(Please recall that all of my comments are based on experience. . . if you live in Singapore and have had a different experience, please leave a comment and let me know what health care has been like for you.)
The Doctor's Office
In Part I, I gave an brief overview of my "credentials" for reviewing the Singapore health system. In Part II, I talked about walk-in clinics. Today, I want to talk about the Doctor's Office. No, not the whole building, the doctor's actual office. The one you rarely see if you're a patient in the US.
For those that haven't experienced health care in America, here is a brief description of what to expect at an ordinary appointment. You check in with a receptionist and wait in a common waiting room until a nurse opens a door to the "back office" and calls your name. She then escorts you from the central waiting room to a generic exam room. When you arrive in the room, she takes your stats and finds out why you're there. She then (depending on the reason for your visit) tells you to strip down and dress in a paper gown, sit your buns on the cold examining table and wait for the doctor to come in. At that point, she disappears and you're left to undress, peruse the lame magazines, take your seat on the exam table and wait. And wait. And wait. Then, after you've finished reading all of the lame magazines and even a few of the brochures entitled things like "Facts about Nicotine" and "10 Signs You're at Risk for a Stroke", you hear a polite knock on the door and it opens before you have a chance to say "come in." The doctor gets right down to business. He goes over your symptoms, completes the exam, fills out a prescription and then asks if you have any more questions. But before you have a chance to formulate a reply, he is out the door again, leaving you to dress and show yourself out. This is, I will admit, a very efficient system for seeing a large number of patients in as little time possible. But, it isn't very personable.
No so in Singapore. In Singapore, the nurse calls your name and takes you in to the doctor's office. The doctor is seated at his desk and invites you to have a seat across from him. He asks a few questions and reviews your file. Then (depending on the reason for your visit) you step behind a curtain and undress, put on a covering and sit on the exam table. The doctor completes the exam, returns to his desk and waits for you to dress and return to your chair. After you've returned and he has explained his findings, he asks if there is anything else you want to discuss. At that point, he's at your mercy. Since you're the one who has to get up to leave, you hold the power. The appointment isn't over until you decide to get up and leave. It's a much different feeling. In a way, it's weird.
It's like meeting the Queen of England, and not standing when she enters the room. You definitely feel like you're breaking protocol. At my first appointment here, after the doctor asked if I had any questions (which I didn't), I just sat there, completely unsure of what I was supposed to do. I felt weird "dismissing" the doctor so I sat there, hoping the doctor would eventually kick me out. Finally, after a long and awkward pause, the doctor politely told me that whenever I was ready, I could go back out to the receptionist to schedule another appointment.
Granted, it isn't the most efficient system, but since doctors here in Singapore carry a much lighter patient load than in the US, it works. And, I, for one, am a fan! I love seeing the doctor in his natural habitat (the books and family pictures and stacks of papers). I love having to decide when the appointment is over. I feel like I'm in a Normal Rockwell Painting. . . only the doctor is Asian =)