Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC)

Armed with 20 years in various leadership roles, Mohd Daud brings with him a fresh perspective in upscaling and boosting Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry brand presence. Prior to joining MHTC as CEO on April 5, 2021, the 48-year-old Perakian, who hails from Batu Gajah, had served as the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture’s (MOTAC) Tourism Policy and International Affairs Division Senior Director and was the Lead Shepherd of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Tourism Working Group.

Tell us what are some of your previous job experiences which have helped you handle your present job responsibilities?
During my time with MOTAC, I had the opportunity to work with MHTC as part of the value chain of our country’s healthcare travel industry. My portfolio included building our tourism industry through my positions as Director of Tourism Industry Development, Director of Culture and Tourism at the ASEAN-Korea Centre and Chair of several international committees. They include the ASEAN Tourism Professional Committee, Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation and the ASEAN-Korea Tourism Working Group.

As a key economic growth driver, what is Malaysia healthcare travel’s estimated contribution to the country’s gross domestic product?
Our healthcare travel industry has the potential to contribute up to RM2 billion to the economy by 2025. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry raked in RM1.7 billion in hospital receipts in 2019 with spillover effects to other industries and contributed an estimated RM7 billion in economic impact. This includes air travel, accommodation, food and beverage, and leisure activities as for every ringgit spent on healthcare, an estimated three ringgit is spent on such ancillary services.

The industry has successfully provided over 15,000 jobs and attracted RM10 billion in investments since 2012. MHTC is thus optimistic that it is on the right trajectory as we continue reinforcing our value propositions, namely our world-class quality, ease of accessibility and affordability.

What are the factors MHTC is looking at to ensure the industry’s resilience and sustainability?
They include establishing trust and confidence in patients to travel internationally for healthcare treatments again besides meeting the demand for safe procedures or protocols. We are also embarking on digitalisation or automation to refine the end-to-end seamless experience for patients as well as addressing new consumer behaviours and demands in critical and elective treatments.

Additionally, adopting a global and regional industry approach is crucial in ensuring the visibility and sustainability of our healthcare travel industry now that things are slowly picking up. We engage with our audiences via on-ground events such as our Malaysia Healthcare Expos in key cities in Indonesia besides participating in international expos and various government-to-government engagements.

With China’s borders still closed to outbound travel, what are the alternative markets MHTC is looking at to replace this major market as its revenue contributor?
China remains as one of our key markets while we focus on reviving the healthcare travel sector in our other markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

Additionally, we are working closely with member hospitals to determine other areas or markets to focus on which will be key in our public-private partnerships (PPPs) to spur the healthcare travel services growth in the post Covid-19 recovery.

How many members does MHTC have and how are they selected?
MHTC has 79 member hospitals with 22 of them being Elite Members who represent the country’s most prestigious private healthcare institutions and are accredited by international healthcare accreditation agencies such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH), Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), Accreditations Canada and the CHKS Accreditation Unit of the United Kingdom, Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) and other agencies under the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua).

A selection committee comprising representatives from both the private and government sector stringently evaluate and select these medical providers to ensure that standards of service and quality medical care provided within the industry are continuously upheld.

Please share the new course MHTC is charting via the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Industry Blueprint 2021-2025 launched last November for continuous sustainable growth?
To support the blueprint’s aspirations, we have identified three strategic pillars, namely the Healthcare Travel Ecosystem, Malaysia Healthcare Brand and Markets for Malaysia Healthcare, anchoring on factors such as high quality, safety, affordability, hospitality, seamless journey and accessibility as part of the experience.

As we move from the recovery phase (2021 to 2022) to the rebuilding phase (2023 to 2025), the emphasis will shift from the first pillar to the other two pillars. After establishing strategic partnership across various stakeholders to provide better experience to patients in the recovery phase, we will work towards integrating our communication and strategic content dissemination as well as diversifying our products and markets.

They include developing premium wellness packages, enhancing our dental treatment services, upscaling high-value products for cardiology, oncology, fertility besides focusing on niche areas such as orthopaedic and ophthalmology. Our plan is to expand to the two-tier cities in major markets, strengthen the primary markets and seed future new markets.

Going beyond 2025, Malaysia aims to be a leading healthcare travel destination in Asia Pacific. Who are its competitors and how does MHTC hope to reach its goals?
Neighbouring players include Singapore, Thailand, Dubai, and South Korea. Rising healthcare costs in some of our neighbouring countries have helped strengthen Malaysia’s position as a healthcare travel destination with world-class quality healthcare services but more affordably priced. Other factors include our strategic positioning as a Muslim- friendly nation, warm hospitality, and well- known tourism attractions.

How has technology helped to enhance the various touchpoints in a patient’s journey to seek healthcare treatments in Malaysia?
MHTC has begun forging a new frontier to redefine the patient experience through a unified and collaborative approach to digitalisation that allows our healthcare providers to improve upon service delivery and reinforce our patients’ peace of mind, especially in niche areas such as fertility, cardiology and oncology.

We are preparing for a healthy industry rebound through the adoption of telehealth by member hospitals to stay ahead of the curve and ensure continuity of care. This ranges from enhancing hospitals’ telemedicine infrastructure, enabling medication delivery services and even beefing up cross-border digital payment gateways.

Which are the preferred states in Malaysia of foreign healthcare travellers and why? To what extent has it to do with air connectivity?
Currently, the top states are Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Johor and Sarawak due to easy connectivity. Indonesian healthcare travellers flock to Penang as direct flights from major cities in Indonesia to Penang International Airport are available daily. Other modes of connectivity such as land and water are also a contributing factor.

Additionally, KL International Airport is merely an hour or less from major hospitals and medical centres in the Klang Valley. While Melaka and Johor boast of ports which attract healthcare travellers from Indonesia, the latter also has a direct bridge linked to Singapore.

How do you see the future for the healthcare travel industry post Covid-19 pandemic?
We need to continue forging industry resilience via stronger PPPs with stakeholders and key industry players to rebuild and recover the industry in a sustainable manner so that we can continue to provide easily accessible healthcare that is affordable and of world-class quality.

Learning from the pandemic, we need to be digital ready to ensure that continuity of patient care is not disrupted, which
will in turn provide healthcare travellers greater flexibility in obtaining professional consultations based on their preferred options either virtually or physically. We are constantly refining our robust digital infrastructure that builds on continued trust in patients and ensures their safety while simultaneously delivering high-quality healthcare services.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?
When I was in Japan, I was intrigued by their work ethics where employees embrace a group mentality and big decisions are made collectively with their respective superiors. I proactively bring this mentality both to work and on the home front, and they have shown satisfactory results.

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