Health is always become a major concern for everyone, as a results people trying to find the best and affordable solutions of treatments and healthcare options that available to them. However, the solutions and healthcare options they are looking for might not available in their own countries and therefore, the concept of health tourism is become appealing to people who interested in having a high quality and affordable healthcare in abroad. This report discusses mainly about health tourism, health tourism in Singapore includes the push and pull factors that drive people to Singapore for health treatments, and the challenges facing Singapore healthcare industry.
4.0 Introduction to Health tourism
Over the last few years, we are seeing a huge increase in demand and new phenomenon in the healthcare industry known as health tourism. It is one of the fastest growing industry and economic growth areas globally, as people today demanding for better quality, faster and cheaper alternatives of healthcare offered in their own countries. Health tourism is also known as medical travel or global health care, defined as the act of travelling to foreign countries with purpose of gaining healthcare treatment and services. Some of the various types of healthcare treatments and surgeries being offered in health tourism are including dental surgery such as teeth whitening, heart surgery, cosmetic surgery such breast lift, knee and hip replacement surgery, eye surgery, and stem cell therapy.
In addition, the rapid growth and major development of today’s modern health tourism industry is being driven by the globalization, advances of technology, eased affordability of travel, and the difference of healthcare costs in developed and developing countries.
Health tourism has gain huge popularity especially highly among the developed countries such as United States, United Kingdom and Europe. According to the National Coalition on Health Care, 500,000 to 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for healthcare in 2006. While countries such Thailand, India, Singapore, and Malaysia are the leading Asian health tourism destination growing rapidly exceeding in 4-6 percent growth in general travel bookings in 2006. The high popularity of health tourism is influenced by several major factors. The first greatest factor is cost. People travel abroad to obtain healthcare treatment is due to the lower cost of health treatment in countries like India or Thailand compared to the one in US. For instance, the cost a heart surgery in US would be $100,000, the same procedure in India would only cost around $10,000. This low cost of treatment would save 30-80 percent of the cost that you would normally pay in US.
The second major factor is due to the shorter waits in a popular health tourism destination. This allows the patients to be scheduled for surgery and treatment a lot faster and convenient for only within few days or weeks. Besides, people also seek health treatments abroad because of high quality of healthcare in terms of the improvements and better procedures in both technology and standard quality of care all over the world. Many popular health tourism destinations such as India, Thailand, and Singapore offered world-class healthcare services which acquired international accreditation as well as received numerous accolades to show their dedication to excellence. Other major factors are also due to the ease and affordability of travel today and travel opportunities that people can experience from health tourism.
5.1 Health Tourism in Singapore
Singapore is one of the major leading health tourism destinations in the Asian health tourism market which popular among foreign patients. In 2005, about 374,000 international health tourists travel to Singapore to obtain healthcare. Most of the health tourists come from countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia as well as patients from South Asia, and the Middle East. Even patients from US and UK are sought healthcare in Singapore as it is relatively affordable fine quality healthcare services in a clean and safe cosmopolitan city.
However, Singapore has also experienced a decline in number of visitors during the global economic downturn especially among the Indonesian patients. Based on Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed statistics of medical tourism sector of Singapore that the number of health tourists in 2007 (348,000) has decreased by 15% from the previous year, 2006 with 410,000 visitors resulted from higher patient admissions and patient days in all hospitals in 2007. Though numbers of tourist dropped, the dollar value went up by 30% to $1.7 billion in 2007.
Furthermore, there are also some several push and full factors that drive people to Singapore for healthcare. Firstly, due to the long waits for medical treatments or surgeries in their home countries because of the overburdened health systems. The higher cost of treatments in their home is another important push factor that makes them choose Singapore as their destination for the comparatively affordable healthcare services. For instance, a face lift in US may cost $20,000 whereas in Singapore cost $7,000. The huge price differences are primarily arising due to high costs of medical insurance and liability in US. Moreover, Singapore is known its reputation for efficiency and effectiveness in terms of cleanliness, good infrastructure that the access and transport within the country is equally easy and convenient for everyone, as well as its high standard of quality medical care offered.
Besides, Singapore it’s a safe and stable country with low crimes rate thus it is safe for international tourists to travel. It is also a multicultural diverse country that welcomes people of all cultures, fluent English speaking country and English is the official language of business which has significant appeal to those people with specific needs and problems. Even visitors will find Singapore a fascinating country with great local tours, entertainment, shopping areas, and leisure activities that allows them not only to have a relaxing medical treatment yet the opportunities to enjoy the various attractions. Singapore also known for its world class healthcare services through its 11 JCI accredited hospital and 11 Singapore hospitals certified with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and has received numerous accolades including in 2007 voted the “Best Medical/Wellness Tourism Destination” by Travel Weekly Asia Industry Awards 2007. Singapore also makes world headlines for successfully performed complex and complicated separation surgery of conjoined twins in 2001 and tooth-in-eye-surgery in 2004.
