How To Find A Doctor In Singapore– Overview Of Primary Care Services

Mar 02, 2018
8 min read

To help you find the right doctor for you, this blog post gives a general overview of where you can go to see a doctor in Singapore: highlighting factors like waiting times, fees, opening hours, location, and auxiliary comforts.

Need a doctor but not sure where to go? Singapore boasts one of the best healthcare systemsin the world. Ironically, with so many good options people can often find themselves paralyzed when trying to decide what to do. To combat this, when trying to find a doctor, you'll need to be prepared with some preferences. For example, do you want to see a doctor who is close to home or work? When is your ideal time to visit the doctor? How long are you willing to spend waiting? How much are you able to pay?

First and foremost, what are your main options for primary care services? see a doctor in singapore

How to find a doctor in Singapore?

1 ) Private GP Clinics

Across Singapore, there are approximately 1,500 GP clinics. Since there are so many clinics it's pretty likely that you'll be able to find one that is relatively convenient to visit no matter where you are in Singapore, especially when compared to any other country in the world. That being said, the opening hours of the private clinics aren't very practical for people with full-time day jobs. Most clinics are only open 44 hours a week, which is, essentially, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. This means that to visit them you'd have to take time off from work to travel there, wait, and see the doctor. Furthermore, the average consultation time with a GP is longer in private clinics than it is in their public counterparts.

Pros: Shorter waiting times. Likely to be more conveniently located.

Cons: More expensive. Shorter opening hours.

2 ) Polyclinics

There are currently 20 polyclinics. Like the private clinics, the polyclinics are located throughout the country, but they are distributed in a manner which accommodates population density, allowing them to conveniently serve the greatest number of residents.

These clinics provide subsidized primary care, which includes primary medical treatment, preventive healthcare and health education.

  • Outpatient medical treatment
  • Immunization
  • Health screening and education
  • Diagnostic and pharmaceutical services
  • Patients can be referred from the polyclinics to hospitals, where they can receive more specialized treatment and be warded if necessary.
  • Medical follow-ups after discharge from hospital

Polyclinics are your one stop shop for primary care. In non-medical lingo, this means that if you're sick you'll be able to get the help you need at a polyclinic. And, if they can't help you, you'll be referred to a hospital or specialist at a subsidized rate. If money is a concern, and the location of a polyclinic isn't too far away, it is definitely your best bet. That being said, it seems that you should be careful about which ones you go to, as reported by the Straits Times, the waiting times vary tremendously: "one in 20 patients at SingHealth waited more than 70 to 100 minutes, while those at NHGP waited 43 to 68 minutes to see a doctor."

Pros: Much more affordable. Subsidized rates for consultations, medications and consequent referrals.

Cons: Longer waiting times, fewer locations. hospital bedside.jpg 3) Public Hospitals

There are 8 public hospitals: 6 general hospitals, a women's and children's hospital, and a psychiatry hospital. According to the MOH, the general hospitals provide multi-disciplinary acute inpatient and specialist outpatient services and a 24-hour emergency department. In addition, there are 8 national specialty centres for cancer, cardiac, eye, skin, neuroscience, dental care and a medical centre for multiple disciplines.

  • Singapore General Hospital (SGH)
  • National University Hospital (NUH)
  • Changi General Hospital (CGH)
  • Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)
  • Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH)
  • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH)
  • KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH)
  • Institute of Mental Health (IMH)

The MOH recently published new data on public hospital waiting times. Across the board, patients were consistently made to wait for one to four hours for admittance. Obviously, this varies greatly on the severity of the condition, so don't be concerned that you won't be taken care of. It's important to remember that all healthcare institutions in Singapore, no matter public or private, are among the best in the world. That's why this blog post is centred around factors like waiting time, price, opening hours, location, and comfort.

Pros: Much more affordable. Still high-quality care.

Cons: Mostly shared rooms with bare amenities. Longer waiting times.

4) Private Hospitals

At private hospitals, on the other hand, patients can typically expect to be admitted to the hospital well within an hour of seeing an emergency room doctor. Below is a list of the private acute care hospitals.

Pros: More prominent/experienced doctors. Shorter waiting times. Greater emphasis on luxurious comforts.

Cons: Expensive.

5) Telemedicine Services

Visiting a doctor in-person versus consulting one over telemedicine is usually not very different, for neither the patient nor the doctor. After all, a significant amount of diagnoses made by general practitioners result primarily from the consideration of the patient’s history and their account of the symptoms they report during their consultation. An experienced doctor can usually determine the severity of conditions simply by visual and auditory observation. There are a few different telemedicine services in Singapore, and their services all differ slightly from one another. As is the case with clinics and hospitals, you'll have to do some research to figure out which is best for you.

  • DoctorAnywhere
  • MaNaDr
  • MyDoc
  • RingMD

Pros: The most convenient option: you can get medical advice from anywhere. Not only does this save time, but also prevents you from surrounding yourself with sick people in waiting rooms.

Cons: Only helpful in certain circumstances. Although telemedicine can help most patients with common acute conditions, it is still not suitable for many conditions. crossroads_too much choice.jpg With so much choice, where should you seek help from?

Recent Ministry of Health data reports that "80% of the primary healthcare services are provided by private practitioners while the government polyclinics provide the remaining 20%. However, the opposite is true for more costly hospitalization care, whereby 80% of it is provided by the public sector and 20% by the private sector." Primary healthcare services are usually provided by general practitioners (GPs) in polyclinics and private medical clinics across the country. These primary care professionals are almost always the first point of contact between patients and the healthcare system. They treat acute conditions such as upper respiratory tract infections (i.e. common colds and the flu), manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and keep the population healthy through preventive measures such as targeted health screening and vaccinations. In the MOH’s own words, “they also help to coordinate patients' care with other providers (specialists) and help patients who require more specialized medical attention to navigate the healthcare system.”

In choosing a doctor, another important element to consider is language. It’s critical that you are able to communicate clearly with your doctor, so check which languages they speak to be sure you’ll be able to understand each other. In Singapore, this is not a very common issue, but it is worth contemplating if you or people you know are less comfortable speaking English. Many doctors now use email or an online portal to communicate with patients, which may be another item of importance to tech-savvy communicators when selecting a physician. There even exist online directories that allow you to sort through profiles of various medical professionals. These sort of portals enable you to schedule appointments and sometimes even consult online using video technology.

In conclusion, you are spoiled with good options. The primary differences between public and private healthcare in Singapore relate to cost, waiting times, and relative experience of medical professionals. The stringent healthcare regulations imposed in Singapore mean that we need not be worried about the last factor: doctors in Singapore are well-trained across the board. Once you determine how much you're willing to pay and wait then it's all about location.

Hopefully, this brief overview and comparison has been helpful to you. We'll be working to dive into more depth for each of these options in the near future.

Wishing you health and happiness.

We're focused on augmenting access to primary care in Singapore. Speak with a doctor online on RingMD. Why leave home to find a doctor if you don't have to? Avoid sick people in busy waiting rooms and skip the traffic jam. When appropriate, the doctor is able to provide you with a signed medical certificate (MC) and advise you on medication.  

If you're a doctor or wellness expert considering offering virtual care services, here are some arguments to consider.