Family doctor to treat all ailments? They'll need more training

It is time-consuming and costly for patients with multiple medical problems to consult different specialists for each problem.

A better approach, as suggested by Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan, dean of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, would be for one generalist doctor to take care of all the problems a patient may have (Too many specialist doctors, and too few who can see the big picture; Sept 7).

While this vision is admirable, there are many issues that need to be addressed.

Is the current training system of family physicians sufficient to produce the desired kind of generalists?

Family medicine is a recognised speciality in many countries including the United States and Singapore.

Is the Ministry of Health expecting medical students to undertake extra years of clinical training in addition to the current syllabus? Would there be additional examinations and accreditation, and new titles like "specialist generalist"?

Taking care of patients with multiple medical problems would also require more consultation time.

As a result, consultation charges would naturally go up.

The public ought to be reassured that such holistic service by better-trained doctors would still be value for money and that there would be cost and time savings, on top of the convenience of having the clinics near their homes.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Family doctor to treat all ailments? They'll need more training'. Print Edition | Subscribe