Healthcare in Asia has somewhat exploded into prominence over the last few years, with more and more countries across the region focusing on developing world-class facilities and becoming prominent figures in their respective medical fields. Thailand has become particularly well known for its advances in cosmetic surgery, while Malaysia has one of the highest fertility treatment success rates in the world. Hong Kong has become a world leader in cardiology, and in India advances in medical practices have progressed so rapidly that many of the world’s leading neurologists have held many of their conferences there.
While older medical institutions in the UK and the US may have years of experience, expertise and reputation to back them, hospitals across Asia, being built more recently, often have better facilities and more state-of-the art equipment on hand. The advances in technology assisting medicine are having a significant impact on common practices with less invasive surgical procedures and more accurate diagnosis generally enhancing healthcare standards across the globe.
Healthcare across Asia is becoming more consistent with some countries being less developed than others, nonetheless medical expertise is growing at a remarkable rate. Many medical students from across Asia often end up studying abroad particularly pursuing American and British medical practices, and are returning to their respective countries to incorporate these in their treatment.
Countries of note in the region include Malaysia, as one of the best hospitals in the country, Prince Court Medical Centre, took first in the ‘MTQUA 2013 World’s Best Hospitals for Medical Tourists’, as well as the medically advanced state of Penang being listed in the ‘Top 10 Medical Tourism Destinations’ in a recent WHO Medical Tourism Report. Both Singapore and Hong Kong are also highly regarded and are considered by Forbes to have some of the best hospitals in the world. Countries from as far afield as India to Indonesia are delivering better practices and care than ever thanks to major investment from governments who are driving their countries to developed status, who recognize that quality healthcare is a key component of that achievement.
And healthcare in Asia looks to continue to grow as the region sees growth and returns in its investment. With the demand for global treatment rapidly growing year on year, the future of healthcare in Asia looks bright.
Hong Kong has arguably one of the best healthcare systems in the world. A network of government-operated hospitals, which are open to all citizens, the entire operation only costs the Hong Kong government about three percent of their GDP. However for this amount, Hong Kong provides some of the most highly regarded hospitals in the world.
Hong Kong is particularly noted for having some of the best specialists in the fields of cardiology, endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism as well as haematology, haematological oncology and neurosurgery.
All government-operated hospitals have state of the art equipment and facilities and most doctors have not only trained abroad but are often proficient in a number of different languages so that they can explain procedures more clearly to their patients.
As one of the most developed and ambitious states in Asia, Hong Kong delivers healthcare and medical practices that are among the very best the region has to offer.
In fact the healthcare on offer in Hong Kong is a subject of great pride for its people, with 54 hospitals across the state; 41 government-operated hospitals and 13 private hospitals for those who wish to use them. When a citizen falls ill they simply go to the hospital and are treated without charge; unless they are admitted, in which case they are billed for the food they eat during their stay and larger operations.
The government-operated hospitals run on a “no turn away” policy. This means that no-one is denied healthcare through lack of means and public hospitals are subsidized for residents on a low income. To have access to any type of public healthcare in Hong Kong, you need a local ID card which entitles citizens to various subsidies and healthcare benefits; however these are not applicable to expatriates.
Hong Kong also has one of the healthiest populations in the world. The life expectancy is 84 for women and 79 for men, the second-highest worldwide (as of a UN study carried out in 2011). Hong Kong hospitals lead the field in many surgical practices and the first live donor liver transplant was carried out in Hong Kong in 1993. To this day, in its health provision, Hong Kong stays ahead of the field and provides service and facilities that not only deliver for the resident population but also attracts high numbers of international medical travelers.
If there’s one thing that Singapore is known for, it’s efficiency, and no sector benefits more from that legendary expertise in organisation than healthcare. The diligence is paying off; in 2014, Bloomberg rated the island city-state the best out of 51 countries for its annual ‘Most Efficient Health Care’ ranking, while the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) declared it second in the world for healthcare outcomes.
World class medical technology, an environment supportive of further research and highly trained doctors and nurses play a major part in Singapore’s success. In past years, Singaporeans have made important medical breakthroughs with their international peers, achieving feats such as co-developing a SARS detection kit and an experimental vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus as well as being the first to commercially produce human embryonic stem cell lines for clinical trial use.
Cancer treatment is a top specialisation of Singaporean healthcare, with more than 1.3 million patients visiting the multi-award winning National Cancer Centre Singapore over the past decade and the NUS Cancer Science Institute leading the development of new cancer therapies. Besides that, cardiology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics and paediatrics are just some of the many other sought after treatments in Singapore.
Cost is a major concern in medical issues but healthcare remains significantly more affordable in Singapore than its western counterparts, particularly for major surgical procedures. Hospital wards labelled as C or B2 are subsidised by the government and therefore reserved for citizens with public healthcare schemes, while B1 and A wards are rarely or not subsidised.
Many hospitals, clinics and centres in Singapore have received the Gold Seal of Approval by the Joint Commission International, which keeps an eye on the quality of medical practices and facilities worldwide. Notable examples include Raffles Hospital boasting a traditional Chinese Medicine unit and Gleneagles Hospital becoming the first hospital in South East Asia to perform a living donor liver transplant for a child.
In typically ambitious fashion, Singapore has a slew of new medical research facilities planned to encourage further development, including a planned National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Though these investments will only bear fruit in the long run, this enthusiastic approach towards progress seems to indicate that Singapore’s healthcare system, like its people, will not be one to rest on its laurels.
Besides delicious street food and talented pop singers, Taiwan is also fast gaining a reputation in Asia for providing accessible, high-quality healthcare – particularly in the realm of medical tourism.
Taiwan’s National Health Insurance system provides cheap access to medical benefits and procedures for locals and expatriates, with funding covered by compulsory premium contributions and standardised co-payments upon receiving treatment. This eliminates the need for patients to ‘shop around’ for the best treatments at the cheapest price and also helps drive down the cost for visiting medical tourists.
The country’s advanced health information network remains a cornerstone of its progressive healthcare system, connecting all hospitals and most clinics to the Bureau of National Health Insurance for e-claim purposes and facilitating the use of health ‘smart cards’ that contain patient information and medical history.
Affordable plastic surgery is a major draw in Taiwan, with the island being the only nation in Asia to receive recognition for Plastic Surgery Innovation from the Society of American Plastic Surgeons, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in plastic surgery. In 1978, Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital established Southeast Asia’s first craniofacial centre and more than 30,000 patients with a cleft lip and palate have enjoyed a 100% success rate since.
Hepatic medicine is another of Taiwan’s medical specialties, with Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital performing the first live liver transplant for a child and maintaining the highest survival rate worldwide. For matters of the heart, the National Taiwan University Hospital boasts the distinction of having performed the first cardiac cryosurgery in the world and the first successful artificial heart transplant. Over 5,000 cardiac diagnostic and treatment procedures are conducted annually in the country.
Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a prime destination to seek traditional Chinese medicine, advanced orthopedic surgeries and fertility treatments. In another first, the Taipei Wellness Centre and Resort was recently established in the city – a first-of-its-kind ‘medical tourism hotel’ that aims to combine cure and comfort by providing health management programmes, physical checkups, cosmetic medicine and basic consultation services.
With an engaging local culture, a comprehensive system and continuous investment and research dedicated towards cultivating cutting-edge medical technology and expertise, Taiwan continuously demonstrates its commitment towards growing its healthcare sector and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.