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Medical Tourism - Destination - Singapore

General Informations

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Singapore receives 600,000 medical tourists annually, from the Middle East (50%), Asia (45%) and Europe (5%). These medical tourists could be attracted by Singapore’s reputation as one of the wealthiest and cleanest countries in the world with a well-developed infrastructure as these factors are reflected in the high quality of its health care system. Singapore specialises in cosmetic surgeries, cardiology, orthopaedic and neurology treatment alongside stem cell therapies and gastroenterology and oncology procedures. This wide specialisation, and good quality of health care counterbalances the minimal cost savings. Thanks to the existing extensive promotion, it is expected that medical tourists will reach the amount of one million in 2012 producing a revenue of € 2 billion.

Singapore
Localisation southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia; maritime borders with Malaysia and Indonesia
Capital Singapore
Biggest cities (population) Singapore (3,547,809)
Inhabitants 4,987,600
Politics parliamentary republic
Religion Buddhism (42.5%), Islam (14.9%), atheism (14.8%), Christianity (14.6%), other (13.2%)
Currency Singapore dollar (SGD) = € 0.48221
GDP € 121,544 million, 0.3% of the world’s GDP
Official language(s) English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese (Mandarin)
Climate tropical rainforest. Average temperature throughout the year is 25-30°C with humidity above 75%
Time zone GMT +8
Happy Planet Index (HPI) 49

Cultural Aspects

General Culture

Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita and one of the largest global centres of transportation, finance and cutting edge technology. The country is ethnically very diverse with Chinese, Indians, Malaysians and Arabs living together in an ultra-clean urban environment. These multicultural influences have been reflected in various cultural aspects of the country, such as cuisine, architecture and art. Due to Singapore being a former British colony, English is one of the official languages.

Singaporean cuisine is an example of cultural diffusion, with influences from Chinese, Indian, Malay and Tamil cuisine and it is a tourist attraction on its own. Local dishes range from Hainanese chicken rice to satay with a wide variety of seafood including crabs, clams, squid, and oysters.

Safety

Singapore is a safe country with extremely strict laws and regulations even for minor offences, such as littering or smoking in public places. For this reason tourists should get related information before their visit. It ranks 23 on the GPI.

Tourists Attractions and Sights

  • Jurong Bird Park: the largest bird park in Southeast Asia located at the west end of Singapore. It has the world’s tallest man-made waterfall.
  • Orchard Road: a shopping district in the city of Singapore with modern architecture
  • Singapore Flyer: an enormous Ferris wheel with panoramic views of the skyline in the city of Singapore
  • Night Safari: the first wildlife park built especially to be viewed at night. It occupies 40 hectares of land, with some free ranging animals from South America and Asia
  • Pulau Ubin: small island, shaped like a boomerang, on the North-eastern coast of Singapore´s main island

Visa Requirements

Nationals from the UK, Australia, Canada, the US and EU countries do not require a visa upon entry. Other countries are required to have either a Business Visa or a Social Visit Visa prior to entering Singapore. Medical visas can also be obtained and are valid from 6 to 18 months.

Infrastructure

Transportation

Singapore is a major international transportation hub in Asia. The Port of Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world. Moreover, Chiangi Airport, Singapore’s only airport is rated as one of the best international airports. There are also ferries to nearby Indonesian ports and a railway connection to Malaysia.

The domestic transport infrastructure has a well-connected road transport system that includes a network of expressways. The public transport includes bus and taxi services as well as the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro system and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) light rail system.

Accommodation

Accommodation ranges from budget options, such as hostels and guesthouses, to luxurious 5-star hotels and resorts. International hotel chains present in Singapore include Accor Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts amongst others. There are no hospitals that have their own hotels but hospitals do collaborate with hotels.

