Diabetes is a worrying trend locally – one in three Singaporeans aged 60 and above has the disease today, and if left unchecked, nearly one million Singaporeans could be affected by 2050. Healthcare providers across the continuum can achieve more by working together to tackle this challenge.

Medical News speaks with family physician, Dr Theresa Yap of Yang & Yap Clinic and Surgery and Dr Emily Ho, Director of SingHealth Regional Health System who are partners in fighting diabetes and helping patients stay well-supported in the community.

Partnering general practitioners to fight diabetes - SingHealth Regional Health SystemQ: For decades, you’ve been caring for patients with diabetes and encouraging those at-risk to go for early screening. What has been the main motivating factor for you?

Dr Yap: I’ve been practising for the past 35 years. My interest in treating chronic diseases like diabetes stems from the fact that there is a great deal I can do for my patients before end-stage disease or organ damage sets in. We can help to prevent the disease onset or delay the progression through regular checkups and monitoring of their lifestyle and diet. I feel a great sense of satisfaction when I help my patients improve or maintain their medical conditions.

Q: How does the partnership between GPs and hospitals benefit patients?

Dr Ho: As the population ages, there is a need to look after older individuals in the community who will have multiple chronic diseases. Holistic care will not only be clinical but should encompass psychosocial aspects as well.

As the closest touch point for healthcare in the community, a trusted GP knows his patients and their families intimately and is in the best position to take care of patients with stable chronic conditions. GPs are also key to bridging and connecting patients to other support services like allied health and community social services. By partnering GPs and ensuring a smooth handover of care, we can help patients have a more seamless journey as they transit from hospital to the community.

Q: What are some of the challenges faced in fighting diabetes, and how do you overcome them?

Dr Yap: The greatest difficulty is to get patients to comply with lifestyle and diet changes, which is vital for those with diabetes. I’m a firm believer of early screening because if someone knows that he is at risk of developing diabetes, he would be spurred to do something to help himself and comply with the recommended lifestyle changes.

Dr Ho: Studies have shown that diabetes can run in the family. In fact, relatives of individuals with Type 2 diabetes are two to six times more likely to have the disease. To encourage those who are at-risk to go for early screening, we introduced the STOP Diabetes programme which offers screening by partner GPs. By working with GPs, we can ensure timely follow-up and active management of someone who is at risk or has the disease.

Q: Can you share what the screening procedure is like?

Dr Yap: SingHealth arranges for interested individuals to be screened at a partner GP clinic near their homes or workplace. Before the visit, patients would need to complete some forms to help us understand their medical history and lifestyle better.

The blood test results can usually be collected at the clinic in two weeks’ time.

If an individual is found to be at-risk or has diabetes, he can choose to receive follow-up care at the clinic. Or if the condition turns out to be severe, the patient would be referred for specialist care.

I started offering the screening to my patients and their family members since May 2016. Paperwork is involved but once you get yourself acquainted with the process, it’s a breeze!

Q: How would you sum up your experience as a GP on board the STOP Diabetes programme?

Dr Yap: It’s easy to forget to ask the patient’s family members to come for such tests as busy clinic work can often overwhelm us. It does take a bit of initiative and the desire to do our part for society. But I would say it’s a win-win situation – we get to grow our patient pool, and at the same time, help individuals at-risk and their loved ones to manage their conditions from the onset.

The STOP Diabetes Screening Programme

SingHealth is partnering GPs across the island to offer health screening for parents, siblings and children of individuals with diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes).

  • Screening is open to those aged 30 and above who have no known diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.
  • Eligible individuals will be screened by participating GPs for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
  • Those found to be at-risk or suffering from diabetes will be referred for further tests and/or follow-up care by these GPs. Intervention programmes such as diet and lifestyle education, foot care and diabetes self-care will also be recommended.

The STOP Diabetes screening programme is part of the SingHealth Regional Health System’s ongoing efforts to partner community organisations in helping the public embark on preventive health and a healthier lifestyle.

If you’re a GP and keen to join the fight to help our patients combat diabetes, contact us.

Email: stopdiabetes@singhealth.com.sg

Tel: 6702 5485 / 6702 5486 / 6702 5487
(9.30am – 5pm on Monday to Friday)