SINGAPORE has been ranked second out of 166 countries for health-care outcomes in an international report despite spending less than other countries near the top of the league.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report found Singapore spent US$2,538 (S$3,290) per capita on health care.
This was 46 per cent less than top-ranked Japan, which spent US$4,714 per person.
Switzerland, which came third in terms of outcome, spent a hefty US$8,928 per person.
The research arm of the Economist Group, which also publishes the business magazine of the same name, said the report "compares outcomes and spending to assess value for money in health care".
It used data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the countries' adult mortality, life expectancy at age 60, as well as its healthy and disabled years.
The purpose of the study is to add to the debate on how healthcare systems should be measured, which started with the WHO's World Health Report in 2000 that ranked France top and the United States poorly.
In that report, Singapore was ranked sixth.
This time, in looking at the 166 countries, the unit said that while richer countries reported better outcomes, poorer countries got more health-care value for every dollar spent.
But the EIU added that "there are wide differences between the amounts that countries are spending on health care for similar outcomes". This could possibly mean wastage or other factors such as diets and lifestyles that affect the quality of people's health.
While Japan has the best outcomes, Singapore and South Korea achieved similar outcomes at a lower cost, it said.
South Korea, which ranked 15th, spent US$1,834 per head on health care.
The study also said the US had "a poor-value health-care system".
It ranked 33rd in terms of outcomes but spent US$9,216 per capita - the highest in the world.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, said the report was an "independent assessment of how well Singapore's health-care framework is supporting her people".
He added that although the report uses "rather broad brushstroke evaluation", it does show that, while the system is not perfect, Singapore's health-care system offers good value and affordability in benefits to citizens.
Dr Chia said the Health GPC supports the Government's efforts in health maintenance and disease prevention.
Professor Chia Kee Seng, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said Singapore has done very well so far.
"Moving forward, we will be facing uphill challenges of much higher burden of chronic diseases, increasing expectations and demand for high-cost health-care technology and drugs, and the limited health-care facilities and manpower," he said.
To retain the high ranking, Prof Chia said Singapore needs to "rapidly shift the focus from a hospital- based and treatment-centric health-care system to integrated and prevention-centric health delivery".
"Patients need to accept that good health care can be provided by trained personnel who are not doctors or nurses," he added.