for business again, that Malaysia is safe and trusted. They can come here and find treatments again. So this message needs to go out with our limited budget. Sure, we want to receive more patients from the USA, Europe, and South America, but it is a bit too far. There is a demand coming from there, but the number is still limited. So we need to get more investments for digital promotion of medical tourism in Malaysia, and currently make partners in those countries, for example. Now, there are about 30 Malaysia’s medical tourism representative offices globally, and we are not going to stop making Malaysian healthcare closer to everyone. Our embassies are present in almost every country, and we always stay in touch with them to provide material about Malaysia, and ask them to advocate and promote Malaysia healthcare in their respective countries. 

How many international patients do Malaysian clinics receive every year?

To be fair, I will provide pre-Covid-19 statistics because Malaysia was opened only in April 2022 and has not recovered the patient flow volume yet. 2019 was our best year. We recorded 1.2 million patients coming to Malaysia. From 2011 to 2019, the number of healthcare travellers in Malaysia increased by about 90%. So for my team and me, it is a very significant point of trust. 

What countries do you consider as main competitors for Malaysia in terms of accepting medical tourists?

Travel and medical tourism are tightly connected. We can look at Singapore; we can look at Thailand; we can look at Vietnam, which also developed their medical travel industry as well. For us in Malaysia, we look at them more as a partner. We want to work collaboratively with all these neighboring countries even though they provide the same services. It is more favorable for us rather than competing with each other. The market is big, and the pie is big. Now there are some hospitals in Malaysia and Singapore that are under the same parent company. So they cross patients quite regularly. So I believe that we are not competitors, but rather partners working on promoting Southeast Asia as a healthcare destination. 

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What are the most popular procedures and treatments patients arrive to receive in Malaysia?

The top sought-after treatments are Orthopedics, Cardiology, Fertility, Neurology, Oncology, Health Screening, and Dentistry

There are two groups of patients coming into Malaysia. First one is represented by patients with severe or critical issues: cancer treatment or other acute conditions. Mainly, they come with companions who also need feeling comfortable. Another group represents travellers who come to Malaysia for vacation and seek medical treatment as well. They typically are interested in dentistry, eye checkup, medical checkup, full screening, even bariatric surgeries, and hepatitis C treatment. One of the top medical services is health screening. Another quite popular treatment is cancer treatment. Cardiology, orthopedics, women's health and fertility go next. 

Medical Tourism in Malaysia: Benefits

Malaysia has gained popularity globally as a safe and trusted healthcare owing to 5 unique selling points, which are: 

World Class Quality 

  • Patients find in Malaysia world-standard healthcare facilities and medical personnel that are internationally accredited and recognised. Private facilities in Malaysia are benchmarked against the best in the world, and are closely monitored and strictly regulated by the Ministry of Health Malaysia. 
  • Internationally recognized bodies have accredited Malaysian private hospitals. Among them are the Malaysia Society for Quality in Health (MSQH), Joint Commission International (JCI), Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC), and other agencies under the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua).
  • Malaysia houses 210 private hospitals, not including dental clinics, health, and wellness centers. 83 of them are registered with MHTC, with 4 affiliate members.


  • The country’s healthcare system is internationally recognized for its excellence and affordability. Healthcare travellers need not worry about burning a hole in their pockets when seeking treatment in Malaysia. Patients save up 60-80% of the ultimate cost compared to the USA. 
  • The Ministry of Health Malaysia also regulates ceiling rates for healthcare treatments, ensuring services remain realistically affordable. This is according to the Medical Fee Schedule 2013 that has been set up by the Ministry of Health, which is also applicable to both local and foreign patients. 
  • Malaysian clinics employ healthcare professionals with local and international experience who can provide expert consultations and treatments at affordable prices.
  • There are a variety of insurance companies that offer insurance policies that can cater to a patient’s needs and budget.


  • Malaysia Healthcare showcases the country’s dual heritage of warm hospitality and world-class quality, home to over 32.7 million people of various ethnic backgrounds and cultures. 
  • A comprehensive Muslim-friendly ecosystem established Malaysia as a strong Global Halal Hub which appeals to Muslim travellers. 
  • Malaysia has been consistently ranked as the Top Destination for Halal Travel in the MasterCard-Crescent Rating’s Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) from 2011-2019, 2021 and 2022.


  • Malaysia is also connected by direct flights to major travel hubs across the world, so it is not difficult to get here. Those patients who cannot come, online consultations with doctors are available.
  • If you choose Malaysia for treatment, you will receive both medical assistance and service to make your stay comfortable at home, including concierge and lounge service, meeting at an airport and transfer, and support online and by phone.
  • The MHTC’s relationship with the Immigration Department of Malaysia resulted in the all-new eVisa (Medical) system. eVisa (Medical) is an electronic visa that facilitates the entry of healthcare travellers seeking medical treatment in Malaysia’s private hospitals. 
  • Medical tourists in Malaysia receive MHTC assistance before, during, and after treatment in Malaysia to solve any issues if they occur. 

No language barrier

  • Most Malaysians are at least bilingual, with English being widely spoken throughout the country. 
  • Besides English and Malay, standard Chinese dialects and Indian languages are widely used, too.

If you need transplanting services to feel comfortable during consultations and treatments, this option is provided. 

Malaysia's medical tourism benefits

What about the main principle of price policy within Malaysia’s healthcare?

