With close to 20 years of experience as a general practitioner (GP), Dr Thian is a senior family physician based in Raffles Medical White Sands. He is also one of our first GPs to use the Doctor World app to teleconsult with patients in Singapore. A software programmer and techie since his school days, Dr Thian has always been a strong supporter of using technology to advance healthcare.
Let’s hear more from him about his passion for his patients, as well as his experience of teleconsultation from the other side of the phone!
1. 18 years of experience as a GP is a pretty long time. What do you love about your job? What are some memorable experiences?
Dr Thian: I love meeting people from all walks of life. It’s interesting to know patients not just in terms of their illnesses but in terms of who they are – their backgrounds, families, interests, etc. It makes my day when patients bring their family members to see me because they trust me.
Experiences that stood out for me include:
• Treating a 10-year-old child who was very sick, and calling him up to check on him daily. When he was much better a few days later, he actually dropped by the clinic just to thank me.
• Seeing a pregnant patient through her tumultuous pregnancy to the eventual birth of a healthy baby.
• Experiencing real friendship with a long-time patient and helping him quit smoking for good. This patient-turned-friend successfully got his then-girlfriend (now wife) to quit smoking in turn.
2. I’m sure being a doctor is NOT easy. What are some challenges you face as a GP?
Dr Thian: With ready access to information online, patients today are savvy with healthcare than before. However, this can work as a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, some patients arm themselves with wrong medical information and insist on a diagnosis contrary to the doctor’s one. It can be quite draining to reassure some patients that they actually do not have the rare incurable diseases they read online.
Time constraint is also a real challenge. When my clinic gets very crowded, the waiting time increases. When this happens, it is a tricky balancing act to reduce the waiting time while ensuring quality time is spent with each of my patients.
3. What compelled you to adopt teleconsultation? What do you think of this technology?
Dr Thian: To me, teleconsultation offers another channel for patients to see their doctors without having to physically be in the clinic to do so. Medication and MC (if any) are delivered to the patient’s doorstep.
Having been a patient before, waiting in line to see a doctor while battling with your symptoms can be miserable. For caregivers, being in the clinic can increase the risk of catching some bugs. From that perspective, I appreciate the convenience and comfort that teleconsultation brings for patients and caregivers alike.
In Singapore, teleconsultation is still pretty novel. I think the technology is still in its infancy. With wearables, better internet connection and advanced medical equipment; we can look forward to the development of more sophisticated teleconsultation platforms that can even perform certain physical examinations remotely.
4. In your opinion, how different is teleconsultation from a physical consultation?
Dr Thian: The difference lies in the fact that teleconsultation cannot perform physical examination of the patient. This means certain conditions (especially emergency ones) are ruled out for teleconsultation. Some patients also prefer face-to-face interaction with a doctor as their physical presence reassures them.
Having said that, teleconsultation is versatile enough to diagnose a range of non-emergency illnesses (eg. UTI, cold, menstrual cramps, sore throat, etc) remotely.
In fact, teleconsultation may be suitable for patients with chronic illnesses (eg. diabetes, hypertension, etc) that are already well-controlled and routinely followed-up on. In such cases, doctors can teleconsult with patients to check in on them regularly and prescribe their usual medication which is then delivered to the patients.
5. How have you used teleconsultation in your course of work? Have you rejected any cases before?
Dr Thian: Using teleconsultation, I have seen a number of patients with common illnesses like upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, headaches, and menstrual pains. I’ve also used teleconsultation to review health screening results with patients – that’s a major time-saver for patients!
There were definitely teleconsultations that I’ve rejected. I’ve had one patient calling in for chest pains and another for breathing difficulties. These symptoms may point to something more serious and so a physical consultation is recommended. For patients who reported prolonged symptoms that are not getting any better, I would also advise them to see me in the clinic.
6. How would you advise someone who is keen to try out teleconsultation for the first time?
Dr Thian: Make sure you have a smartphone and stable Internet connection to teleconsult (video-call). Once you’ve downloaded the Doctor World app, be sure to create your own account (no sharing of accounts) so that your consultation history will be saved in your account. Creating an account is free by the way. When teleconsulting, if you have some basic medical equipment (eg. thermometer, blood pressure monitoring machine, torch), let that doctor know as they may come in handy.
Thank you so much, Dr Thian!
Dr Thian is a Singapore-licensed GP with his practice in Raffles Medical White Sands. When not in the clinic, he can be found in his kitchen baking with his 2-year-old, or by his computer doing some programming.
To book a teleconsultation session with Dr Thian, you may make use of the “Search Doctor” function in our Doctor World app to do so: