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Sherene Azli, chief executive officer, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council

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About Sherene Azli
Sherene Azli spearheads the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), an agency under the Ministry of Health Malaysia as its Chief Executive Officer. She has been entrusted with the task of leading the agency in its mission to coordinate and facilitate the development of healthcare travel within the country, to promote global awareness of the Malaysian healthcare industry, and to position Malaysia as the “preferred destination for world-class healthcare services.” Starting her career as a Research Manager with the Irish Telecommunications Investment plc, Dublin, Sherene returned to Malaysia to embark on what would become her 16-year service with Telekom Malaysia (TM), rising through the ranks to her appointment as Vice President of Group Marketing in February 2009, then subsequently as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development.

Sherene moved on and served as the General Manager of the Malaysian Diaspora Outreach unit with Talent Corporation Malaysia (TalentCorp) where she played an instrumental role in building strategies and fronting engagements with Malaysian students and professionals abroad, in a bid to build a global network of Malaysian talent. She is an ardent believer in the power of developing human capital and the value of building relationships and networks, and carries these ideals with her into her current role.

Sherene’s vast experience in marketing, strategy and business development have been invaluable in her current task of steering MHTC to achieving its goals, and to position Malaysia Healthcare as “top of mind” in healthcare travel. The global exposure she brings with her also lends itself to strengthening our global networking platform, enhancing Malaysia Healthcare’s presence and visibility in the international arena.

Sherene holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Durham (United Kingdom) and a Bachelor of Business Studies (Hons) in Accounting & Finance from the University of Limerick (Republic of Ireland).

About Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council
The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) was established in 2005 under the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), bringing together the nation’s dual heritage of hospitality and medical innovation to ultimately promote and position Malaysia as a choice destination for world-class healthcare services.

In a bid to step up the country’s promotional endeavors, MOH subsequently took the initiative to brand its healthcare tourism, which led to the launching of the Malaysia Healthcare logo and “Quality Care for Your Peace of Mind” tagline in June 2009.

Today, the purpose of MHTC is to streamline healthcare travel service providers and industry players in both private and government sectors so as to drive the healthcare tourism industry to greater heights.

Medical Travel Today (MTT): Give the readers some background on the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council.

Sherene Azli (SA): The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), established in 2009, is a government agency tasked to raise Malaysia’s profile as the globally-preferred destination for quality healthcare services. MHTC is also the coordinating authority for the healthcare travel industry in the country, with the mandate to facilitate its growth and strategic development.

As such, apart from promoting Malaysia healthcare abroad, MHTC also works closely with various industry players and stakeholders in the public and private sphere, domestically and abroad, to increase the efficiency of the healthcare travel value chain into Malaysia, and to enhance the accessibility of Malaysian healthcare services to health seekers around the world.

MTT: What makes Malaysia the ideal place for patients to seek care?

SA: Malaysia healthcare is attractive for many reasons, but it ultimately boils down to three key factors: world-class quality healthcare, ease of accessibility and competitive affordability.

Healthcare providers in Malaysia are of outstanding quality and are equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology. Malaysian health professionals are highly qualified, receiving training in renowned institutions in the UK, U.S., Australia, Europe and Malaysia.

Many of our private hospitals possess international accreditation from bodies such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua), and the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH), and have won multiple awards in many international healthcare travel awards and listings.

Accessibility is another huge factor in Malaysia healthcare’s favor, where patients can have real-time access to healthcare treatments and specialists of their choice. Securing appointments are fairly immediate and patients receive thorough consultations and end-to-end care.

Most significantly, healthcare in Malaysia is highly affordable and competitive, globally and regionally.

Treatments in cardiology and orthopedics, for example, are anywhere from 40-80 percent lower than the same treatments in the U.S. or UK, and this is by no means reflective of the quality of treatments dispensed. Rather, the costs of healthcare are kept hugely affordable and reasonable thanks to the regulations imposed on treatment fees and prices on medicines by the Ministry of Health Malaysia.

In addition, English is widely spoken in Malaysia, alongside many other common Asian languages (e.g. Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi), which contributes to the comfort of communication with medical personnel.

The warm Malaysian hospitality and our wonderful melting pot of culture and cuisines make us famous as a travel destination in itself, and are also factors not to be underestimated. These qualities go a long way towards making international patients’ health journeys here comfortable and enjoyable.

To showcase the country’s healthcare travel advantages, MHTC is currently running the “Malaysia Loves You” campaign that strives to highlight the Malaysia healthcare experience which, apart from offering high quality and high value healthcare services, also embraces the world-famous Malaysian hospitality as a core proposition.

The campaign includes an online contest, where participants stand to win a five day, four night stay for two at a luxurious health and wellness resort in Malaysia’s historical city of Malacca. Details of the contest may be found at http://mylovesyou.com/.

MTT: What medical procedures do patients commonly travel to Malaysia for?

SA: Popular treatments sought by health travelers are in cardiology, oncology, IVF, orthopedics, dentistry and cosmetic surgery, with the bulk of travelers arriving from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Indochina, the Middle East, Australia, China and Japan.

Of particular note are Malaysian hospitals’ successes in the fields of cardiology and IVF. The country’s leading cardiothoracic center, the National Heart Institute (more famously known as “IJN” for Institute Jantung Negara), is renowned for its many “firsts” in Asia, and occasionally the world, especially in the field of pediatric cardiothoracic treatments and procedures. The hospital does consultation and surgeries in partnerships and CSR programs with hospitals in foreign countries (primarily in ASEAN and other Asian countries), to treat cases of newborns and infants with difficult or rare congenital heart diseases.

The success of Tropicana Medical Centre in its IVF program is also noteworthy. The hospital’s Fertility Center posts an average success rate of 66 percent against the global success rate of 50 percent.

Collectively, Malaysia’s premier fertility centers see many patients from the UK, Middle East, India and China for their IVF and fertility programs, helping thousands of health travelers around the world achieve their dreams of growing their families.

Malaysia’s elite private hospitals have also established individual Centers of Excellence (CoE) that focus on the research and extensive care of niche treatments in a variety of specialties, such as oncology, cancer-related breast care, women’s wellness, cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, ophthalmology, and more.

The COE’s represent the hospitals’ dedication and commitment towards advancing their knowledge and dispensation of the most advanced care in their respective fields, which provides a great deal of confidence to health travelers over Malaysia’s healthcare offerings.

MTT: Can you tell us about the partnership between MHTC and Malaysia Airlines?

SA: MHTC and Malaysia Airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to signify the intended collaborative efforts in positioning Malaysia as a premier destination for healthcare tourism, regionally and globally.

Among others, this partnership will translate into the joint marketing of Malaysia healthcare in focus markets, and will include a structure for preferred airfares for international patients traveling to Malaysia for healthcare. Malaysia Airlines’ comprehensive global network will go a long way towards increasing connectivity and access of health travelers to health services in Malaysia.

MTT: What rates will Malaysia Airlines be offering patients looking to travel to Malaysia for medical treatment?

SA: The details of the airfare structure are currently still being developed, and rates will depend on the individual markets.

However, the partnership with Malaysia Airlines extends beyond preferred airfares, and encompasses shared promotions and marketing, particularly in focus markets.

MTT: At this point, is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

SA: Apart from conventional treatments, another aspect of healthcare that is coming to the fore is the health and wellness industry. Health and wellness resorts and institutions offer less intensive healthcare treatments, and often combine low-impact Western treatments with alternative therapies, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Complementary Medicine (TCM) and homeopathic remedies in their wellness programs.

Malaysian health and wellness facilities are fast becoming popular among health travelers seeking preventive, rejuvenation and detox therapies.

As a whole, the healthcare tourism industry in Malaysia is well regulated with private healthcare acts, and receives solid government support. As such, health travelers are ensured of the highest standards in safety and quality in Malaysian healthcare services.

Some of the awards and accolades gained by Malaysia Healthcare and Malaysian private hospitals in 2015 are:

International Medical Travel Journal Travel Awards 2016

  • Health and Medical Tourism: Destination of the Year, Malaysia
  • International Hospital, Sunway Medical Centre
  • International Hospital – Highly Commended, Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur
  • Medical Travel Agency of the Year – Highly Commended, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC)
  • International Fertility Clinic, TMC Fertility Centre
  • Best Quality Initiative – Highly Commended, Imperial Dental Specialist Centre
  • Best Marketing Initiative, Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur

For full details of award winners, visit: http://awards.imtj.com/results/

2016 Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Travel Council of the Year – Medical Tourism: Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC)

International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index

  • Best Country in the World for Healthcare 2015 – 2016
  • Third Best Country in the World for Healthcare 2014

8th Annual World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress

  • 2015 Public Private Partnership Medical Travel Destination of the Year Award

International Medical Travel Journal (Medical Travel Awards 2015)

  • Malaysia Healthcare – Medical Travel Destination of the Year 2015
  • Excellence in Customer Service – Gleneagles Hospital, Kuala Lumpur
  • Best Quality Initiative of the Year – Imperial Dental Specialist Centre
  • Best Travel Website of the Year – Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare
  • International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic of the Year – Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre
  • International Dental Clinic of the Year – Imperial Dental Specialist Centre

2015 MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index

  • Top Country for Muslim Travel

Reader’s Digest Asia Gold Trusted Brand Award 2015 (Private Healthcare Category)

  • KPJ Healthcare
  • Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care
  • Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur

Frost & Sullivan’s Malaysia Excellence Awards 2015

  • KPJ Healthcare for Hospital of the Year

World’s Best Hospital for Medical Tourists by Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQUA) 2013-2014

  • Prince Court Medical Centre

Nomad Capitalist’s “Five Best Countries for Medical Tourism” 2014

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