Patients who have been treated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) emergency department sometimes have to wait months for a follow-up appointment with a specialist there.
But under a scheme that starts next month, patients with certain conditions could be referred to a general practitioner (GP) clinic, family medicine clinic or polyclinic near them as quickly as within a week if their condition is stable and can be managed by a GP.
GPNext will initially cover 14 medical conditions, such as lower back pain, asthma and urinary tract infection. These conditions come under five clinical specialities: urology, general surgery, orthopaedics, general medicine, and respiratory and critical care medicine.
Announced yesterday, GPNext is TTSH's collaboration with primary care partners to better manage patients with chronic but stable conditions as well as minor emergencies within the community.
Adjunct Associate Professor David Foo, the clinical lead for primary care at TTSH, said patients who have seen a doctor at the emergency department and later a GP, but still need to consult a specialist, will have their appointments expedited.
Besides GPNext, a team of 48 TTSH specialists from 20 clinical specialities was formed recently to serve as dedicated links between GPs and the hospital.
Number of medical conditions GPNext will cover initially. The conditions include lower back pain, asthma and urinary tract infection.
This benefits patients as the GPs can speak to the specialists about the patients' condition, rather than having to refer them to make an appointment with a specialist, which takes longer.
The Coordinating Advisory Care Team aims to empower primary care partners to manage patients with more complex needs, TTSH said.
Prof Foo said the GPs will be able to reassure the patients that their consultation is backed by expert advice. "It is really a win-win situation for the hospital, GP partners and patients, if we can consolidate the care centred around the patient."
Two other programmes started earlier by TTSH have grown over time. One enables patients from specialist outpatient clinics who have chronic but stable conditions to be cared for at GP clinics.
Under the Community Right Siting Programme, the number of partner GPs has increased from 10 in 2014 to 120 today.
The number of conditions they can manage has also increased from three to 30. These include more common chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and osteoporosis.
More than 3,000 patients have benefited from the programme, saving about 12,000 trips to TTSH specialist outpatient clinics since 2014. The hospital provides training and support such as diagnostic and lab services to these partner GPs.
Another scheme for moderately stable patients was launched in April last year and has benefited 72 people so far.
Shared Care helps to reduce the number of times these patients have to return to specialist outpatient clinics, thus freeing up appointment slots and reducing the waiting time for other patients.
Dr Eng Soo Kiang of Unity Family Medicine Clinic, who has been part of the Community Right Siting Programme for four years, said the benefits to patients include fewer unnecessary visits to emergency departments and specialists, and less burden on their caregivers.
He added: "There is also more satisfaction to the GP partners, and happier patients too."