Your GP: The new gatekeeper of health

Family doctors are set to play a key role keeping people in Singapore healthy, and out of hospital, in the nation's new preventive healthcare scheme. ST explores the promise and challenges of this model.

Ensuring health comes first in healthcare

In a bid to control rising healthcare spending while delivering the best possible care to Singaporeans, the Health Ministry is shifting towards a model in which healthcare providers will be paid for keeping people healthy rather than treating them after they have fallen ill.

The move was announced by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung during the debate on his ministry's budget earlier this month, in which he stressed the importance of tackling the problem of ill-health at its roots.

But what has helped catalyse this shift?

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What is the capitation model for healthcare funding and how will it work?

The way Singapore's healthcare system currently works can be boiled down to this: You get a service - such as surgery, blood test or doctor's consultation - and are subsequently billed for it.

Similarly, healthcare institutions are funded based on their workload, such as the number of medical procedures they perform.

But last week, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that Singapore will move away from this fee-for-service model, and towards capitation funding instead.

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Personalised care plan for Tampines residents gives preview of healthcare revamp

A group of 250 Tampines residents have become among the first to get a sneak peak of what Singapore's healthcare revamp could look like.

In November last year, they enrolled in a six-week programme in which each person got a personalised care plan from SingHealth polyclinics, including recommendations on health screenings they should go for and ongoing community activities they might be interested in.

Professor Lee Chien Earn, SingHealth's deputy group chief executive of its regional health system, said the pilot scheme called Health Up! is an example of what the nationwide shift towards preventive health could look like.

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Good to pair doctors with patients but challenges will need to be addressed: GPs

It makes sense for family doctors to be paired with Singapore residents, but operational challenges must first be addressed for the push towards preventative healthcare to work, general practitioners (GPs) said.

Among a multitude of reasons cited, the doctors said the scheme would help patients stay healthier, allow doctors to tailor the best advice for patients, and shift the focus to catching diseases in their early stages rather than treating full-blown chronic diseases and their complications later on.

However, some challenges and reservations that will need to be addressed include ensuring sufficient flexibility within the patient-doctor pairings, and establishing a funding model that does not compromise patient care.

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Group that represents 2,500 doctors will ensure feedback on new healthcare scheme conveyed to MOH

The College of Family Physicians Singapore (CFPS) will work closely with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and general practitioners (GPs) to work out the details of the Healthier SG initiative and make sure any concerns doctors have are presented to the ministry.

Announced by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung during the debate on his ministry's budget, part of the initiative will see residents paired with a family doctor to promote preventive healthcare, a move welcomed by doctors and patients alike.

But CFPS president, Adjunct Associate Professor Tan Tze Lee, told The Straits Times there is a need to ensure the scheme takes into account the challenges doctors on the ground may face.

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Most of 20 S'poreans interviewed support Healthier SG plan to engage GPs

Madam Anabelle Ong used to accompany her grandmother to the Medical Union Clinic near her home in Pandan Gardens for check-ups every three months.

That was how Dr Liew Siew Lin became Madam Ong's own doctor, who also treated her family members like her two sons, now aged 16 and 21, from the time they were toddlers.

"My grandmother liked going to this clinic because the doctor is very patient and understanding. He is also good with the elderly and I think he has a pretty good reputation with those living in this area," recalled Madam Ong, 48, a customer support executive.

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Preventive health in Singapore: A look back at what has been done so far

A bold new plan to get people enrolled with a general practitioner marks the latest effort in Singapore's push to help its residents stay healthy for longer.

It forms part of a string of preventive healthcare measures that have been rolled out at a steadily intensifying clip over the past decade.

In particular, then Health Minister Gan Kim Yong made a landmark announcement in 2016 stressing the importance of moving "beyond healthcare to health" by arresting the causes of ill health early to reduce the progression of long-term chronic diseases.

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