REMOVING an appendix costs about S$729 (RM1,603.19) in KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), S$612 (RM1,345.88) in National University Hospital (NUH) and $548 (RM1,205.14) in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) – for three days' stay in a C class ward.
Such details are up at the Health Ministry website, allowing patients to compare, for the first time, what hospitals charge for different medical procedures in the different ward classes, as well as how long they can expect to stay in hospital.
The ministry is starting with 28 common procedures, which one in three patients are hospitalised for, and generated the information based on patients' Medisave claims in the past 12 months.
It expects to include private hospitals' data in a few months, and bring up the number of procedures to 70 eventually. The data will be updated monthly.
Publication of such information comes after a month of work by the ministry, which had promised to produce them before Christmas to help people decide which hospital they should choose amid concerns over health-care costs.
Previously, patients had no way of comparing prices between different hospitals and depend heavily on information from doctors or hospitals, said Acting Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.
Reducing this 'asymmetry of knowledge' would help patients make a more informed choice, although no one should expect that this would lead to hospitals charging one common price. Each would have expertise in different areas, and each patient would face different problems.
A Straits Times check through the data showed that TTSH offers the lowest prices among all the public hospitals for the largest number of procedures among the 28 listed.
NUH charged among the highest prices, especially for patients in its A and B1 class wards.
That was because, said an NUH spokesman, its A and B1 patients are considered private patients who do not receive any subsidies. Subsidies for B1 are about 20% at other hospitals.
NUH fees, however, were comparable to TTSH for B2 and C class patients.
Another advantage of such an open information system: Hospitals would be alerted to areas that needed fixing, especially if their data is way out of synch with the rest.
Dr Adrian Koh, 39, a family doctor in private practice, said he did not think that patients would necessarily choose the cheapest procedure.
“Price is not always the most important determinant because quality is still more important for many. Most people will still want the best doctors.”– The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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