IDENTIFY THE RIGHT SPECIALTY
Ask around. Check with friends who know. Research on the Internet. Make sure you know the name of the illness or disease and identify the exact specialty so that you can then go and find the few good specialist doctors who are experts in its treatment. If you do not identify the correct specialty, you run the risk of being referred to any available specialist. Your GP might refer you to the nearest hospital, or to the only specialist he knows, or to his classmate from medical school who might not be the most experienced in that medical condition. If your original doctor practises in a group, he is likely to simply refer to someone else within the same group.
CHECK THE DOCTOR’S CONDUCT
Do a simple check on whether your doctor has been charged in a court of law or by the Singapore Medical Council for professional misconduct or criminal wrongdoing. One of the ways of doing this is to use Google and search words including these: Singapore, SMC, Doctor, Censure, Fine, Jail . You will find reports in the news and forums about doctors who have been investigated and disciplined for acts contrary to standards expected of them such as dishonesty, sexual offences, breaching medical ethics and overcharging.
Doctors in Singapore are allowed to advertise their services in print and digital media including magazines, newspapers and on the Internet. While this is good for patients researching for the right doctor, care should be taken to look out for doctors who are featured excessively on magazines (especially in fashion and luxury lifestyle). And eventually the cost will be passed back to the patient. Many doctors do not believe in advertising and are happy to attract patients by word of mouth referrals.More exposure in the media may mean that the medical practice is spending heavily on advertising and that may not translate into the best outcome for you. Some patients are impressed by doctors who treat celebrities or famous people. But this is dangerous because you do not have the same medical condition as those celebrities and may end up with a less than satisfactory outcome.
BEWARE OF DOCTORS WHO CROSS-SELL OTHER PRODUCTS OR SERVICES
When you see a specialist doctor, he or she should focus on your medical problem, explain the possible courses of treatment as well as the recovery process. Your alarm bell should go off if your gynecologist tries to get you to see her colleague for breast augmentation, or when your surgeon offers you a sculpted body using liposuction or hawks his personal range of skin care products. You have the right to refuse and to seek the opinion of another doctor as to whether the extras are necessary for the treatment of your condition.
TITLES AND CLAIMS TO FAME
Many private practice doctors call themselves Medical Directors. This title has almost no meaning and does not mean much as private medical practices are generally very small, with one or two doctors. Hence the word Director does not imply that he or she supervises over a big number of doctors as is the case in public hospitals. Others use the title A/Prof or Prof with their names to indicate that while they are in private practice, they have also a part-time teaching position in a teaching hospital such as National University Hospital or NUS-Duke School of Medicine.
Not all patients know how to review their doctors but many of them do share their experiences on Internet forums or on social media platforms such as Facebook. You can ignore patients’ reviews on the doctor’s own website as they are always positive. You may also initiate a review by asking about the doctor you are considering seeing and wait for replies from other forum members. Be specific in your questions to find out more about the doctor’s experience and qualifications. Ask also about the treatment outcome and other relevant details such as bill size and length of hospital stay.