Malaysia's medical tourism industry set to achieve RM1.15bn revenue by 2017

Malaysia's medical tourism industry is on target to achieve RM1.15 billion in revenue by the end of 2017, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya said, according to the New Straits Times. He added that industry stakeholders and private hospitals have shown their commitment in making Malaysia the top destination for medical tourism.

According to Yahya, the number of foreign visitors who travelled to Malaysia for medical purposes jumped by more than 10% per year from about 643,000 visitors in 2011 to approximately 921,000 in 2016. He attributed the increase to the quality of treatment offered by the private sector, saying that it is both affordable and "good in quality", the New Straits Times reported.

Yahya added that medical tourism is part of the 12 National Key Economic Areas aimed at pushing Malaysia towards a high-income nation by 2020.

The medical tourism industry in Asia is heating up in recent times. In a conversation with A+M, several marketers in the field said that when it comes to brand differentiation in the hospital care sector in Malaysia, while a focus on excellent care and service is essential, overall well being is also something hospital brands need to think of.

What are Malaysian marketers doing to catch this target audience?

For the case of Sunway Medical Centre, what sets it apart from the other healthcare providers in Malaysia is its location in an integrated resort township. This consists of hotels, shopping mall and a theme park. In terms of target audience when it comes to marketing, Khoo Chow Huat, deputy managing director of Sunway Group Healthcare summarised the company’s target audience in three categories: members of the public, healthcare professionals and the corporate organisations.

According to Khoo, who is also the CEO of Sunway Medical Centre, when it comes to patients, the hospital looks to differentiate itself by being a one-stop facility which provides an all-inclusive range of options and convenience. This is while giving patients the best possible care.

"The brand takes pride in ensuring that its customers are well taken care of and our hospital even has a dedicated International Patient Centre team,” Khoo said. This team provides medical concierge services, which includes the availability of Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese interpreters.

Currently, Sunway Medical Centre’s marketing strategy is focused on raising awareness of these comprehensive products and services that it offers. One way to do so is through regular engagement with relevant groups by updating them with its latest services, new specialists and activities.

“Healthcare is all about trust. Hence, the delivery of exemplary care and support to customers is the brand’s priority and with this, comes positive word of mouth. Ultimately, everything we do is aligned with our motto of improving the lives we touch, which leads to peace of mind for our patients,” Khoo added.

The case is similar for Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare, whose primary target audience for the brand is the patients themselves. However, the organisation is also aware that the secondary audience is vital for the brand to come out on top. These are the folks who can influence the decisions of the primary target audience by providing assistance or advice. For example, when it comes to senior care, the decision may not be made by the seniors themselves but rather their families and their adult children. Sometimes, the duty falls on the shoulders of the private physicians.

“Our larger pool of target audience is our secondary audience,” Veneesa Sinsua, group digital marketing, Asia at Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care, said.  One way to reach out to this audience is via digital marketing. While coming across as authentic and human is vital, the organisation also places convenience and ease of reach as its top priority. Most recently, when the brand revamped its website, it ensured a friendly user experience allowing for search on both web browsers and mobile devices. The aim of the website redesign was to offer quick and easy access to essential information and maximise services exposure.

Sinsua explained that data analytics and the measurement of data are critical as analysing relevant attributes helps to increase the brand’s chances of success. As such, this was definitely a priority.

Read the full healthcare tourism issue here.