Better patient care with more generalist-specialist links

Training more generalist doctors is indeed important as the population ages and a holistic all-round approach seems to be the answer to healthcare in Singapore (Training more generalist docs; Aug 11).

However, medical science has progressed to such a degree that no doctor can know everything.

The experience of a specialist cannot be compared with that of a generalist.

The specialist manages specific conditions every day. He has the experience to pre-empt complications.

Generalist doctors provide the first-line management of patients and also proper follow-ups of the patient's condition, alleviating the need to tax the resources of specialists.

Generalists should be linked to specialists more directly than at present, allowing for better co-management of the patients.

There should be open channels where the generalist can contact the specialist for a quick consultation and review of the investigations and treatment for the patient.

Generalist doctors provide the first-line management of patients and also proper follow-ups of the patient's condition, alleviating the need to tax the resources of specialists.

Just as in education, where we have eased off highlighting the schools that perform well at major exams, we should not glamorise the work of the specialist.

General medicine is a special calling. All my general practitioner friends enjoy their practice.

It is holistic and gives a sense of satisfaction that comes from being the neighbourhood doctor who can look after the whole family - from grandparents to babies.

This should be the highlight of a generalist career.

Ong Eng Keow (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Better patient care with more generalist-specialist links'. Print Edition | Subscribe