What is happening in Malaysia’s healthcare? Organization and Hospital Priorities

This blog will provide a concise glimpse of Malaysia’ macroeconomic situation, its healthcare-provision characteristics and organization, as well as highlight the priorities and activities shaping its private and public hospital sectors.

Economic overview and healthcare expenditure

Since the 1950’s Malaysia is one of the steadiest and highest performing nations economically in Asia, with an average annual GDP growth of near 6% in the last 50 years. Its current GDP growth is 4.2% (2016). It has the 4th largest market economy in Southeast Asia, and the 35th largest economy in the world based on nominal GDP. GDP growth is expected to remain anchored by domestic demand and to remain moderate in the coming year.

Malaysia’s healthcare expenditure in 2016 as a percentage of GDP is 4.3%. This is average for the Southeast Asia region. In comparison, Singapore spends 5.6% of GDP on healthcare, Thailand spends 6.9% and Indonesia spends 2.9%.

National healthcare organization in Malaysia

Malaysia healthcare system
Malaysia healthcare system

Characteristics of Malaysian health and healthcare

Malaysia has a strong healthcare structure, with a government-sponsored universal-coverage healthcare system. Healthcare indicators are higher than the regional averages, and public esteem and satisfaction with the healthcare provisions are relatively positive.

Characteristics of Malaysia’s healthcare (HC) organization include:

  • Provides an extensive basic HC provisions package in a comparatively low-costing universal HC system, financed through national taxes and general revenues. Since this universal HC has been present for several generations, it is difficult to convince healthcare users now to contribute copayments. Furthermore, though healthcare is widely universal (in the public sector), there are challenges related to overcrowding and staffing.
  • HC financing has a progressive collection and distribution mechanism; wealthier households pay more for healthcare than poorer households.
  • Favorable protection for households against financial risks related to poor health is firmly embedded. This is made possible because over 70% of public hospitals benefit from public sector subsidies.
  • Entails a comprehensive system to extend healthcare accessibility to even the most remote regions; e.g. 0 charges for public primary HC care in rural areas, and around 200 mobile clinics and 500 mobile dental services.
  • Lack of regulation, and the velocity at which the private sector grew alongside the public sector, have left the current public-private provider systems parallel and disruptive to one another rather than complementary.

Malaysia’s top causes of death are cardiovascular conditions and lung infections, matching the mortality causes of many developed nations. Much less common, is its high numbers of road traffic and HIV-related deaths, which -in principle- are very preventable causes of death.

Priorities and activities in Malaysia’s hospital sector

In broad terms, public Malaysian healthcare is undergoing a process of consolidation and optimization; HC facilities within a given region are being grouped together and resources are to be shared. There is also the objective of reducing public hospital waiting times and improving the wages of their doctors, whilst sustaining and enhancing financing mechanisms.

The private sector is more focused on medical tourism and in offering high-end care (typically to urban wealthier populations).

Malaysia’s healthcare plans (expressed in the official 5-year national Plans), as well as their hospital movements and strategies, reflect the following priorities and operations:

  • Encourage private hospitals to seek accreditation with international accreditation bodies.
  • E-Health – Introduce and optimize the use of ICT in the organization of healthcare.
  • Improve the management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in public facilities.
  • Insurance and financing of healthcare.
    • Financing of public healthcare will have to shift from taxation-based to an insurance-based one, that relies on both public and private contributions.
    • In 2016, the government discussed the option of implementing a voluntary government insurance scheme, to finance an alternative healthcare sector parallel to the existing public one.
  • Special clinic days for chronic diseases will be created to enable patients with multiple illnesses to receive consultations in a single visit instead of multiple visits as previously required.
  • Restructuring the healthcare delivery system to increase the quality and capacity of care, and moving from strategies that emphasize treatment to one that emphasizes wellness and disease prevention.
  • Medical tourism
    • e. fostering strategic alliances among local and foreign healthcare service providers, travel organizations and medical insurance groups to provide a more integrated and comprehensive package of services for healthcare travelers.
    • Apply coordinated and integrated promotional activities to strengthen the presence of Malaysian healthcare as a brand globally.
  • Access, quality and equity.
    • To reduce overcrowding in public hospitals, the government wants to collaborate with private entities and NGOs to create non-profit (charitable) hospitals
    • Wide-sweeping plans to upgrade public hospitals, day clinics, mobile clinics and rural facilities.
    • Measures to reduce distribution gaps, increase training capacity and improve compensation packages. Previous efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of doctors and nurses.
    • Multiple approaches will be undertaken to ensure that the bottom 40% of Malaysian households in both rural and semi-urban areas have better access to healthcare.
    • Mobile clinics, including flying doctor services will be expanded for groups with lower accessibility (e.g. Orang Asli and ethnic minorities in remote parts of Sabah and Sarawak).
    • 1Malaysia clinics will be expanded to provide services to urban poor and other underserved areas, with additional clinics to be built during the Plan’s period.
    • Access to healthcare will also continue to be improved through provision of free transport to hospitals and clinics.
  • Improve standard of living.
    • Expansion of electricity services, treated water supply, road infrastructure, education and healthcare services.


For further quantitative and qualitative information on the Malaysian healthcare system and the macroeconomic climate, please look into our Business intelligence platform or order the National Landscape and Healthcare Outline of Malaysia – report containing volumes of 984 surgical procedures in 13 specialisms.

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