Primary care of the future should keep patients away from hospitals

What a tribute Professor Chong Siow Ann paid to general practitioners (In praise of GPs, unsung heroes of the healthcare system; May 20).

Indeed, primary care in Singapore has changed a great deal, with improved collaboration with various specialists.

In order to build an effective primary-care system for the future, GPs not only have to work with specialists, but must also build a system with the public.

The value of a good primary-care system can be optimised only when the public recognises it.

GPs must look beyond the solo practices we currently have and operate multi-doctor practices.

This will allow each GP to concentrate on a few areas, thereby further improving the quality of care.

Fewer patients would then need to be referred to the already bursting hospitals.

GPs also tend to be slow in adopting innovative ideas and methods.

IT can be utilised more - from managing patients' illnesses to day-to-day administration. Newer, faster and, maybe, cheaper equipment may be employed to help the GP diagnose, monitor and manage patients.

GPs may want to invest in combined purchase, repackaging and delivery of medicines. There is much strength in unity.

Primary-care research needs to be expanded. GPs of the future must have dedicated time for research and improving their practice.

All these are for the purpose of keeping patients away from expensive and crowded tertiary care.

Finally, future GPs must continue to focus on preventive medicine and also remain masters of general care.

The primary-care system in Singapore should be one that is cost effective and cost efficient. It should be the first place Singaporeans visit for their healthcare needs.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Primary care of the future should keep patients away from hospitals'. Print Edition | Subscribe