Improve coordination between GPs and specialists

It is high time general practitioners were recognised as distinguished doctors who are no less important than their specialist colleagues (Good GPs are respected heroes, by Ms Lee Soh Hong; May 25).

For this to happen, primary care delivery has to be detached from the traditional model of solo or small group practices, which have limited access to a range of specialists, as well as minimal support from diagnostic and allied health service providers.

In order for their patients to benefit from a higher quality of primary care, GPs in the community must make effective use of the expertise of specialists and secure access to support services.

Such assistance is available at family medicine clinics, which are integrated care facilities that offer services from family physicians, nurses and allied health professionals.

Community health centres are another resource for family doctors who have patients with chronic conditions.

Instead of referring every case directly to a hospital specialist, GPs may pay special attention to certain diseases and target specific results. In this way, general practice may take on a more focused approach.

Dr Leong Choon Kit has pointed out that GPs are generally slow in accepting innovative ideas and implementing them (Primary care of the future should keep patients away from hospitals; May 25).

Many family physicians still manually record case notes, even in this digital age.

GPs must adopt technology that facilitates the sharing of health records, such as the National Electronic Health Record, so that specialists are able to provide them with much-needed support.

Technology may also allow instructions to be disseminated to nursing staff and caregivers faster.

Primary care is more than just first contact with a patient.

When GPs give chronically ill patients the level of outpatient care they require, there may be fewer people needlessly admitted to hospitals.

The sick will be better served if the coordination between primary and secondary care is better matched to their needs.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 04, 2017, with the headline 'Improve coordination between GPs and specialists '. Print Edition | Subscribe