Finding a new doctor in a foreign country can be intimidating. Consider this your prescription.
Many expats find their expectations of their first doctor’s visit in Singapore don’t match reality. “We tend to go to whatever doctor is close to the office or home and hope for the best,” says Caroline Clark, a talent recruiter who’s originally from the U.K. Neither Caroline nor her expat friends have found a reliable general practitioner (GP) yet.
It’s no wonder. While Singapore’s healthcare infrastructure is ranked sixth globally, according to a 2011 World Health Organization report, the system – which includes 20 private and public hospitals – can be overwhelming to navigate. Start here.
The list of doctors covered under your insurance can be lengthy, so ask friends for recommendations. Also visit online forums, such as Singapore Expats, Expat Singapore or Facebook groups. “Referrals for specialists have been really useful,” Caroline says of the groups. But read comments carefully. What may not work for one person may be exactly what you like.
Pick Your Priorities
If you have a job with little flexibility or odd hours, you’ll need a doctor whose schedule can accommodate yours. Note, however, even with an appointment time, you may have to wait a half hour or more (this is a common expat complaint). If you are relatively healthy and don’t plan to visit your doctor more than a couple of times a year, this may not be a big deal.
Next, consider what kind of practice you want – a large practice, where you can see multiple doctors and get an appointment more quickly, or a smaller one, where you may develop a stronger relationship with one practitioner? Also, there are a number of clinics in Singapore who cater to the specific needs of the expat community, such as the International Medical Clinic (IMC).
With an international team of highly qualified doctors, paediatricians and registered nurses, IMC can be particularly useful to expats. “Our staff can be a resource to assist families through the process of settling into a new home,” says Liz Cowle, IMC’s Managing Director.
Decide: Private or Public?
The benefits of Singapore’s private hospitals: more availability and attention from doctors. The benefits of public hospitals: They’re cheaper and sometimes have really good specialists. National University Hospital (NUH), for example, is a teaching hospital and may be better equipped to handle rare cases.
Top Up, if Needed
Because most companies – Singaporean and global – are cutting costs by limiting healthcare coverage, be clear about what is, and is not, covered under your policy and consider getting “top up” insurance, if necessary. Providers like Expat Insurance (expat
insurance.com.sg) may require you to take hospitalization insurance. But then you can customize your plan to cover outpatient, dental or vision care.
Go for a Consultation
It is perfectly acceptable to “try out” a new doctor. At your consultation appointment, discuss your medical needs and history and take note of the questions the doctor asks of you. You are under no obligation to make a follow up appointment.
By Kathleen Siddell, The Finder, October 2015