Expert Advice: 12 Tips for Choosing a Family Doctor
Whether you’re new to Singapore or have a new bub (and new medical needs), Dr. Cheryl Kam gives top tips on how to find the best family doctor to suit your needs
[This article was first published on Sassymama]
Welcome to Singapore!
You might be an expat, or a local who has spent some time abroad, and now looking to establish a relationship with a good family physician to for your family to grow with. You’re in the right place!
The current system
Most private GPs in Singapore run on a walk in basis and have their own dispensary. This is convenient, and many even open in the evenings.
Private walk-in GP clinics may accept corporate insurance cards, a common employment perk in Singapore.
For those that hold such a card, little or no payment is needed for simple primary care needs.
Such a clinic tends to be catered to quick solutions for simple ailments like the cough and cold.
It often takes a little searching around to find doctors that are able to offer longer appointment times.
Seeing a specialist
Seeing a specialist is incredible easy; simply pick up the phone and call for an appointment!
There is no referral requirement except for insurance purposes, for which you will have to jump through some simple hoops.
If you have private insurance you may pay first and claim later. Those who hold corporate insurance cards tend to need a referral letter from a General practitioner who is on their panel of approved clinics, to have their specialist fee covered by insurance.
For Singaporeans, to get access to the public health specialists in government institutions, as well as to use their Medisave money to pay for their treatments, you must first see a polyclinic doctor for their referral letter.
Each insurance policy is different and it is worth knowing about yours in detail, especially where specialist referrals and emergency coverage is concerned.
How to pick a good family doctor
A good primary care physician will be able to (and happy to) help you manage simple ailments at home, or even educate about over the counter medicines you can use.
Long waiting times are no longer the only sign of a good doctor. In modern times, respect is paid to the patient’s time, and business processes are sleeker to allow for timely appointments.
Get past the receptionist! Yes, good staff are hard to come by. While a good receptionist might be pivotal in helping you feel welcome, I would not judge a clinic by their receptionist.
Your doctor should never rush you.
Are you compatible? Some factors to consider: Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Do they fully answer your questions? Do they explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow-up visit?
Your doctor is knowledgeable about preventative care, and does not throw a bag of antibiotics at you, at every small illness.
Your doctor doesn’t roll their eyes when they hear you’ve looked something up on Google. These are millenial times! Even doctors look things up on Google (albeit with trained eyes!). After my consults, I often give patients homework to do, and that includes some online reading. Education is key.
You are made to feel like a partner in your health, not a powerless subordinate.
Group or solo? A group practice means when your usual doctor is not around, their colleague can seamlessly pick up the care, if this is important to you. This is relevant if you have young children or tend to need emergency care. With a group practice there may be the benefit of more brains, when a case is a little more esoteric, requiring discussion.
A doctor’s network. When you get onto a doctor’s patient list, you also get access to their network of practitioners. If you get along with your doctor, you are likely to get along with the specialists they recommend, too.
The doctor does not judge you on your uptake of alternative treatments.
It’s the future today. Google your doctor, get connected. Many doctors also put out helpful material online as part of a community effort in improving health awareness.
Studies show that people who have one family doctor as their primary care provider have better health outcomes than those who skip from specialist to specialist.
Further to that, those with family physicians who had a good understanding of holistic care and complementary therapies live 30% longer and spend less on healthcare overall.
Need more advice? Get in touch!