Educate public to make better choices on healthcare

I agree with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong that the nation needs to be well prepared to cope with the rising healthcare needs of an ageing population ("Need to rethink care of elderly as population ages rapidly, says Gan" and "Push to provide quality care closer to home"; both published last Friday).

We are indeed on the right track as we plan for more infrastructure in the form of hospitals, polyclinics and nursing homes, and more manpower support by training more healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals.

However, it is important that the public is well educated to prevent the misuse of healthcare resources and subsidised care.

For example, when a patient displays mild flu-like symptoms, families that are overly cautious may send their loved one straight to the hospital without first consulting a general practitioner.

Additional strain is placed if they insist that the patient be hospitalised.

Since the validity of claims such as headaches and abdominal pain is difficult to verify, doctors are often caught in a dilemma on whether they should hospitalise the patient.

Misguided decisions by families to send their loved ones to the hospital place unnecessary strain on our hospital resources.

More hospital beds are used up, doctors are busier and have less time to spend on more complex cases, and more money is spent on healthcare subsidies.

To maximise the effectiveness of healthcare resources, a multi-pronged approach is needed.

Members of the public need to be educated on how they can make wise decisions when their loved ones display various symptoms, and the Health Ministry should have in place checks and balances to prevent the misuse of resources.

At the same time, patients and their loved ones should respect doctors' decisions regarding ward admissions.

Woo Jia Qian (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Educate public to make better choices on healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe