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Medical Tourism in Malaysia: International Movement of Healthcare Consumers and the Commodification of Healthcare

Heng Leng Chee

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)

January 1, 2007

Asia Research Institute Working Paper No. 83

In Southeast Asia, medical tourism has taken off in a big way since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, in particular, have developed deliberate marketing strategies to attract foreign patients. This paper examines the development of medical tourism in Malaysia, with some references to its neighbouring competitors, Singapore and Thailand. The analysis is framed in the context of an increasing trend in the commodification of healthcare, focusing on marketing, standardization and accreditation, and turning patients into consumers as three features of the process of commodification. The advent of medical tourism in Malaysia marked a significant moment for the domestic healthcare provider industry, allowing it to survive a critical juncture. Subsequent growth of the industry has been characterised by a regional integration of hospital ownership, and an expansion of the medical tourist market. In all of this, the role of the Malaysian state is pivotal in providing a conducive policy environment, and in playing a major role in marketing Malaysian healthcare to the global medical tourist market. The process of transforming Malaysian healthcare into a global commodity is well underway, as the state institutionalises measures for tax support, accreditation, sales promotion, and marketing.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: Medical tourism, Malaysia, healthcare commodification, healthcare consumers, health tourism, healthcare corporatization

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Date posted: December 19, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Chee, Heng Leng, Medical Tourism in Malaysia: International Movement of Healthcare Consumers and the Commodification of Healthcare (January 1, 2007). Asia Research Institute Working Paper No. 83. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1317163 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1317163

Contact Information

Heng Leng Chee (Contact Author)
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) ( email )
Jalan Sungai Dua
Minden, Penang 11800
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