A Singapore group has become a leading supplier of comprehensive health services to businesses and health insurers in the Asia-Pacific region, helping keep patients out of hospital though preventative healthcare. Providing healthcare for all their citizens is a key issue for Asian governments. The populations of countries such as India, China and Indonesia are rapidly ageing, placing a growing burden on healthcare budgets which are already insufficient to meet the needs of their people.
This demographic change brings with it the chronic illnesses and disabilities that afflict elderly people in developed countries. And rising living standards are adding pressure by changing consumption patterns, leading to the faster onset of the lifestyle illnesses of more affluent societies. For example, almost one in five Indonesians have chronic diabetes, putting additional strain on public and private healthcare systems, and on the care-givers in their families.
These challenges are forcing governments and private enterprises to seek help in dealing with the rising demand for healthcare, according to David Sin, Chairman of Fullerton Healthcare. This integrated enterprise healthcare organisation offers services like those of US Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) by managing health spending for governments, insurance companies and multi-national businesses. It uses its scale across the Asia-Pacific region to provide cost-efficient healthcare services and promote healthier lifestyles.
‘Asia-Pacific governments are spending around 4 per cent of GDP on healthcare, and we expect this to significantly increase over time. But if it goes above 10 per cent – and the US is spending well over that – it will become unsustainable. We can help develop healthcare systems in sustainable ways that will provide accessible and affordable treatment for all.’
Fullerton was founded by Drs Michael Tan and Daniel Chan in 2011 by merging two private healthcare groups which owned just six clinics in Singapore. The founders had extensive experience in a large Asian healthcare company and backgrounds in corporate and insurance-backed healthcare, and wanted to focus on developing that sector for a wider audience. David Sin, the Chairman, is chief executive of SIN Capital Group, a private investment group which has a majority controlling stake in Fullerton.
The company has already expanded into five other Pacific Rim countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Australia. It now owns close to 200 clinics, and has a global network of more than 8,000 clinics and hospitals which can offer a comprehensive service to its patients across the region. And it has close to 10 million lives under care, compared with less than 1 million in 2011.
‘Scale is important, and we are the only healthcare provider in the region that has such scale in terms of patient numbers and countries,’ says David Sin. ‘It helps us to manage costs effectively for both the private and public sectors. And it allows us to extend our reach to people at risk or below the poverty line who can’t afford public polyclinics or the medicines they need.’
In January, Fullerton launched a first such initiative in collaboration with the Singapore government to provide medical coverage for a large residential area with a high proportion of low-income and elderly people. It runs free mobile clinics every quarter for such patients who are unable to pay for their healthcare – many of whom are elderly, disabled or have chronic illnesses.
‘Our doctors and nurses identify the patients most at risk, and we sponsor the medication for their chronic illnesses for the rest of their lives. It costs us less than 1 per cent in income, but has a tremendous impact on the community.’
Like HMOs in the US, Fullerton sees part of its mission as keeping patients out of hospital through preventative healthcare. ‘Many healthcare providers see patients as profit-centres, but we put them at the centre of our care model. We aim to empower them to lead more healthy lives through better knowledge, diets, exercise and monitoring of their own health. If we are successful, this will contribute towards managing the cost of healthcare.
‘Our long-term aim is to transform healthcare across the Asia-Pacific region, with the cornerstone tenets of accessibility and affordability for those we serve, while making a positive impact on all the communities that we operate in.’