This author doctor has chosen to stay anonymous.Under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, doctors can be warned, fined or suspended if they position themselves as an expert above their peers. Doctors also cannot use before/after photos in the article or state their preferences towards specific methods or techniques. The strict laws help uphold the repute of Singapore’s private healthcare scene and we strongly support it. Due to this, some doctors choose to stay anonymous so they can write more informative pieces.
Click To Check Price of visiting a dermatologist in Singapore
We, dermatologists, have a shared identity – as your first step forward in the long, winding road of skincare. This is true especially here in Singapore, where skincare is a necessity thanks to the tropical climate, which often leaves our skin feeling dry.
Dermatologist Specialist Training in Singapore
I was pretty excited to have finally graduated from med school – until I realised that to specialise in dermatology here in Singapore, it requires at least 6 years of specialist training post-graduation. That’s 3 years of training in internal medicine plus another 3 years of advanced dermatology specialist training. This means that nearly all dermatologists in Singapore have trained at the National Skin Centre (NSC) for at least a few years. Once specialist training for dermatology is completed, they are now recognised as associate consultants in dermatology.
Choosing a Private or Public Dermatologist
Pros and Cons
When choosing a good dermatologist in Singapore, you have two options – whether to see a dermatologist in private practice or go and consult with a dermatologist in a public hospital such as the NSC. Each of the two options has its pros and cons, specifically in the aspects of cost, time, and convenience.
If you decide to go the private route, the one advantage is that it much, much easier and quicker to see a dermatologist in private practice. In these clinics, usually, an appointment can be given in as fast as 1 to 3 days. There are even doctors who accept walk-in patients as long as they can fit in their schedule. The only downside is that private doctors usually charge more for their services (as much as 2 to 4 times more) than doctors in public hospitals. If money isn’t much of an issue, or if you value your convenience and time more, then finding a dermatologist in private practice is your best bet.
Your other option is to look for a good dermatologist in a public hospital or clinic, such as the NSC. The total costs for appointment and treatment are subsidised, which means that costs are about 40 to 60% cheaper compared to private clinics. The downside is that wait times are longer. Appointments are usually set a month or more after and they don’t accept walk-in patients. Because of this, one tip I give my patients and friends is to take a picture of the skin condition when it appears. There are times where a patient’s skin will look perfectly normal during the appointment day but then show up again afterwards. It is important to collect as much information as you can for you and your dermatologist’s convenience.
There is the option of setting up an appointment with an NSC dermatologist (or any other public dermatologist) without the subsidies and it’s pretty much an identical process.
Consultation, Medication and Other Fees
For a first-time consultation with a private dermatologist practice, it costs about $110 to $150, which is affordable. Follow-up consultations cost cheaper at about $100 to $140 per follow-up appointment. Including medication, a visit to a dermatologist in private clinics will cost you about $300 or more in total, which is not the best option if you are price-sensitive.
If you’re consulting with a dermatologist in a public hospital such as the NSC, due to subsidies it would cost you about $35 to $60 for a first-time consultation, which is the best price, I would say. Then, follow-up consultations run about $3 to $5 cheaper. Drugs and medication are also subsidised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and would cost you a fraction of the price compared to buying from a private pharmacy or clinic. Total costs of consultation plus medication would be about $100 to $200. As you can see, this proves to be much less expensive than the other option.
Procedure and Treatment Costs
Whether or not you are eligible for subsidies or Medisave claims on skin procedures and treatments depends on the assessment of your problem. Unfortunately, if it is deemed a purely cosmetic procedure by the MOH, you will not be given any subsidies. This drives the costs of procedures and treatments up and would almost always comprise the bulk of your total costs. The procedure or treatment cost difference between a public or private dermatologist is negligible. My best advice is to choose a hospital or clinic that has a good and proven track record with the procedure of your choosing. These procedures or treatments include:
However, if your procedure is deemed by the hospital or clinic to be a necessary one, then subsidies and claims may be given on a case to case basis.
Obtaining Subsidies for Public Dermatologists
There are two requirements for you to be qualified for medical subsidies in Singapore:
First, you must be a Singaporean citizen or a permanent resident (PR). Secondly, you have to acquire a referral letter from a polyclinic.
If you are:
- a foreigner,
- referred to consult with a specific dermatologist, or
- referred by a private doctor, hospital or clinic
then you do not meet the requirements for medical subsidies.
Polyclinics and polyclinic GPs (general practitioners) are equipped to treat and manage common skin disorders such as allergies, acne and eczema. They also usually have the proper medication needed to treat these skin conditions.
For more serious skin conditions (e.g., skin cancers or melanoma) however, the polyclinic may refer you to consult with an NSC dermatologist. The National Skin Centre are much more experienced in dealing with skin diseases and conditions and can offer treatments and procedures that are unavailable in polyclinics.
