Doctor-patient relationship under threat

Doctors, both in the private and public sector, are under constant stress (Young doctors here feeling burnt-out, says study; Nov 20).

They learn to cope quickly or be forced by disillusionment and bitterness to quit the profession prematurely.

Focusing on the responsibility, laden workload, long hours, unreasonable or ungrateful patients, and relatively low remuneration per hour will quickly overcome disenchanted doctors.

General practitioners and family physicians in the private sector, who run one-man shows and are confined to their own clinic without fellow professionals to unburden to, can find their professional life meaningless.

They have had to cope with the competition of polyclinics, take time to continue their medical education, and be constantly vigilant against negligence.

Now, there is the implementation of the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) to face up to (MOH wants to make national patient database mandatory; Nov 9).

This could be a detriment to a doctor's personal relationship with the patient, as he assumes the role of data input and retrieval staff.

He has to tread carefully lest confidential information is leaked and a rash of disciplinary actions and medical suits follow.

It is not without good reason that a complete national electronic repository for health records is a rarity, even in First World countries.

We should be wary even as we try to embrace it.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'Doctor-patient relationship under threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe