Stick to a regular doctor, urges Health Promotion Board

THE Health Promotion Board (HPB) is on a campaign to get people here to stick to one or two regular general practitioners (GPs) for their medical needs, to better ensure thorough and accurate diagnoses and treatment.

The board will be, for instance, using advertisements to publicise the importance and benefits of such a practice.

The move comes after it conducted an inaugural General Health Insights survey last year and found that 13 per cent of those who visit GPs do not stick to a regular doctor or clinic.

While the percentage does not seem high, HPB hopes to get more people to stick to the same doctor.

Having a regular GP is important in greying Singapore, where a growing number of people have chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, that require lifelong health management, said Dr Shyamala Thilagaratnam, director of HPB's preventive health programmes and regional and community health divisions.

"A regular GP can play a major role in actively managing the patient's condition through regular monitoring, as well as ensuring appropriate and timely medical treatment and lifestyle changes," she said.

Besides having one's health records in one place, having a regular GP also allows one to build rapport with the doctor, she added.

"This can enable the doctor to detect changes in your condition faster and institute treatment in a timely manner," she said.

The General Health Insights survey polled 2,400 Singaporeans and permanent residents, aged 18 to 69, who had visited a GP or polyclinic in the last 12 months.

The survey found that about 67 per cent of Singaporeans and PRs have sought medical help from GPs.

Some 87 per cent of those surveyed said they do stick to a regular GP.

Dr Tan Sai Tiang, a GP at Hua Mei Clinic, a Tsao Foundation initiative, said her patients do not always go to her clinic.

For example, when they need urgent attention, they may have to seek emergency care at a 24-hour service instead.

Those with chronic illnesses may also "doctor-hop" when their conditions do not improve.

Doctors who see such "transient" patients tend not to get around to investigating why the illness does not get better.

By the time the right diagnosis is made, it may be too late, said Dr Tan.

She added: "Patients have to be better educated on the benefits of sticking to one doctor."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg