Include private hospitals, clinics in healthcare clusters

The Ministry of Health should consider including private hospitals and clinics in the three public healthcare clusters ("Healthcare services will be streamlined into 3 clusters"; Jan 19).

With public and private hospitals in their respective clusters, there will not only be economies of scale, but also a wider choice for patients who may wish to switch from a public hospital to a private one, or vice versa, within a cluster.

For example, if both public and private hospitals join forces to acquire drugs and other items through bulk purchases, there would be further cost savings.

It would also be more convenient to share or exchange information, such as a patient's medical history.

Medical insurers can peg premiums based on the respective clusters and offer competitive rates by working closely with both the public and private establishments.

If Singapore's healthcare system is to transform into a modern and responsive ecosystem, it needs to be more consumer-focused in terms of options, pricing and quality.

To grow as a regional medical hub, a coordinated effort involving greater public-private partnerships is necessary.

A tripartite model of healthcare - involving public and private hospitals as well as insurers - could be the way forward.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Include private hospitals, clinics in healthcare clusters'. Print Edition | Subscribe