More in-depth analysis of healthcare costs needed

Senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's article has oversimplified the cause of rising healthcare costs as well as its solution (Battling costs, improving care; Dec 27, 2017).

First, doctors' fees are only part of the hospitalisation costs. Facility, investigation, therapist and nursing charges, and medications make up a sizeable part of the costs, especially for conditions such as food poisoning or dengue fever.

Second, after setting benchmarks for doctors' fees, the next task for the authorities would be to set benchmarks for hospital charges, such as blood tests, imaging studies, medication charges and so on.

Facility charges in private hospitals can vary widely. For instance, the operation fees for the removal of a polyp in the cervix are between $2,227 and $4,280.

Third, clinical inputs and outcomes of various conditions and surgical procedures ought to be made public.

Perhaps the higher charges are for managing complex patients with complicated problems. Or, maybe better skilled and experienced doctors, who produce better clinical outcomes, charge more for their professional fees.

We can battle rising healthcare costs only if more in-depth analysis of healthcare costs are made.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'More in-depth analysis of healthcare costs needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe