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Table 1 Comparison of private general practitioner clinics and government-run polyclinics in Singapore

From: Primary care characteristics and their association with health screening in a low-socioeconomic status public rental-flat population in Singapore- a mixed methods study

Primary care characteristics Private general practitioner (GP) clinic Government-run polyclinic (Primary care clinic)
Service provision:
Number of clinics [9] ~2000 clinics nation-wide 18 government polyclinics
Percentage of primary healthcare visits (acute and chronic conditions) [10] 80 % of primary healthcare visits 20 % of primary healthcare visits
Percentage of primary healthcare visits for chronic disease [10] 55 % of primary healthcare visits for chronic disease 45 % of primary healthcare visits for chronic disease
Services provided [9] Comprising solo, small group or large health care group practices. Usually do not possess onsite investigative and laboratory services. Community Health Centres provide off-site ancillary support services to GPs without full facilities. Complete range of medical care for both acute and chronic medical conditions, including health screening, outpatient medical care, x-ray and laboratory services
Availability of cancer and cardiovascular screening [32] Blood pressure screening and fasting blood tests for diabetes/dyslipidemia are widely available. All screening tests generally available.
Not all polyclinics have mammography facilities; sometimes referred to more central polyclinics.
Mammograms are usually by referral to off-site facilities.
Provision of pap smear/fecal occult blood test varies.
Characteristics of primary care:
Availability of subsidised care [9, 33] Usually unsubsidised. Singapore citizens above 65 receive up to 75 % concessions in consultation and treatment fees, while all other Singapore citizens are given a 50 % concession
However, under the Community Health Assist Scheme, those eligible get 80–$120 subsidy per visit for chronic diseases; free screening tests; and $18.50 subsidy per visit for doctor’s consultation for health screening.
Continuity of care [9] Greater continuity of care as usually one main family physician at private clinics Patients are usually assigned any doctor from a common group of medical officers and family physicians.
They may also choose to see the doctors from the Family Physician Clinic in the polyclinic which ensures them care continuity from the same doctor, but at a higher rate.
Patient load [10] Around 30 patients/day for each doctor Around 58 patients/day for each doctor
Wait time [34] Wait time for registration and consultation is usually around 5–10 min Wait time at registration can range from 13 to 69 min; wait time for consultation can range from 43 to 112 min
24 h coverage [9] Some GPs may offer 24 h coverage Do not offer 24 h coverage. Patients may visit 24 h A&E (accident and emergency) departments when necessary.
Geographical proximity Most public housing estates have at least one GP clinic within walking distance. Patients usually have to travel about 3 km to the nearest polyclinic. There may be shuttle services provided from nearby transport nodes (eg. bus interchanges/train stations).
Densities of GP clinics may be lower in less mature estates.
Usage of traditional/alternative medicine [16] Generally not provided. Generally not provided.
Traditional Chinese medicine is provided at separately licensed traditional Chinese medicine practitioners; not subsidised by the public healthcare system. Traditional Chinese medicine is provided at separately licensed traditional Chinese medicine practitioners; not subsidised by the public healthcare system.
Communication barriers [16] Usually less difficulties with communication as GPs are based in the neighbourhood and thus may have a better knowledge of their community. As the polyclinics may be located at a distance from patients’ homes, the doctors at the polyclinic may not know so much detail about patients’ communities.
In addition, some of the doctors at the polyclinic may be foreign-trained and have some communication difficulties with the local language.