Health Care System

WHO ranking 6
Physicians per 10,000 population 15.0 (2003)
Nurses per 10,000 population 45.0 (2003)
GDP spent on health care 3.7% (2005)
Education period of doctors 5 years
Education period of specialists additional 3 to 5 years

Health Care Providers

In 2008 Singapore counted a total of about 11,580 hospital beds in 29 hospitals and speciality centres, of which 14 are public and 15 private. There are also 18 outpatient polyclinics and more than 2,000 private medical practitioner’s clinics which provide primary health care services.

According to the WHO ranking of 2000, Singapore has the best health care system in Asia and it ranked sixth in the world. Distinctive is the Health Manpower Development Programme, sponsored by the Ministry of Health, which sends Singaporean doctors to the best international medical facilities for training.

Insurance

Singapore’s government offers universal health care coverage to its citizens. Many middle and higher income Singaporeans have also supplemented their basic coverage with private insurance for treatment in the private sector. The government provides 80% of the coverage, and the other 20% is provided by Medisave and Medifund. Through this system, all Singaporeans have valid medical insurance.

Reforms/Policies

In 2003, the Singapore Medicine Initiative was introduced in order to maintain and develop Singapore’s position in medical tourism. This is a collaboration between the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore). In 2004, the Ministry of Health began to publish hospital invoices to show the variation in costs among hospitals and ensure price control and transparency.

General Medical Tourism Information

Singapore has been an international medical tourism destination since the 1980’s, aiming to be the best quality- wise. Out of total 10.1 million tourists who visited the country in 2008, 600,000 were medical tourists, an increase from the 571,000 in 2007. This medical tourism has generated € 916 million in 2008, also an increase from € 820 million in 2007. The country aims to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate € 2 billion in revenue.

In 2003 the government launched the Singapore Medicine Initiative to develop Singapore as a medical destination and consolidate its extensive medical offerings. In addition, partnerships with international leaders in health care, such as the Johns Hopkins Centre (US), contribute to the country’s excellent reputation. Singapore is also encouraging medical tourism by providing international patient service centres to assist medical tourists.

Flows

Medical tourists come from the Middle East (50%) and Asian countries (45%). Indonesia, Malaysia and China provide the largest flows, while the Philippines, UAE, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea form smaller ones. Moreover, Europe accounts for 5%.

Reasons

  • Quality: excellent health care infrastructure, skilled medical professionals, latest medical technology and international medical partnerships place Singapore at the cutting edge of medical expertise. It won the “Best Medical/Wellness Tourism Destination” award at the TravelWeekly Industry Awards (Asia) for two consecutive years,
  • Availability: Singapore has one of the world’s leading centres in stem cell research and expertise.
  • Infrastructure: being famous for its well-developed infrastructure, cleanliness and a high level of safety, Singapore has an advantage over its regional competitors, such as India and Thailand.
  • Language skills: English as well as Malay and Chinese are the country’s official languages.

Specialisation

The main areas of medical specialisation in Singapore include:

  • Cosmetic and plastic surgery
  • Cardiology
  • Orthopaedics (hip replacement)
  • Neurology
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Gastroenterology
  • Oncology (bone-marrow transplant)

Top Facilities

The top facilities have been selected using the following criteria’s, listed in order of importance: JCI Accreditation, ISQua accreditation, international orientation. In general national accreditation systems have not been taken into consideration, due to the fact that there are too many and judging them is out of the scope of this study. Jordan has four JCI accredited facilities. Singapore has 13 JCI accredited hospitals, which is the largest number among Asian countries.

The following facilities are considered in this project:

  • John Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre
  • Parkway Hospital Singapore Gleneagles
  • Alexandra Hospital
  • Raffles Hospital

SWOT

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Extremely clean and wealthy country
  • Safe country as it ranks 23 on GPI
  • Well developed infrastructure
  • 6th best health system in the world
  • Singapore Medicine Initiative
  • Well established medical tourism hub
  • English, Chinese and Malay are spoken
  • Availability of treatment
  • Extremely strict laws and regulations
  • Cost savings are minimal when compared to other medical tourism destinations

Conclusion

Singapore is one of the wealthiest and cleanest countries in the world with a well-developed infrastructure, which is reflected in the high quality of its health care system. Despite the strict laws and restrictions as well as the minimal cost savings (when compared to other medical tourism destinations), Singapore receives 600,000 medical tourists annually. Foreign patients come from the Middle East (50%), Asia (45%) and Europe (5%). With the existing extensive promotion, it is expected that medical tourists will amount to one million in 2012 with a revenue of € 2 billion.

Top Facility Chart

Singapore John Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre Parkway Hospital Singapore Gleneagles Hospital Alexandra Hospital Raffles Hospital
Location and website Singapore
www.imc.jhmi.edu
www.parkwayhealth.com www.alexhosp.com.sg www.rafflesmedicalgroup.com
Accreditations or certifications JCI JCI JCI JCI, ISO 9001:2000
Capacity of hospital beds 30 beds 380 beds 550 beds 380 beds
Possible for accompanying person to stay in room Yes, in private rooms and suites No, but assistance with accommodation Yes, in private rooms Yes, in private rooms
Medical tourists 600 per year from Indonesia, Cambodia, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and UAE 40% of all patients China, Indonesia, US, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Bhutan 33% of all patients neighbouring countries, Russia, UAE and US
Number of medical staff doctors/nurses 11 specialists 264 specialists 228 specialists 1000 physicians, nurses and administration
Type of rooms available (prices) Private de-luxe rooms and suites Private single / deluxe / executive rooms, suites and semi-private rooms (€ 95- € 2250) Private single / deluxe / executive rooms and semi-private rooms Private single/ deluxe/ executive rooms, suites and semiprivate rooms
International patient department Yes, and concierge service Yes, they organise all the arrangements Yes, and international patient services Yes, they organise all the arrangements
Adaptations to cultures and nations Yes, in religious habits Yes, in food, language and religious habits Yes, in food and religious habits Yes, in food and religious habits
Languages spoken by staff Arabic, Indonesian, Hindi, Portuguese, Mandarin and English English and many other interpreters available English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin English, Russian, Japanese, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnamese and Indonesian
Marketing of the facility/USP Magazine articles, doctors give seminars abroad and word of mouth Part of Parkway Holdings Ltd with medical facilities throughout Asia Standard Chartered Marathon' sponsorship, membership to National Healthcare Group (NHG), media coverage and annual tours of the hospital Representative offices in Russia, Indonesia, Bangladesh & Vietnam. Affiliation with medical companies and international insurances
Specialisations Oncology Cardiology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics and anaesthesia Cardiology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics and anaesthesia Cardiology, oncology, neurology, colorectal and fertility treatments

Price Chart (in €uro)

Treatment Average Price John Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre Raffles Hospita
Cardiac bypass 10,522 N/A 16,200
Gastric bypass 10,058 N/A N/A
Knee replacement 8,518 4,476 N/A
Hip replacement 9,353 2,706 N/A
Hip resurfacing 9,353 N/A N/A
Botox treatment 386 N/A N/A
Breast augmentation 5,344 N/A N/A
Facelift 4,676 N/A N/A
Liposuction 3,340 N/A N/A
Dental implants 1,904 N/A N/A
Rhinoplasty 2,923 N/A N/A
Lasik eye surgery 1,169 922 N/A

Note: All prices are estimates, and may vary widely from source to source depending on services included in the estimate (i.e. doctor’s fees, hospitalisation, administration costs or the patient’s age and medical history). Due to non-disclosure strategies of the various locations, it was not possible to make a clear separation between those factors. All prices given for the specific facilities have been provided by the hospitals/clinics themselves via email or telephone contact. The prices are given in Euros (€).

N/A means either that treatment are not available in the specific hospital, that a price estimation cannot be found or that the medical facility did not disclose the information. For the average prices, printed literature has been used before researching sources on the internet.