With more beds, new clinics and expanded medical services, the CEO is working to cement the company’s position as a leading healthcare provider in the region.
nwas adiah wan TMC Life Sciences ran for little more than a year when the pandemic began in early 2020. Almost overnight, Malaysia’s borders closed, cutting off international patients – a lucrative source of income for Malaysia’s listed hospital group – while local travel restrictions curtailed appointments and surgeries. optional. It quickly rearranged priorities, juggling between ambitious expansion plans and a public health emergency.
Now, with the Covid-19 virus receding, the 38-year-old TMC CEO and group CEO has a chance to pick up where she left off: to make TMC one of the largest private hospitals in Southeast Asia. Speaking by video link from Kuala Lumpur in late May, Wan recently oversaw the opening of a new ward at TMC’s flagship Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara. The upgrade at the private hospital will triple the number of beds to 600 and enhance its range of services, including world-class fertility treatments, with a new cancer center and more specialized outpatient clinics. This growth will also give a boost to TMC’s parent company, Singapore-based Thomson Medical, which owns 70% of TMC. Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim controls Singapore-listed Thomson Medical.
However, she believes the pandemic has brought a new mindset to the healthcare industry. “What Covid has done is it has made a lot of healthcare workers realize that we need to be more adaptive and dynamic,” says Wan. “Health care is a very risk-averse industry, but with Covid, there was no choice, so people had to move forward with whatever resources they had.”
The first few months of the pandemic shook TMC. Net profit fell 43% to 13 million ringgit ($3 million) in the 10 months to June 2020 (the full reporting period for that year). The fertility business has been hit particularly hard by the slowdown in medical tourism. Revenue from international patients, which made up about 15% of sales before the pandemic, has fallen as Covid-19 has led to region-wide travel restrictions and quarantines.
Since then, TMC has charted a steady recovery. Patient numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels with increased demand for TMC’s fertility services and hospitals, along with a growing number of medical tourists since the full reopening of Malaysia’s borders on April 1.
In the first nine months of the fiscal year ending in March, net profit rose 9% to RM18 million (year-on-year), a 17% increase in sales to RM173 million. Shares recovered to pre-pandemic levels of 0.8 ringgit in March 2021, but have since fallen by a third in line with the broader healthcare index in Malaysia, which has been affected by global uncertainty.
Going forward, TMC must capitalize on macro trends – which include Malaysia’s shifting demographic to an aging population – and by positioning itself firmly as a market leader, says Tina Banerjee, health care analyst in Bangalore and posted on the online platform Smartkarma. “The company is constantly seeing an increase in patient volumes,” Banerjee says by email. Fertility restoration business and [the Kota Damansara hospital] The addition of the bed should further accelerate the growth momentum.” Wan noted in an interview earlier this year that the new wing should mean double-digit growth in 2022, although increased capacity – with significant investment in new equipment – will impact On net profit for a few years.
Healthcare spending in Malaysia is expected to grow 26% from $16 billion this year to $20 billion by 2025, and reach $176 billion in Southeast Asia over the same period, according to data firm Statista. To capitalize on this demand for medical services, TMC last year opened two clinics, one for gastroesophageal reflux and one for heart palpitations, bringing the total number of specialty outpatient clinics to 154. In addition to its pharmacy in south Johor Bahru, across from Singapore, TMC is building an integrated medical center that will eventually include a 500-bed Class III hospital, medical tower and retail mall. It is scheduled to open in 2028.
However, Wan expects assisted reproduction to remain a cornerstone of its services, and expects that it will eventually contribute around 40% of revenue. TMC, Malaysia’s leading fertility treatment company – holding the national record for the largest number of children delivered via IVF by a single practice – operates six fertility centers across the country.
While Malaysia’s share of the medical tourism industry, valued at $362 million in 2019, is just a fraction of Thailand’s market of $8.6 billion, TMC has carved a niche among female patients from China, Indonesia and Singapore. She says international clients are drawn to TMC’s proximity and high-quality services, some of which — in the case of IVF and egg freezing — are hard to obtain at home or illegal.
Wan is proud to train TMC for fertility specialists in the region. “With fertility, you need a certain type of personality,” she says. “There’s the clinical aspect but there’s also the psychosocial part where you counsel your patients, and you reassure them.”
Wan graduated from Harvard University in Biochemical Sciences with a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and returned home from her education in Kuala Lumpur to work with the Boston Consulting Group. (She had trained with the company in the United States as an undergraduate.) After two years there, she spent five more at Sunway Medical Center in Malaysia, rising to the position of Director of Operations for Clinical Services, before joining TMC in 2017.
Although she says her passion for healthcare has led her to explore different ways to grow, especially health technology, Wan says her main priority is building a sustainable business. She points out that hospitals need long-term plans. “When you’re talking about all the investments that go into healthcare and how long it takes to have children, and you’re serving the population over the life cycles, you need a business that can sustain,” she says.
Thomson Medical, where Wan is CEO, created in 2020 a new arm called Thomson X to partner with emerging health technology companies such as Singapore-based WhiteCoat for a comprehensive application for the group’s obstetric, gynecological and pediatric patients. Wan envisions another potential collaboration with the public hospital sector, building an integrated health platform focused on the emotional well-being of patients and preventive care. “When we talk about accountability, patient accountability or ownership of their healthcare journey is very important.”
As the pandemic wanes, she reflects on lessons learned from navigating the challenging environment. “When you become a CEO, the entire boundary between work and life basically disappears,” she says.
“One of the things I’m starting to learn is to say no,” she adds. “At first you feel like you have a lot to contribute to [obligations] It tends to kind of start to pile up. At some point, you need to start thinking about the things you devote your time to because basically your time becomes your biggest constraint.”