South East Asia has become a hub for medical tourism in recent years with Singapore being one of the most favoured destinations. It’s highly trained staff and leading edge facilities lead the country to being named as having the most efficient health care system in the world in 2014 by Bloomberg, and making the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Top Ten health care rankings back in 2012.
However, medical tourism in Singapore has been coming under threat recently and is facing a number of challenges.
Foreign visitors accounted for 40% of IHH Healthcare’s business in 2013, but this has fallen sharply to 30% in 2016. The revenue in the same period for IHH has also declined steeply, from an average of 5% year on year between 2013 and 2014 to just 1 and 2% from 2015 to 2016.
So what has been causing this sudden decline in the industry?
One of the main challenges that the country is facing is that there is increased competition from their neighbours. It is believed that the high cost of treatment in Singapore was justified due to the high level of treatment offered, however, the gap in standards from neighbouring countries has been closing, with countries such as Thailand and Malaysia now having world class medical facilities.
Thailand’s Bumrungrad Private Hospital in Bangkok has been expanding in recent years to provide specialist care, while many other health care facilities have been gaining international accreditation.
Malaysia is another country that has been testing Singapore’s grip on the industry by offering high quality care at a fraction of the cost. Malaysia’s medical tourism is also increasing due to a much improved infrastructure and better service quality.
Malaysia has increased its visitors seeking medical care from 643,000 in 2011 to 921,000 in 2016. The industry is now on course to hit its target revenue of 1.3 billion ringgit this year.
Reduced Regional Patterns
Singapore’s high standard health system used to benefit greatly from high net-worth individuals from neighbouring countries. Indonesians used to contribute a lot to the medical tourism industry, but since the exchange rate has now become unfavourable, the numbers have been greatly declining.
Also, some of the country’s biggest health care providers have recently invested in other regions. Raffles Medical Group, for instance, now has 1 medical centre in Shanghai and 3 in Hong Kong, providing these regions to be able to offer quality care to tourists.