Global Health Asia-Pacific Special Issue | Page 54


How Malaysian healthcare should move forward

We saw a rebound in healthcare travellers . Here in Gleneagles , we recorded a 70 percent increase in foreign patients , mainly from Indonesia .
We spoke with two healthcare executives in Malaysia to get their insights into the future of the industry and how the country could learn lessons from the pandemic to strengthen its medical services . Hoo Ling Lee , CEO of Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur , highlighted that the crisis sparked by the pandemic was instrumental in improving mental health support for medical staff . Bryan Lin , CEO of Subang Jaya Medical Centre , stressed that streamlining the hiring process for foreign nurses was essential for ensuring healthcare providers were adequately staffed .
Q : What are your projections for the Malaysian healthcare tourism sector post-pandemic , and are you optimistic about the prospects for the healthcare tourism market ? Hoo Ling Lee : We saw a rebound in healthcare travellers . Here in Gleneagles , we recorded a 70 percent increase in foreign patients , mainly from Indonesia . We also observed returning patients from the Middle East and Bangladesh . Based on the encouraging numbers we recorded this year , I am optimistic that 2023 will see international patient numbers exceed even 2019 pre-pandemic levels .
I am optimistic primarily due to the Malaysian Healthcare Tourism Council ’ s ( MHTC ) efforts to promote our healthcare tourism sector on the international stage since the border reopened , and our marketing efforts in promoting Gleneagles Hospital KL .
Q : Recently , the president of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia ( APHM ), Dato ’ Dr Kuljit Singh , proposed that private hospitals be provided with tax incentives to boost the healthcare sector . What are your thoughts on this ? Hoo Ling Lee : Under local private healthcare , existing tax exemptions are available for the expansion of new facilities and the modernisation or refurbishment of existing facilities to promote medical tourism . Due to end this year , they have been extended to December 2025 , as stated in the recently presented Budget 2023 , which is good .
Such tax exemptions should also be extended to other aspects of private healthcare , such as purchasing state-of-the-art medical equipment . For example , the procurement of the Da Vinci robotics surgery system can be applied to treating prostate cancer , gynaecological cancer , ENT and colorectal cancer and Gamma Knife . If the hospital purchases this equipment and files for tax exemption , it will be entitled to a rebate .
Moreover , these tax exemptions can also be considered for doctors who adopt new technologies for patient care . Training to develop new skills related to novelty technology can take years and involve working with international experts . So , tax exemptions would be a good incentive for doctors to continuously expand their medical proficiency .
Q : What other initiatives can be taken to further boost healthcare tourism , and how can they benefit Malaysians ? Hoo Ling Lee : Private healthcare sectors are constantly improving by purchasing state-of-theart medical equipment , which can be applied to both medical tourists and local patients . Here at Gleneagles , we explore incorporating artificial intelligence ( AI ) for health screening and diagnostics of non-infectious diseases . For example , AI technology can predict the risk of diabetic retinopathy , enabling doctors to take early precautions to impede the progress of the disease .
Q : Local healthcare providers have ramped up their telemedicine services due to the COVID pandemic . Has Gleneagles Hospital been active in practising this concept , and what do you envision for the future of telemedicine ? Hoo Ling Lee : We can all agree that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in the healthcare sector . According to a study by the World Economic Forum , internet usage has increased 20 percent due to more frequent video conferencing . I ’ m proud that Gleneagles Hospital was the first hospital under IHH Malaysia to introduce telemedicine to patients . This transition was necessary to ensure the safety of hospital staff and to follow up with our ongoing patients who could not physically come to the hospital due to the movement control order ( MCO ).
Despite many uncertainties , we nevertheless moved ahead with implementing telemedicine , which encompasses various medical disciplines , such as psychiatry , endocrinology , neurology obstetrics and gynaecology .
Q : What lessons can the Malaysian healthcare sector learn from the pandemic ? Hoo Ling Lee : One aspect that our healthcare sector , specifically the Ministry of Health , did well in the early
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