Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Medical costs in Singapore and how to get the best deal.

 The queue in the Blood Test unit at the Heart Centre, 
Singapore General Hospital. I took this photo at 8:15am.
There were already about 50 other people ahead of me when I arrived at 8am.

If you need to do a simple investigative medical test, say, a blood test to ascertain the level of your cholesterol, where would you go in Singapore if you want it cheap?  Such tests can't vary very much in quality.  After all, how different can a blood test be?  Most people will assume that a public hospital like the Singapore General Hospital will be the best bet for a cheap blood test.  And they can't be more mistaken than that.

A friend of mine has naturally high cholesterol from birth.  It's a congenital condition and he has to go for a blood test at least twice a year.  He tells me that he goes to Gleneagles Hospital for his regular cholesterol blood test because it's the cheapest.  I know that sounds surprising to you just as it did to me when I first heard it.  Gleneagles is a private hospital and one would expect blood tests done there to cost a lot more.

I just did my blood test for cholesterol at the Heart Centre in the Singapore General Hospital yesterday and the bill for the test alone came up to $62.49 (SGD).  Now, that's about twice what my friend pays for his blood test in Gleneagles Hospital.  I had to wait for an hour and a half just to get a sample of my blood taken.  In Gleneagles, the waiting time is probably about 10 minutes.

So, next time, don't just rule out a private hospital because you think everything there is bound to be more expensive.  It may not be.  Some of the investigations may be a lot cheaper than in public hospitals and the waiting time is always much shorter in private hospitals.

But there can be many other factors that will determine which hospital you go to for your blood test. I chose a public hospital because my cardiologist is there.  I have a lot of faith in my cardiologist who is honest and competent.  That rare combination of competence and honesty in a medical practitioner is very important to me and when I have found one who has it, I usually stick to him.  It's just that when I was waiting for my turn (and let's not forget that I waited for an hour and a half - from 8am to 9:30am) and I looked at the huge number of patients also waiting to have their blood samples taken, I could not help wondering if they were aware that at least for the blood test alone, they could get it faster and cheaper in a private hospital.

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