1 in 2 healthcare practitioners: Singaporeans will struggle to afford rising healthcare costs of living to 100
From L: R - Dr Jeremy Lim, Partner, Oliver Wyman, Prof Lim Wee Shiong, Senior Consultant, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Dr Sidharth Kachroo, Head of Medical Portfolio Management, Prudential Singapore and Tan Ping Ping, Head, Corporate Affairs, Prudential Singapore at the launch of Healthy for 100? Healthy Care in Singapore.
Singapore, 23 July 2019 – Singaporeans will be hard pressed to cope with the health-related expenses of living to 100, as a greater number of them will need to manage more than one chronic disease in their old age. This is according to nearly half (49 per cent) of the 200 healthcare practitioners surveyed in Prudential Singapore’s Healthy for 100 study, which is researched and written by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The number of older adults who develop more than one chronic condition - called multi-morbidity - has been growing, with more than half of Singapore’s residents who are older than 60 falling into this category today1. This means that while Singaporeans are living longer with an average lifespan of 83.1 and inching towards 100, many of them are spending their longer years in ill health2.
Mr Wilf Blackburn, CEO of Prudential Singapore, said that tackling the increasing health burden will be one of the biggest challenges for Singapore and its residents.
“As medical costs continue to rise, we must evaluate the role we can play in making healthcare more affordable and accessible. As insurers, this means changing the way we engage with customers. We want to go beyond covering their medical bills to coming up with innovative solutions that can help them live well for longer. Staying healthy is the best strategy to keep one’s medical expenses low in the long run.”
Preventative healthcare from a younger age
Preventative healthcare will be key in addressing the rising medical demands of an ageing population and containing costs in the long term.
Eight in 10 (84 per cent) of the doctors and clinicians surveyed say Singapore’s healthcare system must place more emphasis on disease prevention. Nearly as many of them (70 per cent) say individuals need to be responsible for supporting their own healthy ageing.
However, what is worrying is that the respondents believe that more than half of Singaporeans aged between 25 and 45 are not taking the initiative to proactively prevent common chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Dr Sidharth Kachroo, Head of Medical Portfolio Management, Prudential Singapore, said one needs to start young on preventative healthcare.
“The earlier we start taking care of our well-being by keeping to a good diet and lifestyle, the higher are our chances of ageing well. After all, good health is earned, not given. It is with this in mind that Prudential started investing in health technologies that will empower individuals to take charge of their health.”
Technology is part of the preventative healthcare solution. Seventy-seven per cent of the respondents say that greater investment in at-home technologies to support chronic disease care will be needed as the populations age.
Changing the way medicine is practicedThe survey’s respondents also identify better integration of care around the patient as one way to prepare for an ageing population and a rise in multi-morbidity. They pointed out that Singapore’s healthcare system lacks coordination across various care providers and is over dependent on specialist care.
Two in five healthcare practitioners believe that a more integrated approach where there is synergy between primary care, hospitals, long-term care and home care could reduce inefficiencies, hospitalisation time and costs.
The report also highlighted the need for new funding models. Currently, the system is funded on a model where fees are determined by the amount and type of treatments given to a patient. A model where patient fees are determined by the improvement in their health could be a better approach to pricing healthcare.
Multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach towards healthy living
Health experts interviewed for the study noted the Singapore government’s various initiatives to encourage healthy living and to prepare its people for ageing. This includes the Health Ministry’s “War on Diabetes” campaign launched in 2016; a S$20 million three-year Healthier Ingredients Scheme to encourage food producers to develop better products; and steps taken towards better healthcare integration to reduce inefficiencies in the system.
These efforts by the government to move from healthcare to health will need to be well supported by individuals, healthcare practitioners and businesses. Through the Prudential’s Healthy for 100 research, the insurer hopes to inspire actions from all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem to pave the way for a healthier and happier Singapore.
Mr Charles Ross, Editorial Director, Asia of Thought Leadership at The EIU, reinforced that preparing for an ageing population requires a multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach as well as long-term commitment.
“While Singapore’s health system has seen great results so far with the city state having one of the longest global life expectancies, its continued success will depend on how fast it can adjust to the needs of a rapidly-ageing population with growing rates of multi-morbidity. The EIU research found that a multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach which focuses on preventative healthcare from a young age will help Singapore’s efforts to create a healthcare system which other countries dealing with similar challenges can hope to emulate.”
 Louisa Picco et al., “Economic burden of multimorbidity among older adults: impact on healthcare and societal costs,” BMC Health Services Research, 2016
 Global Burden of Disease Study, 2015
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Notes to the editor
About Healthy for 100: Healthy care in Singapore
Healthy for 100: Healthy care in Singapore examines the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Singapore’s healthcare system as people live for longer. Over 200 general and specialist physicians, nurses, senior management and administrators from polyclinics, general hospitals, community hospitals and specialist hospitals in Singapore were surveyed for this report. In-depth interviews with senior government officials, business executives and other experts were also carried out as part of the research.
About Prudential Assurance Company Singapore (Pte) Ltd (Prudential Singapore)
Prudential Assurance Company Singapore (Pte) Ltd is one of the top life insurance companies in Singapore, serving the financial and protection needs of the country’s citizens for 89 years. The company has an AA- Financial Strength Rating from leading credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, with S$36.7 billion funds under management as at 31 December 2018. It delivers a suite of well-rounded product offerings in Protection, Savings and Investment through multiple distribution channels including a network of more than 5,000 financial consultants.