Plastic Surgery As Medical Tourism Emergence In Malaysia

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People exercise to be healthy. Others choose to drink water to maintain one’s health. In the past years, there is always a new diet, practices, and ways to strive for a healthier life. It is all about health but is there a difference between health and wellness? Health and wellness hold a broad meaning where health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being not purely about the existence of a disease. Whereas for wellness, there are few different dimensions in wellness. Wellness in physical is when we exercise, eat well, practising safe sex and not doing activities that is prone to danger. Wellness in emotion on the other hand is by being confident, having solid self-esteem, being able to trust, and to understand another’s feelings. Finally, wellness in spiritual is related to developing compassion, forgiveness, and having the purpose of life. This often leads to an active and pro-active approaches to improve one’s health physically and mentally that often drives a person to travel away from home to seek medical treatment or undergo a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure outside of their origin country.

Medical tourism in Malaysia is closely related to health and wellness as it consists of non-surgical procedures, general surgery, and cosmetic procedures which is better known as cosmetic plastic surgery. Cosmetics plastic surgery procedures have become very common among Malaysians with the increasing number of Malaysians paying for cosmetic surgery to enhance their features, to be more attractive or to improve their body shape (Chia Hee, 2017). As cosmetic procedures are becoming more famous in Malaysia, this causes the demand for cosmetic plastic surgery procedures to rapidly increase through out the country. Malaysians are constantly exposed to new beauty trends through the internet and social medias and it has become a normal thing for a person to do cosmetic plastic surgery to enhance their feature. Considering the demand, this forces medical surgery practitioner to broaden their field by getting the right qualification to perform cosmetic surgical procedures. With a certified qualification, they can cater the booming industry of cosmetic plastic surgery in our country that is flooded not only by local patients but also foreign medical tourist that choose Malaysia as a place to do cosmetic plastic surgery and getting other medical treatment. As a result, private hospitals often offer wider range of cosmetic plastic surgery procedure to offer to local patients and border crossing patients, this is because public hospital are mainly to accommodate patients with medical condition.

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When you think about destinations for overseas cosmetic work, Thailand is probably the first country that comes to mind. Then Bali? Well Malaysia now wants a bite of the cherry and is actively promoting itself as a travel destination for Australians wanting cosmetic surgery (Videnieks, 2016). The emergence of foreign medical tourist seeking for cosmetic plastic surgery in Malaysia is primarily because of the lower cost that they will be paying compared to having the procedure done in their origin country because almost all surgical procedures in Malaysia are in lower prices compared to in Australia. To further emphasize, Australian woman on low income that is keen for breast augmentation will prefer to do it overseas as it is cheaper and more affordable. In significant to retirees that needs a costly dental work. They will only have spent small amount of their saving to get dental work done in their holiday destination specifically in Malaysia. Not only that, having surgical procedures often require them to stay in the country longer because they will need to be supervise by their surgeon until they completely healed to avoid any voidable complications before going back to their origin country, this will be costly to some people when they must stay in a foreign country for a month or two.

Cosmetic plastic surgery hub in Malaysia are mostly located in Pulau Pinang. Dr. Lee Kim Siea Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Clinic described as one of the most famous places to go, they offered numbers of different types of procedures all done by the man himself. When reliability being considered as one of the main factors before a person go through a cosmetic plastic surgery, Dr. Lee Kim Siea is unquestionably a certified medical practitioner that receives at least 20 appointment weekly purely for cosmetic and plastic surgery. Apart from it, he operates from a facility that is equipped with high-technology equipment comparable to what Australian plastic surgeon practitioner have to offer while giving the most comfort to his patients as medical tourist. Mohamed (2015, pp. 105–106) found in a recent study expectation are formed before engaging in the actual medical tourism, which are positively confirmed in this case. The information available and the promises made by the medical tourism providers, in this case Malaysia, Penang, and the hospital, are deemed reliable. An Australian respondent noted that for basic procedures, there is confidence in Penang hospitals, and they can be compared with Australian hospitals.

In a recent study Ormond et al. (2014) in the following decade, private hospitals concentrated mainly in Penang, Melaka, Selangor, Sarawak, and Johor worked alongside and through their respective state governments, private hospital associations, and the Malaysian Ministries of Health, Tourism, and Trade and Industry. Not only Malaysia attracts the neighbouring countries medical tourist like Indonesia that is considered higher number yet lower per patient expenditure, Malaysia also attracts higher spending medical tourist from further afield countries like Australia, China, and United Kingdom. To accommodate the industry, the Malaysian government-imposed investment tax allowances which is a reduction in taxable profits in order to spark private hospitals to get high-technology equipment in order to develop their technology intensive private health care facilities and ensuring a world class standard services to attract more medical tourist in the upcoming years in giving them a pleasant experience.

In 2017, Khairunnisa and Hatta found that effective promotion of cosmetic plastic surgery to medical tourism is one of the factors that lead to the growth of practicing medical tourism. According to the Malaysian Tourism and Culture Ministry Malaysia and Ministry of Health, the promotions of medical tourism that has been conducted and implemented by them has attracted 770,000 and 790,000 medical tourists to choose Malaysia as destination country for having services and treatments in 2013 and 2014, respectively which in turn bring profit for about 191.80 million US dollar to the country. As it has been proven that through promotions and advertising effort, Malaysia has been receiving many medical tourists from around the world. One of the initiatives of the government is by allowing visa on arrival to medical tourist. This allow foreign nationals to stay in Malaysia for 30 days for medical reason. Apart from it, Malaysian Tourism and Culture Ministry Malaysia and Ministry of Health comes out with publicity materials in effort to acknowledge our medical tourism to the world through brochure and other media, so it can be widely circulated for publicity in target market. Through this effort, it brings massive economic benefits in terms of money generated and revenues to Malaysia as well as boosting our medical tourism industry.

Malaysia has raised their standard in having strong infrastructure, giving top-notch services, offering affordable prices, to having medical facilities that rivals Singapore and lastly by setting up agencies to bring in more border crossing patients is undeniably successful. In 2017, Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council stated that Malaysia is recognized as the recipient of “Destination of the Year” for the third time in a row at the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) Awards 2017 in Opatija.

In conclusion, the emergence of health and wellness in Malaysia have led the country to be one of the most recommend place to undergo not only cosmetic plastic surgeries, but also general surgery and non-surgical procedures based on its many advantage and proven satisfaction by medical tourist around the world.


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