Singapore specialises in high-end healthcare


Ranked by the World Health Organisation as having the best health system in Asia – well ahead of Japan – it is hardly surprising that in 2004 more than 320,000 people from around the world travel to multicultural and multilingual Singapore for quality medical care.

Hospitals and specialty centres in Singapore offer a comprehensive range of healthcare services, from health screening, medical wellness and aesthetic treatments to specialty areas like cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, urology, ophthalmology and oncology. These centres also carry out pioneering research and development, tapping into the growing biomedical research community in Singapore to discover innovative treatments.
Unlike other Asian players in the healthcare market, who are leveraging their lower cost base to give themselves an edge, Singapore distinguishes itself in its provision of high-end health care. “Patients still come to Singapore in record numbers for more advanced medical care, such as organ transplants, heart surgery and cancer treatment,” said Alan Tan, area director, Middle East and Africa, for the Singapore Tourism Board. Parkway Group Healthcare’s Asian Centre for Liver Disease and Transplantation, for instance, performs at least one live-donor liver transplant every week. Around 85 per cent of the centre’s patients come from overseas.
At the centre, every doctor attending to a patient is trained in liver and transplant medicine. The radiologist is trained in interventional liver radiology, while the infectious disease consultant is an expert in diseases that can specifically affect transplant patients with weak immune systems. Even the intensive care unit physician is trained in liver disease. “This kind of inter-disciplinary specialised care is rare,” added Tan.
Neuroscience is another area in which Singapore is a world leader. The neurocritical care unit at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) is the only unit of its kind in the Asia Pacific region to provide integrated, state-of-the-art monitoring facilities for brain tissue oxygenation brain temperatures, blood flow and microdialysis. With approximately 1,000 admissions every year, it is one of the busiest ICUs in Singapore.
The setting up of such a highly specialised, 18-bed facility required input from across a range of disciplines – from neurosurgeons, neurologists and intensive care specialists to nurses, respiratory therapists, radiologists and occupational therapists.
But medical expertise, innovative technologies and world-class facilities are not the only ways Singapore distinguishes itself from the competition. Singapore’s healthcare providers also offer dedicated international patient service centres which provide one-stop services to the patient and accompanying family members, including travel, admission, appointments, transport and interpreters. “Ultimately, we are looking at providing a person who is sick, anxious and in an unfamiliar country with a seamless package that goes far beyond basic healthcare,” pointed out Tan. It is this specialised service that is drawing crowds of patients from as far away as the Middle East.
“With 15 per cent of our population being Muslims, we have strong cultural affinities with our Middle Eastern visitors. Halal menus, same gender doctors on request, customised bedrooms with directional sign for prayers, and prayer mats are just a few of the features of our exclusive Middle East service,” said Tan. By 2012, SingaporeMedicine, a government initiative launched two years ago, expects more than one million overseas patients, many of whom will come from the region.