Dr Siew Tuck Wah: Wrong approach to reduce patients to dollars and cents


healthcare-dollars cents

When reading about cousins Mr Terence Loh and Mr Nelson Loh, I was struck by how many times they referred to patients as “databases”, and how they stated that their end game was to “monetise” this database (Cousins who gave up banking for beauty (sector); July 31).

Healthcare is a unique sector – one that must have people at its core.

When you start thinking of your patients as database dollars and cents, you take the most important things out of healthcare – the heart, soul and, most importantly, ethics of it.

The report also mentioned that the cousins’ strategies to cut costs and attract customers with lower price points include axing doctors from the field of medical aesthetics.

It is true that anyone can operate a laser or perform a filler injection. But not everyone can perform them safely while giving the best results.

It requires years of practice and intimate anatomical knowledge to do them correctly.

In China alone, more than 100 cases of blindness from filler injections have been reported over the last few years. Most of these were performed by non-doctors.

Similarly, laser procedures also seem easy, but require proper expertise.

I have seen many cases of complications in people who underwent laser procedures at beauty salons or less-ethical establishments.

They were lured by cheap prices and the promise that the procedure was mild and safe.

But lasers, no matter how mild, can cause side effects. These patients were left with unsightly mottling and scarring of the skin, which may take years to reverse.

The only way to succeed in the healthcare industry is to genuinely care for every single patient.

They are customers, but unlike in other industries, the relationship between doctor and patient is very different.

Once you see patients only as numbers, the medical industry will degenerate into one concerned only with profits.

This is something I am sure patients do not want.

Siew Tuck Wah (Dr)


My letter to the Straits Times Forum, published on 3 Aug 2017.