The Malaysian medical services industry is in the pink of health, thanks to a healthy dose of investment from companies aimed at improving the quality of health care in the country.
Private hospitals working with the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM), Quintiles Transnational and UM Holdings (UMH) have made significant milestones in their efforts to advance the medical industry, be it in tourism, research, education or health care services.
The industry's success is a giant step towards realising health care's potential to become a major economic driver for Malaysia.
Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council
To build up Malaysia as the destination of choice for medical tourism, MHTC promotes the country's doctors and hospitals abroad via media and marketing efforts.
These endeavours have resulted in a heightened awareness and participation in MHTC initiatives among hospitals. MHTC has succeeded in increasing the number of hospitals participating in medical tourism from 35 to 63. Many of these hospitals, which are privately owned or operated, include Gleneagles Hospital, Pantai Hospital, KPJ Healthcare and PETRONAS-owned Prince Court Medical Centre.
MHTC is also open to collaboration with hospitals overseas. "We would love to work with hospitals that can benefit from our specialists and consultants," says CEO Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin. "There are a lot of opportunities we would like to tap - for example, clinics in Greater China with patients looking to come to Malaysia for medical treatment."
Clinical Research Malaysia
Starting as a unit under the Clinical Research Centre of the Ministry of Health (MOH), Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM) was corporatised in June.
CRM has presented guidelines and processes to keep with international standards and streamlined MOH's own clinical research projects. Recognising the need for more clinical investigators, CRM encourages the participation of specialists from the private sector.
CRM also regards MOH's 137 hospitals and more than 4,000 primary care clinics as potential sites for medical research. It is planning to place study co-ordinators to help with the screening, recruitment and classification of patients as potential clinical trial participants.
"We expect growth in this industry with the support of the government and CRM," says
Dr Teoh Siang Chin, who heads CRM. "The long-term goals are to improve the capacity of trained clinical trialists and establish the whole chain of drug development facilities in Malaysia."
The world's only fully integrated biopharmaceuticals company, Quintiles has more than 25,000 employees in 60 countries. Quintiles has been recognised by independent biopharmaceutical industry surveys as the most preferred contract research organisation.
Quintiles is committed to the development of the country's clinical research professionals. To this end, Quintiles signed an agreement with the University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) under its Prime Site programme to formulate new medicines. The company also began collaborating with the Malaysia Biotechnology Corporation in March to train clinical researchers.
"Malaysia has an excellent network of hospitals experienced in clinical trials supported by highly motivated investigators," says
Dr Anand Tharmaratnam, senior vice-president and head of Asia markets. "Quintiles believes Malaysia's biotechnology sector has enormous potential, and the government is building the right environment for success."
As the University of Malaya's wholly owned commercial and investment arm, UMH is tasked with the completion of the University of Malaya Health Metropolis (UMHM). UMHM embodies the implementation of an EPP focused on establishing a world-class campus for health care and bioscience.
On top of becoming the largest medical health care complex in the country and potentially the region, UMHM will become a medical education and research capital and a national referral centre. The faculty of medicine of the University of Malaya, the UMMC and the UM specialist centre form part of the cluster where UMHM is set to be located.
"There is considerable scope for the future development of this cluster to significantly upgrade quality health services, education, postgraduate studies and medical research," says UMH chairman David Chua. "UMHM is in a unique position with its set up and core functions."
UMH will begin construction on UMHM by early next year. It welcomes partnerships and collaborations on several facilities within the complex, including a convention centre and a "Medi-Hotel". UMHM is expected to be operational by 2016.