Singapore, 27 July 2022 (Wednesday) – A new study by SMU’s Centre for Research on Successful Ageing (ROSA) revealed that only about a third of older adults surveyed (35%) currently have a regular family doctor. Registering with a regular family doctor, which is a key component of the Healthier SG (HSG) initiative launched by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in March 2022, helps to achieve ‘continuity of care’ and improved health outcomes among Singaporeans.
According to ROSA’s study, titled “Older Adult Healthcare Utilisation Patterns and Receptiveness towards Healthier SG Initiative”, a large majority of respondents (85%) would still want to see other doctors even if they had registered for HSG, citing the desire for a second opinion on their health conditions. 14% of older adults surveyed do not visit polyclinics for health screenings
HSG places greater emphasis on preventive healthcare rather than reactive treatments. Instead of ‘doctor hopping’, or visiting multiple doctors over time, HSG encourages Singaporeans to visit a primary physician for most of their healthcare needs. This results in ‘continuity of care’, a sustained and prolonged relationship between an individual and their family physician or healthcare practitioner over time.
Continuity of care could result in care that is tailored to an individual’s needs and likely improved health outcomes among the Singapore population. Continuity of care has been shown to be important for older adult populations, given the greater likelihood for older adults to be in poorer health and to suffer from chronic conditions.
“The results of our study illustrate both the timeliness of the introduction of the Healthier SG initiative and that most older adults are receptive to this new healthcare approach. We see the merits of those with a regular physician, particularly when it comes to adhering to preventive health check-ups. As preventive health care is critical in ensuring successful ageing, we should continue to encourage those who remain apprehensive, especially in terms of raising awareness of the need for regular health check ups,” said Professor Paulin Straughan, Director, ROSA.
ROSA’s research was conducted using data from the Singapore Life Panel®, a population representative monthly survey of Singaporeans aged 57-76 (inclusive) in 2022, that has been conducted since 2015. A total of 6,418 older adults participated in the survey which was fielded in April 2022.
Key findings and recommendations:
Based on the findings listed above, ROSA makes the following policy recommendations for the implementation of the HSG initiative:
1. Efforts to encourage older adults to enroll in HSG should be targeted at older adults with lower SES profiles (i.e older adults living in 1-3 room HDB flats and lower educated respondents)
2. Efforts to encourage older adults to enroll should also emphasise the importance of regular health checkups for their health
3. Polyclinics will play a large role in ensuring the effective implementation of HSG