Guide to medical tourism in Singapore – important facts and features

Singapore has long been a premier destination for healthcare attracting patients not only from Asia, but from across the world. Singapore’s investments in state-of-the-art, advanced medical technologies achieve economic cost-efficiency when large numbers of patients are served, thereby offering the medical tourists cost-effective prices without compromising on quality.

International patients come to Singapore every year for a whole range of medical care from basic health screening and wellness services to high-end specialist care and surgical procedures like cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology and oncology.

General
LanguageEnglish, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil
Time ZoneSST (UCT+8)
Dialing Code+65
Electricity230V-50Hz
Major CitiesSingapore (Geyland & Katong, Chinatown, Toa Payoh,

Holland Village, Little India)

CurrencySingapore dollar
ClothingTake light weight cotton clothing; take plenty of rainwear

as rains can occur at any season.

Health Related
Mortality Rate4.8 deaths/ 1,000 population
Life Expectancy80.1M /84.6F
Patient: Physician Ratio800:1
Hospitals JCI accredited18
Recommended    VaccinationsHepatitis A, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Diphtheriatetanus,

Measles, Varicella, Japanese encephalitis,

Poliomyelitis and Yellow fever.

Other InfectionsMarine hazards in unmarked & unpatrolled beaches, HIV,

Leptospirosis

 

Tourism Related 
Population5,312,400Reliability of Police Services6/140
Global Competitiveness5.72/7Physician Density64/140
Tourism Competitiveness5.2/7Hospital Beds60/140
GDP/Capita$50,323Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure1/140
Safety and Security 6.1/7International  Air  Transport  Network1/140
Health and Hygiene5.3/7Quality of Roads3/140
Air Transport Infrastructure5.1/7Hotel Rooms37/140
Tourism Infrastructure5.0/7Tourism Openness14/140
Cultural Infrastructure3.6/7Attitude  of  Population  Towards Foreign Visitors16/140
Visa Requirements2/140

 

Singapore is a bustling cosmopolitan city-state populated by high rising buildings and landscape gardens. Brimming with a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture, Singapore is a dynamic city rich in contrast and color. Singapore embodies the finest of both – the East and the West.

Located in Southeast Asia, Singapore has a land area of about 710 square kilometers, making it the smallest country in the world. However, despite its size, Singapore commands an enormous presence in the world today with its free trade economy and highly efficient workforce.

People of Singapore

Singapore has a population well over five million people, with English as the main language of instruction and the country also accepts Malay, Chinese, and Tamil as the official languages. Coming together as a society and living in harmony, there are four major races – Chinese (majority), Malay, Indian and Eurasian. Each community offers a different perspective of life in Singapore in regard of culture, religion, food and language and creates the coherent whole of this beautiful yet progressive Southeast Asian sovereign city-state.

Tourism

Beyond the history, culture, people, shopping and food, there are many more facets of Singapore’s thriving cityscape to discover. One can only experience these while exploring this once fishing village turned into cosmopolitan state. Singapore has a thriving ecosystem of nature and wildlife nestled within, which makes it perfect place for nature lovers to live in and tourists to visit. Nature lovers can look ahead to explore the rainforests and wetlands for an undisturbed as well as unparallel experience.

Singapore is a haven for culture vultures and a paradise for brand loyalists and hagglers as it brings different cultures and ethnicities together. While one can see Arab Street bringing alive the essence of Islam with many Mosques, shops and cuisines, the Orchard Street could easily merge into the Las Vegas landscape. If Little India strives to offer a comprehensive taste of the Indian culture, the Colonial Singapore keeps intact the city blueprint that has made Singapore what it is today – a lively and fast-paced business leader in the whole world.

Language

Almost everyone in Singapore speaks more than one language. The majority of the literate population is bilingual with English and Mandarin most commonly used in day-to-day life. However, it also has a considerable number of people speaking Malay and Tamil.

Weather

Singapore has equatorial climate (aka tropical rainforest climate) with no distinct seasons. Owing to its geographical location and maritime exposure, its climate is characterized by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall. The temperature usually fall between 22 to 35 °C and the relative humidity averages around 79% and 73% in the morning and afternoon respectively. April and May are the hottest months and has a monsoon season starting from November all the way to January. 

Healthcare System

Healthcare in Singapore is mainly under the responsibility of the Singapore Government’s Ministry of Health. Singapore adopts a nationalized healthcare system where government ensures affordability, largely through compulsory savings (from payroll deductions) and price controls, while the private sector provides most of the medical care.

Patients are free to choose the providers within the government or private healthcare delivery system and can walk in for a consultation at any private clinic or any government polyclinic. In comparison to other medical tourism destinations, Singapore serves the international patient in order to provide quality care to local patients making it a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Quality of Healthcare

The World Health Organization ranked Singapore sixth in the list of best healthcare system in the world, which is much higher than the United States and Canada. The clinical services in Singapore emphasize excellence, safety and trustworthy. Singapore has internationally accredited facilities and renowned physicians trained in the best health centers of the world. The patients in Singapore are assured of quality treatment and high clinical outcome, similar to those in the United States and Europe. 

Beyond international certifications, the quality of healthcare is also evident in published clinical indicators in measuring and sharing these performance standards publicly. Singapore encourages patients to make informed decisions regarding their treatment and institution of choice.

How Singapore is faring in global medical tourism competition?

Past few years, the global medical tourism sector saw the fast emergence of other Asian nations as hot medical tourism destinations attracting western tourists with a more competitive price package. Not only this, their medical care infrastructure got revamped with Thailand, Malaysia and India getting more JCI accredited hospitals, considered as the gold standard.

This added more credibility to their service and support. Malaysia has been posting encouraging numbers making its presence felt in this sector. Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia and Bangladesh are also increasing their market share with attractive value added services.

Minimizing the quality difference in medical treatment:

Engaging highly talented specialists and staff in healthcare service by the emerging Asian destinations has been another big reason for Singapore’s decline in medical tourism. Singapore may have the best talents but minor quality difference is not affecting the preference of tourists who are unhesitatingly choosing the low cost medical services in the emerging destinations. Here they are getting the best value for money including great vacationing options.

Combining medical and wellness tourism:

Vacationing forms an integral part of medical tourism and the neighboring countries of Singapore are punching wellness and medical vacation in unique packages helping in complete mind and body wellness of the tourists. These destinations with year round sunny climate and exotic destinations offer the perfect ambience that aids in quick recovery of the patient. Singapore lagged somewhere in this aspect.

More expensive less attractive factor ruling Singapore:

Appreciation of Singapore dollar is another obstacle in Singapore’s medical tourism growth curve. It has made everything very expensive for the outsiders. Transportation, accommodation, eating and even shopping have become more expensive. Adding the medical cost, it goes beyond the budget. This is forcing the travelers to look for cost effective options which other Asian countries are readily offering.

Lack of transparency in medical costs:

While cost factor dominates medical tourism, lack of transparency in treatment costs is bound to have a negative effect.  This has been observed mainly in private clinics who take pride in providing state-of-the-art facilities.  There is no fixed fee guideline for the medical practitioners. Hidden costs that surface during the discharge of patients are shocking enough.

Bundle packages are offered but that often does not include room or ward charges and fee for other medical support. If there is a need for additional stay due to some complications, the cost will know no bounds. Many patients end up paying a high amount of additional charges beyond their anticipation.

As a result, foreign tourists are no longer feeling confident to avail treatments in such clinics in spite of their reputation. The credibility of such clinics eroded which is damaging enough for the sustenance of medical tourism market.

Inability to adjust the cost factor as per the market demand:

The same demand-supply rule played a great role in the decline. Singapore’s private healthcare sector runs on the free-market model. To make Singapore more attractive for medical tourist, many medical practitioners invested in real estate creating a huge medical infrastructure with state-of-the-art facilities and hiring the best professionals.

As Singapore grew steadily in medical tourism few years back, the entire operating cost shot up and foreign visitors also happily paid for that. But when the costs reached beyond the affordable limit, medical tourists started for looking other options. Now with the downturn, these medical service centers are unable to lower the treatment costs as their operating cost is still very high.

Lack of initiative promotional campaigns:

While the tourism ministries of the neighboring Asian countries like India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are playing active roles in promoting their medical tourism potential, Singapore government is not taking enough initiatives to regain its popularity. Creating new marketing strategies is the order of the day, but Singapore is not taking enough steps to reverse the declining curve.

 

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Dr Prem Jagyasi and Team

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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