Malaysia’s Booming Medical Tourism Industry: easily accessible world-class healthcare treatments at competitive prices

Known as a world-renowned tourism destination, Malaysia has gained popularity over the last 10 years in a new kind of tourism sector: medical tourism. Malaysia’s elite private hospitals offer world-class quality healthcare to patients from all over the world with the benefit of being relatively affordable and easily accessible.

Malaysia has received prestigious accolades for its healthcare industry and private hospitals from the following reputable organisations:

By the UK-based organisation, International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ)

  • Medical Travel Destination of the Year” for four consecutive years from 2017-2020 in terms of volume of inbound medical travellers.
  • International Fertility Clinic of the Year” in 2020: Sunway Fertility Centre
  • International Hospital of the Year” in 2020: Prince Court Medical Centre
  • Cosmetic Surgery Clinic of the Year” from 2015-2016: Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre


By the International Living Global Retirement Index

  • Best Healthcare in the World” in the 2015-2019

In 2019, Malaysia attracted 1.2 million medical tourists, with more than half seeking treatment in Penang. The medical tourism industry generated a revenue of MYR1.7 billion.

The top Malaysian states for medical tourism are Penang and Kuala Lumpur due to its accessibility by international airlines, reasonably priced hotel rooms and excellent public transportation system. These are the factors that allow medical tourists to easily stay in a hotel or hospital in the short term.

80% of medical tourists are from Malaysia’s neighbouring countries, Singapore and Thailand. Malaysia is in strong competition with the giants of the ASEAN medical tourism industry, Thailand and Singapore. Though Singapore boasts more readily available top-of-the-line technology and skilled professionals, Malaysia has overtaken Singapore as a medical tourism destination due to its competitive pricing and equally quality treatments.

Competitive treatment pricing

Cost saving on medical treatments range from 65-80% for certain procedures compared to the same treatment in the United States, Australia or Europe. One of the reasons for such competitive treatment and pharmaceutical product pricing is due to strict regulation by the government department, the Ministry of Health Malaysia. Hence, medical travelers are guaranteed fair pricing and access to healthcare treatments in the country.

Quality Healthcare

Many private hospitals in Malaysia are internationally accredited by gold-standard organisations, such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), Malaysia Society for Quality in Health (MSQH), Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) and the Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) of Australia.

Doctors in Malaysia receive training and education from respected international organisations in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

In addition, patients can expect low waiting times to meet specialists at private hospitals in Malaysia.

No Language Barriers

As a multicultural country, Malaysia has a multilingual population. Malaysia health professionals are culturally respectful and can speak a variety of languages. Common spoken languages are English, Mandarin, Malay, Hindi and Bahasa Indonesia.

The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC)

The government has heavily participated in promoting Malaysia as a medical tourism destination. In 2005, the Ministry of Health created an agency, The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, to promote the healthcare travel industry by revamping Malaysia’s international healthcare brand.

The MHTC actively works on building and maintaining ties with member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Middle Eastern countries.

Malaysia’s Niche Healthcare Market

In order to compete with healthcare facilities in Asia and elsewhere, Malaysia has developed its position in the niche market of cardiovascular care and fertility treatments. Malaysia currently has more than 33 advanced heart treatment centers, including the world-class National Heart Institute (NHI).

The National Heart Institute

The National Heart Institute is a leader in cardiovascular disease treatment in Asia. It collaborates with other excellent international medical centers, including the Royal Papworth Hospital in the UK, the University of Australia and the Hanoi Heart Center in Vietnam. The institute is equipped with Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, such as multi-slice computed tomography, endoscopic vein harvestings and heart-assist devices, to enhance diagnoses and treatment of heart disease.

The NHI has its own International Patient Centre (IPC) to facilitate patient experience from arrival to departure. The services offered include visa and immigration services, pre-departure and post-treatment coordination, transfer of health data and insurance.

Sunway Medical Centre

Sunway Medical Centre is an internationally accredited instituation by the Australian Council of Healthcare Standards (ACHS). In particular, it specialised in cancer treatment. It is approved as a Designated Centre of Integrated Oncology and Palliative Care by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

Airline Partnerships

Air Asia Indonesia

The MHTC named Air Asia Indonesia as the official airline for direct travel to Penang with the goal of promoting Penang as Malaysia’s top medical tourism destination.

Private Hospitals vs. Public Hospitals

Public hospital treatment: available to Malaysian citizens

Private hospital treatment: available to everyone (i.e. foreigners)

In emergency cases, foreigners/expats may seek treatment from public hospitals; however, the treatment charges will be comparable to those in private hospitals.


It is mandatory for all foreigners working in Malaysia to register for the “Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Insurance Scheme”. Thus, it is typical for employment packages for expats to include medical coverage and immediate family members. Typically, such medical insurance will cover visits to a general practitioners and prescription medication.

If you have an existing insurance plan, we suggest that you check with your insurance provider on whether it covers treatment in Malaysia. A wide range of insurance providers offer packages tailored for expats, such as Bupa Global Health Insurance.

Emergency number

999 is the emergency number in Malaysia to access ambulance, fire and police services. Operators are typically bilingual and speak both English and Malay.

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