SNEC acquires new laser amidst competitive Lasik market

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) announced, 17 Nov 2008, the acquisition and commissioning of a new laser system for its Lasik eye surgery services. The new generation VisuMax Femtosecond laser from Carl Zeiss is the latest addition to its existing IntraLase and Femtec lasers used for creating the corneal flap in blade-less Lasik operations.

The SNEC listed the benefits of the new laser as :

  • having less likelihood of side-effects and complications arising from surgery, due to its lower power (1/3 to 1/4 the power of other lasers) and other features;
  • producing higher quality flaps;
  • being able to create very thin flaps, enabling patients previously unsuitable for Lasik to now undergo this procedure;
  • enabling faster healing;
  • causing less discomfort for patients due to the reduced pressure applied on eyes during surgery;
  • being easier to operate by SNEC's surgeons.

With the new VisuMax laser, the centre declared it now has the full range of technology platforms for patients seeking refractive surgery for their eyes for correction of myopia, presbyopia (老花眼), hyperopia and astigmatism.

In view of the competitive Lasik surgery market in Singapore, this new acquisition is understandable considering SNEC's reputed position as a pioneering eye disease research and treatment institute in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

A recent Sunday Times article (30 Nov 2008) reported the highly competitive situation in the current local Lasik surgery market, with prices of as low as S$768* (about US$512) per eye for the most basic Lasik option. An anecdotal survey of newspaper advertisements over the last one year shows an abundance of advertisements highlighting prices of below or around S$1,000 per eye as well as invitations for prospective customers to regular talks being held almost weekly.

With the worsening economic outlook locally as well as globally, it remains to be seen if the number of private Lasik-focused surgeons and specialist clinics in the Singapore market can be sustained over the next few years. While the government has targetted well-heeled patients from overseas as medical tourists, the main catchment for local refractive surgical centres is still expected to come from the local population which has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world.

* The rate was raised to S$838 in November after the clinic offering it deemed the price to be below its cost.