The Singapore public healthcare system has increasingly used the term “right-siting” to describe the principle that stable chronic disease patients should be managed in primary care rather than specialist settings. The majority of primary healthcare providers in Singapore are general practitioners (GPs). The aims of this paper were to measure the quality of diabetes care in specialist and GP settings, and assess right-siting efforts in a tertiary centre in Singapore. Three hundred eighty-three consecutive patients with type 2 diabetes referred to the Singapore General Hospital Diabetes Centre (SGH DBC) between January and March 2005 were analysed. At the first visit, 51 patients (13.3%) were classified as inappropriate referrals and discharged back to the referral source or to primary care. After 12 months, 136 patients (group A = 35.5%) remained on follow-up at SGH DBC. In these patients, significant improvements were seen in mean HbA1c but not blood pressure (BP) or low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C). One hundred twenty-eight (group B = 33.4%) patients were discharged from DBC within the 12 months of the study period. Mean follow-up duration in group B was 5.5 months and HbA1c, blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol had improved significantly in these patients. Glycaemic control of group B patients at the time of discharge was significantly better than group A at 12 months (mean HbA1c = 7.15% vs 8.16%; P 30% of patients remained in SGH DBC despite achieving HbA1C targets. Our results indicate the need for better strategies to address the underlying obstacles to right-siting. Of greater concern, the lack of improvement in BP and LDL-C indicates a high degree of clinical inertia to these issues among specialists and GPs treating diabetes in Singapore.
The long lasting debate on the role of generalists and specialists in the management of diabetes is still ongoing. Nonetheless, the last 3 decades have seen the increasing shift of chronic disease management from specialist outpatient clinic-based to more general practice-based services.
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