Cost issues ailing Singapore medical tourism

Cost issues ailing Singapore medical tourism

I am not surprised that Singapore has lost its shine among medical tourists ("S'pore 'losing medical tourists to neighbours' "; last Friday).

Our neighbours are not only significantly cheaper, but they have also narrowed the gap in the quality of care, as they acquire new capabilities and modern facilities.

When choosing a medical destination, patients look at the level of expertise, available procedures, price, accreditation and accessibility.

In the past, the lack of medical expertise in their home countries pushed well-heeled patients overseas. However, escalating healthcare costs in Singapore and our strong currency are causing patients to seek treatment at home or elsewhere.

Malaysia, for instance, is making its mark in comprehensive health screenings and cosmetic surgery.

Apart from having strong medical infrastructure and expertise, including Western and Singapore-trained doctors, Malaysia also caps medical fees to prevent overcharging.

In Thailand, tourism officials are marketing the country as an attractive destination for cosmetic surgery. Legal loopholes also draw patients there for procedures such as sexual reassignment.

India is now among the leading destinations for cardiac treatments in the world. It is also renowned for hip and joint replacement surgery.

The country offers not only low prices but also many of the latest advances in medical technology.

Apart from having lower charges, foreign hospitals are also far more willing to provide upfront price quotes. In contrast, private hospitals in Singapore are generally unwilling to provide such information, and will give only rough estimates when pressed.

The absence of fee guidelines also adds to the perception that Singapore doctors can charge as if the sky is the limit.

Hopefully, the loss of medical tourists will prompt private hospitals here to be more upfront about their fees and have fewer hidden costs than they currently include in their bills.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

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