AMCHAM Healthcare Forum 2019 with Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Dzulkefly bin Ahmad, Minister of Health

The Minister of Health Y.B. Datuk Seri Dr.Haji Dzulkefly bin Ahmad delivered the keynote address at the 2019 Healthcare Forum held on March 28. The Forum themed around Increasing Access to Healthcare, brought together senior government officials and private businesses for a discourse on the role that the private sector can play in responding to Malaysia’s healthcare opportunities and challenges.

Y.B. Datuk Seri Dr. Haji Dzulkefly bin Ahmad emphasized the important role that the private sector will play in supporting the government’s goal of achieving universal health coverage, and his Ministry’s commitment to enabling public-private collaboration through a supportive policy environment: “To ensure a vibrant collaborative ecosystem, the Ministry of Health will continuously engage the private healthcare sector so as to create a favorable regulatory landscape that promotes innovation and policies that will facilitate investment towards better healthcare delivery. These include better resource allocation, strengthening Intellectual Property, and policies that promote Research & Development.”

Earlier in the morning, to kick off the discussions, the Ministry’s newly-promoted Deputy Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr. Hj Rohaizat bin Hj. Yon presented an overview of the government’s forward-looking healthcare strategy. Subsequent panel discussions saw representatives from leading American companies such as IBM and Microsoft emphasizing the potential for technological innovations from the private sector to pioneer the advancement of preventative healthcare and free up public funds for projects of maximum public benefit.

A range of experts from think tanks and academia highlighted some of the policy cornerstones that can help to harness these benefits, including a sustainable and equitable model of healthcare financing, data policies that support efficiency improvements, and the development of an investment framework that encourages and rewards innovation while at the same time increases patient access to innovative healthcare solutions.

Senior representatives from MITI, MIDA, MDEC, MyIPO, MDTCA, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Communications & Multimedia and the Medical Device Authority also contributed to the discussion.

Executive Director of AMCHAM, Siobhan Das, said, “Within the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto, the government has set itself the goal of having 7% of GDP (so around RM 100bn per year) invested in healthcare, and for 50% of that to come from the private sector. We brought together this program for a pragmatic discussion on the types of policies and commitments that the government can make so as to enable the private sector to bring their new innovations to Malaysia’s healthcare space and enhance healthcare outcomes for all Malaysians”.

While healthcare is typically viewed by governments as an expense that creates budgetary pressures, speakers at the forum highlighted growing regional and global trends which suggest that healthcare has huge potential to be an engine of growth for countries looking for additional revenues to move up to high-income status.

The Malaysian healthcare industry is currently valued at RM60bn and poised to increase to RM80bn given our growing and aging population, the greater use of new screening technologies and big data in disease prevention, and Malaysia’s potential to harness the economic benefits of medical tourism.

However, to maximize the benefits of this growth potential in Malaysia’s healthcare space, there are critical policies and enablers that need to be activated. A regulatory environment that encourages partnerships and fosters greater collaboration is key, as is the focused development of a talent pool equipped with the skills needed for the era of disruptive new technologies.