Family doctors a neglected lot

Family physicians have always been an important part of healthcare and the medical profession (Too many specialist doctors, and too few who can see the big picture; Sept 7).

Their scope is so wide that it defies definition.

This means that the general practitioner has to work very hard to stay current in a broad range of areas.

This is not only to keep up-to-date on developments in the field of medicine, but also to be able to answer the questions of increasingly well-informed patients.

Arguably, lifelong learning is more critical in family medicine than other specialities.

But, unfortunately, despite all these demands on family doctors, they do not command the same respect that specialists do.

Their remuneration has also not kept pace with that of specialists.

Financial reward is an important factor, and family doctors should get a fair reward for their work.

However, because of rising medical costs, patients quite often use family doctors to get referrals to see a specialist and would rather save the money for specialist consultation.

I foresee a day when many of these family physicians will be replaced by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

With this bleak outlook, it is unsurprising that not many doctors choose to focus on family medicine.

Everyone has a role to play in healthcare, and the family doctor's role is an important one.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Family doctors a neglected lot'. Print Edition | Subscribe