Types of Dermatologists in Singapore
There are 2 main categories of dermatologists here in Singapore:
- Dermatologists that focus on medical dermatology. These dermatologists are the ones that have a lot of knowledge and experience when it comes to diagnosing, managing and treating skin diseases and conditions such as:
- Skin Cancers
- Pediatric Dermatology
- Skin allergies
- Autoimmune skin disorders
- Hair loss
- Cosmetic Dermatologists. These dermatologists focus on providing cosmetic procedures and treatments for various aesthetic problems. Usually, their clinics provide at least one of the following services to their clients:
- Thread Lifts
- Excision Surgery
- Laser Surgery
Usually, there is a lot of overlap between these two categories, with a lot of dermatologists being able to help with skin disorders or cosmetic skin matters. More often than not though, doctors specialise in one of these to be able to give their patients the best care and treatment for the patient’s specific problem/s.
Dermatologists at the National Skin Centre usually belong to the first category, but a lot of them also provide cosmetic services for their patients. Dermatologists in private practice are more varied with plenty of them offering both services to their clients.
Q: When should I go to a dermatologist?
A: It’s hard to cover everything, but here are a few pointers. You ought to check in with a dermatologist if you have a new rash, you suffer from excessive sweating, your cheeks are always red, or if you notice that one of your moles has changed. Another reason to get on the phone and schedule an appointment is if it has been more than a year since your last consultation.
Q: What shall I expect from my check-up?
A: Every visit will be different and will generally depend on why you are there. You can expect the doctor to look at all parts, even the private ones if the situation calls for it. Remember that you have skin all over the body... On that note, you will probably be prompted to take your clothes off and put on a gown so it’s easier to get examined from head to toe. The physician will ask about your medical history and encourage you to ask questions. The whole visit will last no more than 10-15-minutes.
Q: How much do I tell my dermatologist?
A: First, make sure to answer honestly their questions. If you lie about how much you drink or smoke, or whether you take any supplements and medications, it will impede the specialist’s judgement of the situation. This will only worsen your case. Second, prepare a list of things you’ve tried to improve your condition if that’s the case you’re visiting. Don’t forget to add the skin products you’re currently using. Also, mention any allergies you know of, procedures you’ve had recently, and so on.
Q: What are some tips to remember everything the doctor tells me?
A: It is estimated that patients recall about 49% of the information they obtain from their medical encounters. They forget the other half the minute they walk out of the exam room. If this tells you anything, it’s that you are more than likely to repeat the established pattern - memorise only a small part of the content. How do you fix that?
Just bring in a friend or relative with you so they will remember some of the info for you. Another smart move is to write it all down. That’s right, use good old handwriting or, if you are a digital fellow, transfer everything on whatever gadget you have at hand. Your smartphone will make do.
Q: And what if I don’t understand what they are saying?
A: Doctors use medical jargon when talking to one another, but when they have to communicate some info to patients, they usually resort to everyday talk. Still, if something is unclear to you, don’t let it sink into oblivion. Speak up. Ask the practitioner to explain it in plain language.
Q: What questions should I ask my dermatologist on my next appointment?
A: If you don’t have any complaints and are just doing a routine examination, you can still request information. Here are some examples: “How can I prevent blemishes?”, “Is this condition serious?”, Which cream is good for my skin type?”, “How often shall I exfoliate?”, “What diet should I follow for better skin?”, and “Which SPF shall I wear?” The list goes on.
Q: When is a mole really a concern? When should I talk to a medical professional about it?
A: If a mole stays the same over time, then there is nothing to worry about. You should have it addressed if changes its shape or colour, or if it grows bigger.
Q: What are some reasons to remove a mole other than a melanoma?
A: If a mole looks unappealing to you or it gets easily irritated, you might want to consider eliminating it.
Tips on Choosing the Right Dermatologist for You
So now that I’ve introduced some general heuristics towards understanding dermatologists in Singapore, such as their specialisation training and their categories, here are a few tips to help you to find good dermatologists suitable for you:
- Determine whether the doctor is, in fact, a dermatology specialist. There are some doctors that have a Diploma in Dermatology, which is different from having a specialist qualification. Becoming a dermatology specialist requires a lengthy training period. One way to check is by going to the Dermatological Society of Singapore website and looking for the doctor’s name in their list of members.
- Weigh the pros and cons of choosing a public vs. a private dermatologist. Make a decision about which of money or time/convenience is more important to you. If you value money more, then check if you are qualified for subsidies and set up an appointment with public dermatologists. If you prefer more convenient and faster appointments, you might prefer a dermatologist from private practice.
- Determine whether you need a cosmetic dermatologist or a medical dermatologist. Depending on your purpose for looking for a dermatologist, choose one who has specialised experience. There are a lot of cosmetic dermatologists if you want to have better skin, whereas if you need to manage a specific skin disease or disorder you have to search for doctors who have a history in dealing with the specific skin problem.
- Choose a dermatologist whose clinic offers the skin procedure that you need. Dermatology clinics offer a variety of different skin treatments and procedures, but not all of them have the specific treatment or procedure that you want. Call their clinic or check their website if they offer the type of treatment you require.
- Choose a dermatologist that you can communicate well with. During a consultation, observe if your dermatologist can talk to you easily about advice and can also listen well to your needs. It is important to form a good rapport with each other to build trust. This is probably one of the most important albeit underrated traits that a person needs from his/her dermatologist (or any doctor in general) – an ability to communicate well with his/her patient.
That’s basically it. Hopefully, you’ll be more than equipped with the requisite info to find the dermatologist who can solve all your skincare needs!