Even if you don’t have nosocomephobia (an extreme fear of hospitals), being admitted to hospital can be daunting. Unfamiliar surroundings, incomprehensible doctor talk, being poked and probed, bland food, complex administrative procedures, heart-stopping bills and hair-raising ghost stories are just some reasons for this general fear of hospitals.


It’s not surprising that many people naturally choose to be warded in the “best hospital in Singapore” or what’s deemed the cream of the crop in online reports and reviews by strangers. Even if it’s purely psychological, this accolade could give an anxious patient some measure of assurance.  


Is  “the best hospital in Singapore” right for you, though?  



If you’re an Integrated Shield Plan (IP) policyholder, you may be thinking, “I have an IP so by default, I should go with private, right?”


More than 70 per cent of Singaporeans and permanent residents have an IP1, i.e. an Integrated Shield Plan, so this is a common question. Refresher: An IP upgrades your basic MediShield Life health insurance to cover the cost of medical treatment in a private hospital or a higher ward class at a public hospital.

The short answer is no – having an IP doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be hospitalised or treated at a private hospital. Whether you should go private or public usually depends on whether your plan gives you private or public hospital coverage.  


In other words, whether or not you have an IP and the kind of IP coverage you have are important considerations when choosing a hospital. There are also other key factors to take into account.



Four things to consider when choosing a hospital


Need to be hospitalised or undergo medical treatment? Picking the right hospital is less stressful when you zoom in on these four key areas:



#1 Healthcare and medical costs


How much does medical treatment cost in Singapore? Costs vary greatly between public and private hospitals, which explains why price is often the biggest deciding factor when choosing where to get treatment.


To get a price estimate for your treatment, check out the Ministry of Health’s fee benchmarks and bill information for public and private hospitals. Here are the costs of medical treatment and procedures for some common conditions, where the “total hospital bill” is based on what 50% of patients are charged2:

By doing simple calculation using these figures, we can roughly deduce this when comparing bill sizes for different hospitalisation options:



Having an IP means you would likely have as-charged coverage for treatment at both public and private hospitals, i.e. it pays for all hospitalisation expenses approved by the insurer. It also usually covers pre- and post-hospital treatment charges. However, it doesn’t cover government mandated co-payments, which will make up your out-of-pocket costs. Psst! This article tells you more about annual deductible and co-insurance and how you can reduce these out-of-pocket expenses.


Since treatment in a public hospital is typically cheaper than in a private hospital, it’s quite likely that your out-of-pocket expenses would be lower if you take the public route and vice-versa.


On the other hand, if you have an IP for private hospitals and a co-payment rider, and you see a doctor from your insurer’s panel of specialists, the amount of cash you would have to pay from your pocket for medical expenses could be lower. Hence, it’s good to discuss treatment options with your doctor to work out the rough cost. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that private healthcare can be easy on your pocket too, with the right coverage.



#2 Appointment and in-clinic waiting time


Seeing a sought-after specialist at a certain hospital can sometimes mean waiting weeks for an appointment due to a long waiting list or patients with more urgent needs higher up on the list.


From January to November 2020, the median appointment waiting time for subsidised patients at public hospitals’ Specialist Outpatient Clinics was 24 to 35 days3. Aside from waiting for your appointment day, there’s also in-clinic waiting to see a doctor, collect medication and make payment. The waiting time can sometimes be longer at public hospital clinics, often because services like the pharmacy are shared across different medical specialities and may not be located close to your specialist’s clinic. However, many people use the time to check out the array of shops and eateries nearby. You can also skip queues by using e-payment and medicine delivery services.


If you’d like to see a specialist sooner and spend less time waiting, you may prefer going to a private clinic where appointment waiting times tend to be shorter, sometimes within three working days of making a booking, especially if it’s one under your insurer’s panel of medical specialists. Private clinics tend to be smaller operations with fewer patients, and everything from registration to medicine collection and payment is done in one area – you could do things faster and more effortlessly.



#3 Your personal comfort preferences


Depending on your treatment, you may be hospitalised for a day to more than a month. So, factor your comfort level when choosing a hospital.


Public hospitals offer a wide variety of options. You can stay alone in an air-conditioned single room or four-bedded ward, or you could go for a no-frills experience in a non air-conditioned ward class for up to eight patients. Depending on the ward class you choose, there could be an attached bathroom and personal TV or you may have to step out of your ward to use shared facilities. Consider how much you value convenience, privacy, the ability to recuperate undisturbed and the flexibility to have an accompanying adult stay with you. You may decide that moving about, if it’s safe for you, could help speed up your recovery and that a TV isn’t necessary since you have video streaming services on your tablet.

In a private hospital, you can have a room to yourself or shared with up to five others. This usually means more privacy and hence higher chance of quality rest. Wards are air-conditioned with attached bathrooms, a TV and choice of meals. In a single-bed ward, there’s usually a sleeper unit for an accompanying adult which may come at an extra charge. For utmost comfort to recuperate in luxury, private hospitals can even offer a “suite” experience complete with extras like branded toiletries, premium meals and more.



#4 Your choice of doctors or healthcare specialists


Whether you choose to visit a public or private hospital, doctors in Singapore are all highly trained in their fields with many years of practice. Most of the local specialists in these hospitals would’ve also had their training in one of Singapore’s public hospitals, so you’ll be in good hands.


This also means that if you choose a public hospital, you can expect young trainee doctors checking on you. While some people prefer treatment by a “real” doctor over a junior one, rest assured all juniors are genuine doctors and closely supervised by senior doctors. Furthermore, you’d be doing a public service by helping these young doctors gain valuable experience.


Every hospital has specialist doctors across various disciplines although some may be more well known for their expertise in certain medical fields. So, do some research before settling on a specialist you’re 100% comfortable with. Remember, you may likely be seeing this doctor over a prolonged period.

If you need help finding a doctor, here’s the ultimate guide to finding the right healthcare specialist.



Make a logical choice for real peace of mind


While your Integrated Shield Plan gives you greater financial assurance when you need medical care, deciding on the right hospital requires careful thought. So, rather than be swayed by a few reports about the “best hospital in Singapore”, remember these four key considerations when choosing the best hospital for you.



1. Source: The Straits Times© Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Extracted with permission. “Having an Integrated Shield Plan and rider may not always guarantee peace of mind”, 21 April 2022.

2. Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore, “Fee benchmarks and bill amount information”, accessed on 16 January 2023.

3. Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore, “Average waiting time for outpatient appointments at specialist clinics at restructured hospitals in each month of 2020”, accessed on 16 January 2023.

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