Medical tourism is the practice of traveling to another country to receive medical treatment. Depending on the nature of treatment and destination of travel, costs savings can be substantial, even after factoring in air fare, hotel accommodation, insurance, dining and shopping. For instance, a heart valve operation which would cost over $200,000 in the United States, could cost under $10,000 in a country like India. It is for this reason, an ever increasing number of patients in the West, where medical costs have sky-rocketed, 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 as one of Asia’s leading health care destinations. Through their cooperative efforts, they successfully attract an average of 200,000 medical tourists to the island state each year, bringing with them revenues of about US $3 billion annually.
Singapore prides itself with having world-class medical facilities, with 11 JCI accredited hospitals. It has a chiefly English-speaking population and is well known for its clean and green structured environment. Many of the doctors and staff have also been trained in major medical centres in the United States and Europe.
Whilst medical costs in Singapore are considerably lower than in the West, they are more expensive compared to some of the surrounding Asian countries, such as Thailand and India. However, Singapore has managed to successfully brand itself above the competition, offering a wide spectrum of health care services in every major field of medicine. Singapore has developed a reputation for it’s expertise in Neurosurgery, Cardiology, Opthalmology, Oncology and Dental Services.
The Singapore Tourism Board works with various travel agencies and health care providers, to provide foreign patients with attractive and affordable health packages. These include air-port transfers, booking of specialist appointments, hospital stays, sight-seeing arrangements etc.
The Parkway Group of Hospitals (Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth and East Shore Hospitals) is a major service provider in the field of medical travel. Together with Raffles Hospital, Mount Alvernia and the Government-linked 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 foreign patients. Most hospitals now have dedicated International Call Centres to cater to this growing demand.
Medical tourism is set to continue growing in the years to come. As the Baby Boomers get older, and more medical issues present themselves, they represent a vast market for high quality, affordable health care. Another factor which favours the growth of the industry is the fact that as many as 43 million Americans are without health insurance and 120 million without dental coverage, who are likely to seek out more affordable healthcare elsewhere.