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5 Foremost Opportunities for Healthcare Companies in Malaysia During and After COVID-19

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Malaysia is internationally recognised as one of the nations that has successfully dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic curve and flattened it. Since the introduction of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) and targeted approach screening for the first time on the 18th of March, the authorities have taken the necessary measures to reduce the number of fatalities and to reduce new cases on a daily basis.

As a result of these critical national measures taken by the government and the Ministry of Health, including the prohibition of movement and large meetings, the complete restriction of all outgoing and incoming travel, as well as the closure of all schools, companies are now able to resume operations more than three months after they have reached a complete standstill.

Impact on the Malaysian healthcare system

The overall healthcare and tourism businesses have dropped significantly as a result of the movement control order (MCO) imposed across the market. Patient loads at private hospitals have dropped significantly, while some clinics have recorded a nearly 50 percent drop in patients over the MCO period.

Patients have also resorted to going to public hospitals instead of private ones with the increased number of layoffs or suspensions of pay. As the number of patients treated for COVID-19 was increasing, public hospitals, therefore, had fewer beds at their disposal for other patients.

Here are some of the highlights that I believe will help healthcare companies in Malaysia to identify the opportunities during and after COVID-19:

#1 Uncertainty of economy and commercial business

The Malaysian government continues to prioritise activities to improve mental health, oncology, and other related treatments and services as there are a high prevalence and mortality rate from COVID-19, diabetes, and other major diseases.

Opportunities for businesses:

  • Prioritize key products
  • Focus on product innovation especially on medical devices
  • Leverage on collaboration with business partners and other healthcare service providers

#2 Improving the way of interactions among healthcare practitioners 

Due to limited movement, during the pandemic and MCO period, communication with and between healthcare practitioners has changed. In the use of technology and the adoption of digitization, there is a significant increase.

Opportunities for businesses:

  • Implement technology touchpoints, for example, webinars, virtual meetings, telesales, and telemarketing.
  • Adopt digital tools for Patient Support Programs (PSP) such as Patient Education Apps, Diagnosis Apps, e-Consultation, etc.

#3 Short-term shift in patient flow from private to public hospitals

The pandemic has given rise to new opportunities to differentiate their services for healthcare providers. In government hospitals, there is also an increased demand for certain treatment-specific products that are better supported by additional funding.

Opportunities for businesses:

  • Partner with private hospitals to provide value-added services such as e-consultation, Patient Support Programs, and patient access programs
  • Explore listing, access, and support of sustainable healthcare with government through various programs especially in the related therapeutic areas and diseases priority

#4 Stiff competition between supermarkets, retail, and pharmacists from the community

Compared to pharmacies, there has been a higher demand for community and smaller stores over the last three months, with movement restricted. It reflected a distinctive segmentation of products on various channels.

Opportunities for businesses:

  • Understand each channel’s effectiveness and ensure the right access and pricing strategy
  • Consider product demand for the targeted market segment
  • Collaborate with a business partner that has an omnichannel approach

#5 Supply chain disruption

During the pandemic, a huge challenge was maintaining deliveries and minimising supply chain disruption. But companies have found better and faster ways to maintain regular deliveries to hospitals and patients with medications and drugs that still need to be delivered on time.

Opportunities for businesses:

  • Consider e-Commerce as a supplementary platform to reach out to healthcare providers and patients
  • Incorporate a direct-to-patient delivery system

For the overall business sector, the three government-introduced economic stimulus packages totaling RM 280 billion (USD 65.7 billion) helped cushion the negative economic impact of the pandemic. These initiatives have helped more than 300,000 businesses to maintain operations and have helped save more than 2.4 million market jobs.

The Malaysian government is still spending on healthcare and the economy as a whole. The government also added another RM 600 million (USD 140.8 billion) for the management and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic, having initially allocated almost RM 30.6 billion (USD 7.2 billion) for this year’s healthcare sector.

The allocation focuses on the construction and expansion of new hospitals, the refurbishment of clinics, the refurbishment of medical infrastructure, the improvement of ambulance services, and the establishment in rural areas of mobile facilities.

In conclusion, this is the right time for you to examine the effect of COVID-19 on your healthcare business and, more importantly, to identify the opportunities that you can take to remain competitive in the market.

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