Singaporeans are mostly happy with healthcare services, but there is still a need for more healthcare education: Aviva survey

The insurance giant highlights a need for Singaporeans to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions, as a new survey shows a demand for more information and explanations around suggested treatments.  

While Singaporeans are generally content with healthcare services provided by professionals locally, a majority have expressed a desire for more clarity around the medical treatments and advice prescribed to them. 

According to the Aviva survey, 77% of respondents state they are satisfied with healthcare professionals and the services they have received. However, 83% of respondents across all ages and demographics say they would like more detailed explanations and a better understanding of the necessity of treatment plans prescribed. In fact, this gap causes 18% of Singaporeans to disagree with treatment plans presented to them, citing reasons such as uncertainty behind the purpose of medicines and treatments (30%), and the belief that they did not need the prescribed medication (41%).

A recent Mercer study showed Singapore’s medical cost inflation rose 10 percent in 2018 and is expected to continue to rise in the coming years. Through this survey, Aviva hopes to highlight the important role played by every individual in managing healthcare costs, allowing us to better understand Singaporeans’ personal habits, perceptions and attitudes towards healthcare services, as well as how they are making healthcare decisions.

Respondents of this survey believe that having a clearer picture on diagnosis and prescribed treatments or medications can help to enhance their overall healthcare experience. In fact, 77% of respondents often feel that information is lacking when it comes to treatment plans prescribed by doctors, and this resonates most strongly amongst those aged 45 to 54 years old (100%) and 18 to 24-year-olds (88%). 

A large number of young respondents are showing an interest in their personal health, with 97% of 18 to 24-year-olds wanting greater transparency on the necessity of treatment plans. Similar sentiments are shared by the older generation (92%), given they may experience increasing health concerns and face higher risks with each medical procedure. Additionally, a further 80% of Singaporeans would also like their doctors to discuss alternative treatment options with them.

In terms of where people are most likely to turn to for health information, 80% listed GP referrals as their most trusted source, solidifying Singaporeans’ trust in their doctors. However, following close behind is family and friends (75%), which reinforces the importance of equipping the public with sufficient and accurate health knowledge in order for them to be credible sources. Other popular sources of information for Singaporeans include panel specialists (61%) and online browsing (42%). 

Alongside this demand for more information, the survey highlights a need to educate Singaporeans on the part they need to play in keeping healthcare costs affordable. In fact, just 12% of respondents believe that individuals themselves are responsible for keeping overall healthcare costs affordable, while 63% believe this responsibility lies with the government. Other stakeholders that respondents suggested were responsible include insurers (8%) and medical providers (17%). 

The need for education is also evident in the disparity of knowledge on healthcare benefits that they are entitled to, which is part of the solution to the rising costs. For instance, nearly half (46%) of the respondents are unaware that their Integrated Shield Plan has a panel of medical specialists they can use. Besides priority access to specialist appointments, policyholders also enjoy preferred outpatient consultation fees when they visit panel specialists, helping to reduce the incidence of overcharging and alleviating overall healthcare costs. 

Nishit Majmudar, Chief Executive Officer of Aviva Singapore, said, “When it comes to understanding healthcare options and getting the most out of their treatment plans, there are still education gaps for many Singaporeans. This survey suggests that Singaporeans would be able to make better, more informed, healthcare decisions if they were armed with accurate and relevant information and possess the ability to weigh up options provided by health practitioners. Aviva aims to support initiatives that plug these gaps and encourage higher understanding amongst our customers such that they can take charge of their healthcare decisions and create good customer outcomes. Overall, this will be beneficial to the health insurance industry as it will help to slow down the escalating healthcare costs and insurance premiums.”

In Singapore, Aviva aims to slow down medical inflation by helping customers better understand their options so they can make the best healthcare decisions. This includes increasing awareness and education around panel specialists and pre-approval which provides certainty about the policyholder’s claim outcome. For instance, Aviva has created a microsite that lists all panel specialists so patients can easily search for and make appointments online. Policyholders also have access to a 24/7 hotline which allows them to request for pre-approval so they can have certainty of their claim outcome before going for any medical treatment. Aviva also communicates regularly with its policyholders and healthcare professionals on the latest initiatives implemented by the organisation as well as news related to the health insurance industry.   

Besides educating customers, Aviva has also invested significantly in clinical expertise, risk management systems and data analytics to actively monitor and intervene any potential over-servicing or over-billing before it leads to higher healthcare costs. 

About Aviva’s Health Survey

Aviva’s health study is an analysis of 1,000 responses about Singaporeans’ personal habits, perceptions and attitudes towards healthcare services, as well as how they are making healthcare decisions, and where they are getting their health information from. The survey was conducted by YouGov from 9 January to 10 January 2020, targeting respondents aged 18 and above. Specifically, survey responses have been filtered to only those who have an Integrated Shield Plan. This was done to ensure that more informed opinions are collected as policyholders are likely to have a greater understanding of Singapore’s healthcare system as a result of having more experience with it.