Medical tourism and travel in Singapore

Medical tourism is the practice of traveling to another country to receive medical treatment. Depending on the nature of the treatment and the destination of the trip, the cost savings can be significant, even after factoring in airfare, hotel accommodation, insurance, dining and shopping. For example, heart valve surgery that would cost more than $200,000 in the United States could cost less than $10,000 in a country like India. It is for this reason that an ever-increasing number of patients in the West, where medical costs have skyrocketed, are traveling to Asia to seek medical treatment.

Singapore has become one of the major destinations for international medical tourists. Three agencies, the Economic Development Board, the Singapore Tourism Board and the International Enterprise Singapore, have come together to develop Singapore into one of Asia’s leading healthcare destinations. Through their combined efforts, they successfully attract an average of 200,000 medical tourists to the island nation each year, bringing in annual revenues of approximately $3 billion.

Singapore prides itself on having world-class medical facilities, with 11 JCI accredited hospitals. It has a mainly English speaking population and is known for its clean and green structured environment. Many of the doctors and staff are also trained in major medical centers in the United States and Europe.

While medical costs in Singapore are significantly lower than in the West, they are more expensive compared to some surrounding Asian countries, such as Thailand and India. However, Singapore has managed to successfully differentiate itself above the competition by offering a broad spectrum of healthcare services in every major field of medicine. Singapore has earned a reputation for its expertise in neurosurgery, cardiology, ophthalmology, oncology and dental services.

The Singapore Tourism Board works with various travel agencies and healthcare providers to offer foreign patients attractive and affordable health packages. These include airport transfers, booking specialist appointments, hospital stays, sight seeing arrangements etc.

The Parkway Group of Hospitals (Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth and East Shore Hospitals) is a major medical travel service provider. Together with Raffles Hospital, Mount Alvernia and the government-affiliated restructured hospitals (Alexandra Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, National University Hospital, Changi General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital), they provide a comprehensive and competitive range of services to overseas patients. Most hospitals now have dedicated international call centers to meet this growing demand.

Medical tourism will continue to grow in the coming years. As baby boomers age and medical problems become more prevalent, they represent a huge market for high-quality, affordable health care. Another factor driving the industry’s growth is the fact that as many as 43 million Americans lack health insurance and 120 million lack dental coverage, who are likely to seek cheaper health care elsewhere.