Between 2009 and 2013, the number of medical tourists arriving in Malaysia increased to 770,134 from 336,225 according to the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC). These numbers are expected to grow as the sector receives more attention and a boost from the government which is eager to make the country a preferred destination for international patients. The construction of a world class airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), several years ago is an example of this commitment.
There are many strong factors which will aid this goal. English is widely spoken in Malaysia since it was a former British colony, making travel to and communication with hospitals easier. Further, because there is a pleasant mix of cultures in Malaysia, many hospital staff are used to communication with visitors from a variety of backgrounds. Second, there are a large number of world class hospitals in Kuala Lumpur, the largest city, and in Penang Island which hosts the second largest city and is a 45 minute flight up the west coast. Third, the cost of many procedures is much lower compared to the U.S. and wait times for procedures can be as short as a day.
Malaysia is building a core strength in performing high-end procedures such as heart bypass and orthopedic surgery non-invasively which shortens the recovery time for patients and reduces the time the have to stay at a hospital. This is important since many patients are concerned about how long they need to stay after a procedure before returning home without fear of complications.
While there are competing nations in the region such as Thailand, Singapore, and potentially Vietnam in the future, Malaysia offers very good value comparatively and is prepared for an increase in international patients originating from the region such as Indonesia, the Gulf states such as the UAE, and eventually the U.S.