Have you ever wondered why Singaporeans land in hospitals? We can look to data for that. However, medical data in many countries can be sparse at best, opaque at worst. Fortunately for us Singaporeans, data is plenty and often available readily. We here over at fundMyLife love data, and what better to explore this passion by going through the hospital bill data provided by the Ministry of Health?
In the handy Excel sheet from the MOH website, there are a total of 155 condition/procedures in the list, capturing hospital bills between 2016 and 2017. While immensely useful, it can be somewhat overwhelming, chock full of data. In this article, fundMyLife distills the list and examines the top 7 reasons (in no particular order) why Singaporeans land in hospitals.
#1 Anus, Surgical removal of haemorrhoids (Haemorrhoidectomy) – 10,180 cases
We start this list with the end. Of our bodies, that is. Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins in the rectum and/or anus. Haemorrhoids are a literal pain in the ass, causing plenty of discomfort when you sit or when you’re pooing. In the worst case scenario, the swell results in a visible clot that requires surgery for removal. Most cases are mild, and can be treated without surgery. To prevent this, make sure you eat plenty of fibre so that you have soft stools and don’t need to strain during bowel movements.
#2 Childbirth – 40,157 cases
In the list, we found two different reasons for hospitalization under the category of Childbirth. There’s antenatal care (6,548), where a mother is admitted into the hospital due to problems during pregnancy. For example, abnormal bleeding or tests and monitoring that requires an overnight stay. The second reason is the childbirth itself, where mothers either do it naturally (22,628) and Caesarean (10,981). We note that twice the number of mothers choose natural childbirth rather than Caesarean (ouch).
#3 Newborn, Normal Baby – 25,391 cases
According to the list, almost 2/3 of the children born in hospitals require hospital stay, assuming each case in #2 results in one child. Even if the child is healthy, they sometimes require observation overnight (15,202). There are many reasons for this. If the baby releases his/her bowels before birth, he/she will be swimming in amniotic fluid with the stool. While most babies are ok despite that, they are observed for any possible infection for 24 hours.
Mothers who carry Group B Streptococcus in their vagina receive antibiotics childbirth, but the baby will undergo observation for any possible infection. In addition, if the mother’s water broke longer than 24 hours before the child’s birth, the baby is at risk of developing infection in the lungs which requires observation. If the baby’s weight is lower than average, the baby may require observation for possible health concerns.
Another main reason for a normal baby requiring overnight stay is neonatal jaundice (10,189), caused by high levels of bilirubin – broken red blood cells that causes yellowing in eyes and skin. During the stay, the baby undergoes phototherapy, a treatment that exposes him/her to florescent light that the skin absorbs to help break down bilirubin to a more harmless form.
#4 Eye, Cataract Surgery – 46,142 cases
As you age, there is a chance of your lens clouding up that turns your lens opaque. Symptoms of cataracts involve generally poor vision and trouble with seeing light, which really reduces your quality of life. Diabetics and smokers are more likely to develop cataracts. At over 46,000 cases in a year, it’s indeed one of the more common ailments people face in Singapore. The only way to treat this is to remove the cloudy lens and replacing it with artificial lens to restore vision.
#5 Intestine/Stomach, Gastroenteritis (Diarrhoea) – 14,857 cases
Did you know that you can get hospitalized for shitting too much? Neither did we, until a very good friend of one of our members was warded for non-stop diarrhea. While it sounds funny, we assure you that it is anything but. Gastroenteritis refers to the inflammation of the intestine and stomach, usually caused by bacterial toxins or viral infection. Symptoms typically involve expulsion of liquid from your body via non-stop vomiting and/or diarrhea. This is often accompanied by fever and dehydration. Fortunately, mortality in Singapore for severe diarrhea is low, requiring constant hydration.
#6 Intestine/Stomach, Endoscopy for gastrointestinal bleeding (Day Surgery) – 45,006 cases
Endoscopy is a commonly performed procedure to examine your upper digestive system, i.e. oesophagus, stomach and small intestine. It involves putting a long tube with a camera attached to one end called an endoscope into your mouth, where it will travel through your body. We lumped two procedures together, 1) Intestine/Stomach, Endoscopy for gastrointestinal bleeding (25,547) with 2) Stomach, Gastroscopy (Day Surgery) (19,459) since they are similar procedures but for different parts of the body.
Endoscopy helps to image parts of your insides to discover causes for symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and gastrointestinal bleeding. It’s a day surgery because doctors will give you anesthesia before the endoscope inside your mouth.
#8 Intestine, Colonoscopy (Day Surgery) – 20,747
While the scope went in through the mouth for endoscopy, in colonoscopy the doctor inserts the scope from the opposite end. Doctors use colonoscopy to diagnose possible colon cancer and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, polyps, and ulcerative colitis.
#9 Respiratory Tract, Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) – 29,824
URTI refers to the infections of upper respiratory tract, including middle ear infections and allergic rhinitis. It is a very broad category as the respiratory tract involves several body parts, e.g., nose, nasal cavity, pharynx, and larynx. Common symptoms include nasal discharge, congestion, sneezing, sore throat. Sounds familiar? It’s the ordinary cold and cases like allergy. However, sometimes the cold can so bad that the patient checks him/herself into the ward for observation. Interestingly, a large number of the cases come from KKH, implying that most of these patients are relatively young.
That’s all folks! That was a lot of cases of hospitalization in one year. We hope this article was informative, and you found the reasons why Singaporeans land in hospitals useful in anticipating future possible ailments (touch wood). If you have any more questions on MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans, why not ask our curated pool of trusted financial advisers?
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