1. The Waiting Time is Long

The universal rule of demand and supply applies.  There is this good doctor.  And there is only one of him or her.  Well, guess what?  There is indeed a lot of people who would want to see this particular doctor !  It does sound very much like deciding on which Char Kway Teow stall to buy your noodles from in a food centre.  A good reputation as a doctor takes a long time to build.  And when a level of reputation is achieved, one can be certain that patients keep coming back for more.  And not only them, but their parents, cousins, colleagues, nephews and nieces too.  Try not to give up waiting for a good doctor, there is a reason for his or her popularity.  Some of us feel happy to be the only patient in a clinic, seemingly given exclusive attention by numerous staff.  But wait.  Ask yourself: Why is no one else here ?

2. The Specialist Does Not Offer Extras 

A specialist has chosen sometime in their medical training to focus on a certain area of practice.   And most of them stuck to that area when they were employed in a public hospital.  But when they arrived in the jungle of private practise, things changed.  Free of institutional restrictions, GPs and specialists begin to offer more services and products.  It is now well known that many doctors can undergo a short course and rebrand themselves as Aesthetics Doctors, which is pretty specialist-sounding to most people.  And so, if the GPs can do it, why can’t other specialists?  And so they do.  Is your specialist concentrating on the liver or kidney or ovaries, or is he/she offering you botox, liposuction or “body contouring”, and even “medical grade” face creams and skin cleansers ?   I have a hard time believing all this extras is not profit-driven.  I, for one, will not be a patient of a clinic that is competing for the beauty parlour dollar.  Who knows, maybe one day some doctors might offer “medical grade” manicures too?   Take a good look at your doctor’s website.  Make sure the physician or surgeon is indeed a specialist and not the proverbial Jack of All Trades.

5 ways to tell if the doctor is good

3. No Excessive Advertising – Preferably None !

In the days of old, when doctors were forbidden to advertise, reputations were built through word of mouth.   These days doctors advertise themselves no differently from manufacturers of mobile phones, soft drinks, running shoes and toys.  Their advertisements can be seen in newspapers, lifestyle magazines, and on the Internet.  If you are reading this, chances are high you have been searching for good doctors and spotted many Google ads in the search results.  Doctors should have websites.  The information on the website helps potential patients or their loved ones to find a suitable doctor online.   But I see advertising as a weakness of a medical professional who is not happy just to build a good reputation through word of mouth or peer recommendation.   And as the number of medical advertisement increases, the temptation to aggrandise themselves escalates.  Their clinic is suddenly “premier”.  The doctor is “renowned”.   Taglines and slogans now abound: “Exquisite Tummy Tucks” and “Bigger Breasts Now!” says an ad from a cosmetic surgeon.  “Relief your pain instantly!”.   And if you click on enough of these ads, you might have noticed that some doctors buy numerous slots such that no matter which ad you click on, it always leads to the same doctor !

4. The Doctor Stays Put in One Place

While not always true, most good doctors with a sizeable following stay in one hospital or medical centre.  They generally have too many patients to cope with in one hospital and feel it is best to be available all the time in case the hospital wards need them urgently.   So if your specialist’s address is at Mount Alvernia, he or she should be stationed there most of the time.  Some doctors run a “satellite clinic” somewhere else.  This secondary clinic serves to “catch” potential patients in an HDB estate or a shopping mall who would otherwise not go to a hospital.  Then there are doctors who seem to be operating in a few hospitals in any given week.  2 days in Mount Alvernia, Wednesdays in Novena and another 2 days in Mount Elizabeth.  Now, I have serious reservations about that.  Are they spreading their bets and trying to catch as many patients in as many places as possible?  Will he be in the right hospital when I really need him to see me ?  I am not sure.

5. The Doctor  Tells You to Take Your Time

Many patients complain that they felt rushed into a decision about surgery.  Let us face it.  Surgeons earn money doing surgery.  One more surgery that week is going to increase his income a fair bit.  Let us suppose the surgery is indeed necessary.  I would want my surgeon to explain the rationale for the surgery.  And I will need time to think about it.  And I might want to seek a second opinion.  And possibly even a third opinion if the type of surgery is rare or risky.    A Vietnamese patient once commented that her surgeon rushed her to make a decision regarding surgery because it was a “serious” condition, but at the same time suggested that she can get a breast surgeon colleague to increase her bustline.  Alarm bells went off in her head and she immediately looked around for other doctors.  And fortunately for her, she found another surgeon who does that operation for a much lower cost, without the boobs-upsizing side dish.

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