Moreover, Singapore has a target to attract one million foreign patients annually and push the GDP contribution from this sector above US$1.6 billion. And recently on news, Farrer Park Mediplex is the future medical hub being introduced as the fist and new concept of “medical hotel” which will be built in Singapore by 2010, comprising a hospital, specialist suites and a hotel. And this medical hotel is aiming to attract more than a quarter million of foreign patients.
5.3 Challenges facing Singapore healthcare industry
The healthcare industry will constantly change over the years to come as this industry becoming increasingly global followed with the advances of technology. While health will still remain a basic need of human being and there might probably be more demand for healthcare in the future. Singapore as one of the major leading destinations for health tourism may also faces some challenges in the future. The major challenges facing healthcare industry in Singapore are an Ageing Population and Management of chronic diseases, healthcare manpower issues, and hospital infrastructure.
Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world and one of the fastest ageing populations with 8.5% of the population was aged 65 years or older in 2007. With longer life expectancies and an ageing population in Singapore as will results in the increase of chronic diseases such as pneumonia, cancer, and cardiovascular events caused by the demographic and epidemiological shifts.
Besides, due to the longer life expectancies and ageing population in Singapore, people become more demanding in better, higher quality of healthcare to treat specific healthcare problems. This will lead to even more demand for manpower or doctors as well as for hospital beds. The lack of manpower for doctors and nurses in Singapore healthcare makes the country actively recruits from countries including Philippines and China. Singapore also having insufficient specialist manpower by currently has 2,781 specialists with 58% working in the public sector and therefore the Ministry of Health together with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), will be recognizing more top foreign medical schools to attract a larger number of good foreign doctors to work in Singapore. And the more demand for hospital beds makes the government also actively building more public hospitals and released more land for private hospital development.
Health tourism known as the act of travelling abroad to obtain healthcare treatments, has become an international phenomenon and increasingly popular as people begin to realize its benefits. With lower costs, faster treatments, ease and affordability of international travel, advancements in technology and high standard quality of healthcare in developing countries makes more and more people are willing to travel abroad. And Singapore has distinguished itself as one of the major medical destination which also moving towards the best choice for health treatments as it is known for its world-class medical services and well trained doctors.
- Discover Medical Tourism (2008). What is Medical Tourism? Retrieved 31 August, 2009 from the Discover Medical Tourism website: http://www.discovermedicaltourism.com/what-is-medical-tourism/In -text citation: Discover Medical Tourism (2008)
- Discover Medical Tourism (2008). Medical Tourism Singapore. Retrieved 28 August, 2009 from Discover medical tourism website: http://www.discovermedicaltourism.com/singapore/
- Singapore Medicine Initiative (2007). Singapore’s accreditations and accolades. Retrieved 25 August, 2009 from the Singapore Medicine website: http://www.singaporemedicine.com/healthcaredest/accolades_acred.asp
In-text citation: Singapore Medicine Initiative (2007)
- Hoe Yeen Nie (2008, 16 August). Farrer Park Mediplex to be ready by 2010. From Channel NewsAsia. Website: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/368726/1/.html
- Chiang Yin WONG & Hsien Chieh LEE (2008). Healthcare in Singapore: Challenges and management International Medical Community, Vol. 51, No. 5. Retrieved 8 September,2009, from www.med.or.jp/english/pdf/2008_05/343_346.pdf
- Koncept Analytics. (2009). Medical Tourism Market Report: 2009 Edition — A New Report by Koncept Analytics. Retrieved August 30, 2009 from Koncept Analytics website: http://www.prlog.org/10290964-medical-tourism-market-report-2009-edition-new-report-by-koncept-analytics.html
- Hotel Marketing. (2006). Medical Tourism, Asia’s growth industry. Retrieved August 30, 2009 from hotel marketing website: http://www.hotelmarketing.com/index.php/content/article/060410_medical_tourism_asias_growth_industry/
- Research and Statistics Department Planning Division (2007, October 31). Annual Report on Tourism Statistics 2007. Singapore Tourism Board, (ISSN 0218-4567) 4-11. Retrieved from Tourism Statistics Publication.
- Medical Tourism Guide (2007). 12 reasons medical tourism is so popular. Retrieved 28 August,2009 from the medical tourism guide website: http://medicaltourismguide.org/12reasons/
- MedRetreat (2009). Treatment Types. Retrieved 26 August, 2009 from MedRetreat website: http://www.medretreat.com/procedures/treatment_types.html
- Hospital.sg (2006-2007). Singapore’s Medical Tourism Figures Revealed by Health Minister. Retrieved 30 August,2009 from hospital.sg website: http://www.hospitals.sg/singapore-medical-tourism-figures