For Malaysians, healthcare is almost free. I wouldn't say it is free. But fees are very minimal even for Malaysians. We do not encourage international patients to go to public hospitals because of their limited capacity. So when we provide Malaysian healthcare for foreigners, we only work with our private hospitals. And the prices there are higher than in public ones, but still, they are much more affordable even within the region due to price control working for international patients as well. So patients picking Malaysia are free to use health insurance to cover medical expenses or pay from their pockets without wasting a fortune.

Is there any criteria a clinic should follow to serve international patients? 

We have over 200 licensed private hospitals in Malaysia. But we do not promote all of them for international patients. There's a set of criteria that we put at the moment. Out of those more than 200, we are working only with 83 private hospitals. And how do we select these 83 hospitals? We have a committee here, involving the Ministry of Health. Selected medical centers are under the wing of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. But they have to be licensed by local and international bodies. Even if the hospital is in the progress of receiving proper certification, we cannot partner with and recommend to international patients until the process is over. Many hospitals in Malaysia want to become a MHTC member, but we onboard only ones with proven compliance with medical services to strict quality standards. We are always fair to the patients. We want only to promote and advocate for good quality hospitals that provide the best patient services. 

Medical Tourism in Malaysia Plans 2023

What treatment do you consider will be popular in 2023?

Right now, there are a lot of complications related to the post-COVID pandemic. So we are working with the private hospital to provide packages that serve this kind of needs because the demand is also increasing for such a treatment. We see prospects of promoting wellness and mental health treatment. The Malaysia’ Minister is very pro-healthcare and he wants to treat people who are not sick but want to maintain their health or prevent its worsening.

Do you see perspectives on developing plastic surgery for medical tourists in Malaysia?

We are interested in developing this specialty, but as I mentioned, Malaysia has stringent regulations. So some sensitive procedures like transgender surgeries are not allowed to perform in Malaysia in contrast to neighboring Thailand. Instead, we focus on providing weight loss procedures. We do treatments, but when it comes to those sensitive ones, patients can go to our neighboring country and do those interventions as well.

Tell more about the internal structure of healthcare in Malaysia. What is the difference between medical services provided for domestic and international patients?

Malaysia has a dual-tiered system of healthcare services: a government-led and funded public sector. The Government clearly delineated that only the private sector could serve international healthcare travelers, while the public sector will remain focused on serving domestic ones. The beauty of these two systems is that there's no discrimination. It means that both patients’ categories receive the same high-qualitative treatment. The safety of patients remains our top priority, and the strict regulations set by the Ministry of Health Malaysia become our strength in offering world-class quality healthcare services. These regulations ensure that healthcare in Malaysia is not over commercialized, as prices are regulated at the state level, and hospitals cannot charge more pointed costs. And this is where trust is built.

Worth saying that all private facilities serving international patients are MHTC’s Member Hospitals and assessed by an Evaluation and Selection Committee (E&S Committee), comprising representatives from various industry stakeholders, namely MOH, APHM, MMC, MDA, and others.

What are Malaysia’s plans for medical tourism development in 2023?

We will focus on patient-centricity in 2023. The MHTC and our member hospitals will accumulate efforts to make patients’ life easier, placing digitalization on the top. It will mainly concern safe online payment with China Alipay or WeChat Pay without the need to exchange currency while arriving in Malaysia. Also, we want to make document processing easier. So, I would say that a smooth and comfortable patient experience is our top priority in 2023. 

The MHTC has a strategy for the 2021-2025 period for medical tourism industry growth. The strategic focus areas are:

  • The Healthcare Travel Ecosystem 
  • The Malaysia Healthcare Brand
  • The Market for Malaysia’s Healthcare.

Plus, we plan to get excellence in such treatment niches: 

  • Fortifying Malaysia as the Fertility and Cardiology Hubs of Asia 
  • Establishing Malaysia as the Cancer Care Centre of Excellence 
  • Cementing Malaysia as the Hepatitis C Treatment Hub of Asia 
  • Positioning Malaysia as a destination for Premium Wellness 
  • Implementation of the Flagship Medical Tourism Hospital Programme.

We are also working on developing a telemedicine and portal for healthcare travelers called “One Stop Portal”.

If you can pick 3 features of Malaysian people as a nation, what will they be? 

The country comprises two parts, one is Peninsula Malaysia, and the other one is in Borneo. Both are beautiful. But the most important, most interesting part to me and also to other people is the composition of the population in Malaysia. There's a very big population of the native Malaysians in Malaysia. There's also a great amount of the population of the Chinese community and Malaysian Indian community. This is in West Malaysia. 

So this is a unique blend of three very distinct cultures that make Malaysia unique. The food is very authentic. The culture is very authentic because it's already mixed, and you can find all parts of food, culture and heritage here in Malaysia. Most Malaysians speak at least 2 languages, and English is widely spoken here because we were formerly a British colony, so iit makes communication easier. Malaysia is one of the leaders in tourism in the world — 29 million people came here in 2019. 

So we are well known for eco-tourism, food, culture, islands, and beaches. It's only on the left side. When I speak of Borneo island, you will find the uniqueness of the culture there. It is vibrant with eco destinations. So when patients come to Malaysia, they feel highly experienced in traveling. The spirits of interaction, interaction with people, are very different. We are naturally very hospitable, polite, and shy people as well. Many of Middle Eastern country and Indonesian country comes to Malaysia also because we are predominantly Muslim countries. So when they want Muslim-friendly services and facilities, Malaysia is a great choice. 

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