HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Singapore should stop fretting over medical tourism woes, say analysts

Regional competitors are no match for local healthcare providers.

According to a report by OCBC, Singapore healthcare providers need not be fazed right now by regional competitors. Local healthcare players remain strong contenders thanks to their established brand and reputation and their focus on enhancing expertise offering. Also, Singapore healthcare providers target premium-end patients.

Despite the availability cheaper treatments in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the pullback in medical tourist volume in Singapore will probably be constrained.

Thailand attracts a different mix of patients since it is known for aesthetics treatments, and therefore is not a significant threat. Its medical tourists come from Japan, Russia, China and the US. In contrast, Singapore and Malaysia’s main source of medical tourists is Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s government is still struggling with rising deficits and attempts to raise healthcare premiums. Developments in their healthcare sector will take time, thereby driving wealthy citizens overseas for complex treatments and procedures.

In Malaysia’s case, the country may draw in more patients due to the MYR weakening. OCBC asserts, however, that the loss of patient volume to Malaysia will likely be limited to price-sensitive patients.

Further, most neighbouring countries are struggling with a talent crunch. These countries hold positive domestic demographics, but they will need a few years to bridge the supply-demand gap in healthcare infrastructure. Thus, their citizens–especially the wealth ones–will likely still travel overseas for medical treatments in the medium term. 

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