As the population ages, doctors are seeing more patients with multiple medical conditions (Push for more docs in community care; March 6).
As a gastroenterologist, I often see medical problems like osteoarthritis, hypertension and diabetes being diagnosed for the first time when patients consult me purely for digestive or liver problems.
Instead of referring each medical condition to different specialists, doctors ought to be able to manage common medical problems competently.
Referral to another specialist should be made when treatment fails to achieve a satisfactory outcome.
Similarly, I expect non-gastroenterologists to be able to manage common digestive problems reasonably well.
Of course, referrals to a gastroenterologist should be made when the digestive or liver conditions are not managed optimally.
It is essential that all doctors receive broad-based medical training on common medical conditions, so as to avoid over-referrals. This should not be confined to just family doctors but to all practising doctors, including specialists.
Patients and their relatives, on the other hand, should also have the reasonable expectation and accept that not all medical issues need to be referred to a specialist.
Desmond Wai (Dr)