$4.3b revenue likely for Singapore from medical tourism this year

PHOTO: $4.3b revenue likely for Singapore from medical tourism this year

SINGAPORE - Singapore is expected to see some 850,000 foreign patients bringing in US$3.5 billion (S$4.31 billion) worth of revenue from medical tourism this year, after foreign patient numbers grew at a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent over the last three years, according to a report.

Across the Asia-Pacific, the number of medical tourists visiting the region is expected to grow by 15-20 per cent annually until 2015.

"Cost-effective treatment is a significant driver for medical tourists to seek healthcare treatment," said the Frost & Sullivan (India) report, commissioned by Religare Health Trust (RHT) which is seeking a listing on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). Frost & Sullivan also highlighted that the waiting time in Western countries for elective surgery can span two to three months whereas in South Asian countries, it is limited to two to three weeks.

Demand for health care in Singapore - which spends about 4 per cent of gross domestic product on health care - is being driven by an ageing population, rising affluence as well as increasing awareness of healthcare standards.

According to the report, the average per capita healthcare expenditure in Asia-Pacific countries (for 11 specific markets, including Singapore) stood at nearly US$600 in 2010, paling in comparison to over US$6,700 in the US and about US$2,815 in the UK, though the Asia-Pacific figure is projected to grow 15-20 per cent over three years from 2011, partly due to an increase in chronic diseases. In Singapore, per capita healthcare expenditure was US$1,714 in 2011.

As the healthcare industry in the region develops rapidly, it continues to attract investments from private companies as well.

RHT - backed by India's Fortis Healthcare - is looking to raise up to S$550.4 million through a listing of some 567.45 million units on SGX at a range of 88-97 cents, according to its preliminary prospectus which was lodged with the Monetary Authority of Singapore last week.

RHT's initial portfolio located across India will consist of 11 clinical establishments, two hospitals managed and operated by the trust and four greenfield clinical establishments. As at June 30, 2012, RHT's portfolio has 1,782 operational beds and an installed capacity of 3,197 beds.

Fortis, which will own 28 per cent of the units in RHT post-listing, has also granted the trust a right of first refusal should the healthcare operator or any of its subsidiaries be divesting any relevant medical and healthcare infrastructure and facilities.

Demand for health care in one of the world's most populous nations is high, though healthcare infrastructure has failed to keep pace with demand growth.

"India currently accounts for nearly 6 per cent of the world's hospital beds but shares 20 per cent of the world's disease burden," it said in the preliminary prospectus. In addition, its medical tourism market is expected to be worth US$2.1 billion with an expected 520,000 medical tourists by 2015, versus a projected 360,000 medical tourists this year.

Fortis, which saw operating revenues of S$685 million for its healthcare business for FY2012, has operations in 10 countries across the Asia-Pacific, including Vietnam and Australia.

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