I'm writing this post because "recommend me a good dermatologist in Singapore" is one of the questions I'm most often asked by friends - Now I can just direct them to this post.
Incidentally, "dermatologist Singapore" is also one of the most Googled terms in Singapore, receiving over 3700 searches each month - so I figured I'd just help everyone else out by explaining in detail how to find a suitable dermatologist for your condition and treatment needs in Singapore.
Training to be a dermatologist in Singapore
First, a bit of context. In Singapore, training to become a dermatology specialist requires an additional 6 years after completing med school - this comprises:
- 3 years of internal medicine training
- 3 years of advanced specialist training in dermatology
Almost every dermatologist in Singapore will have spent a significant amount of time at the National Skin Centre as part of their training. Others are rotated across various teaching hospitals, such as SGH, NUH, and CGH.
At the end of 6 years, they exit the training programme as an associate consultant.
The private versus public dermatologist route in Singapore
As with most medical specialties in Singapore, the tradeoff between choosing the public and private route is primarily one of time and convenience, versus costs.
It's always quicker seeing a dermatologist in private practice - clinic front desks are normally happy to give you an appointment within 1 to 2 days. Most accept walk in patients too.
On the other hand, the wait time to see a dermatologist under subsidised care at the National Skin Centre (NSC) can take up to 4 - 6 weeks, and they do not accept walk ins.
Of course, you also have the option to see a NSC dermatologist via the unsubsidised "private route". This allows you to:
- Choose and follow up with the same dermatologist
- Get a quicker appointment date
Protip: If you decide to see a dermatologist for a skin rash via the public route, it'd help to take a photo of your rash :-) I can't count the number of times I've seen a patient who had perfectly normal-looking skin by the time they showed up 4 weeks later. Unfortunately, doctors aren't mind-readers!
How much does it cost to see a dermatologist in Singapore?
Private dermatologists typically charge about $120 - $140 for a first consultation.
Medications will typically add on another $150 - $300 in total to your final bill.
At the NSC, the subsidised rates for seeing a dermatologist are as follows:
|Consultation||Singapore Citizen||Singapore PR|
|Follow-up Consultation||$34 .00||$51.00|
Even if you go as a new patient via a polyclinic referral, rest assured that a consultant will still be seeing you on your first visit. However, you'll usually first be seen by a Medical Officer beforehand (it is a teaching hospital, after all).
If you chose to see a dermatologist at the NSC via the private route, the rates are adjusted according to the seniority of the doctor:
|First Consultation||Resident||Non Resident|
How much does it cost to see a dermatologist for skin procedures in Singapore (eg. mole excision, laser treatment, etc)
Skin procedures are costly in Singapore because they are almost always deemed to be cosmetic, and hence not eligible for any subsidies or Medisave claims. Multiple treatment sessions are also frequently required for the best results, which means that your bill can quickly add up.
For cosmetic skin procedures, there are minimal differences in costs between going to see a public dermatologist, or one in private practice. Examples would include:
- Fractional lasers for acne scars
- Chemical peels
- Mole removal (for cosmetic purposes)
- Pigmentation, melasma, and birthmark removal
You can refer to this article on aesthetic treatment and costs in Singapore to get a better idea of the average price ranges.
Certain skin procedures at the NSC MAY be eligible for subsidies or Medisave Claims if there is a medical need. One example would be a suspicious mole that needs to be removed and sent for a biopsy to rule out cancer.
Unfortunately, this is determined on a case by case basis - the dermatologist you consult will decide if there is a medical need for you to undergo the procedure.
How do you get a subsidy for seeing a dermatologist in Singapore?
To qualify for subsidised care to see a dermatologist, you need to:
- Be a Singaporean or a Permanent Resident (holding a Singapore NRIC), and
- Obtain a referral letter from a Polyclinic, or from an SAF medical officer/camp
Patients who do NOT qualify for any subsidies at the NSC include:
- All foreigners
- Those referred to see a specific dermatologist
- Referrals made by a private doctor or private hospital
Common skin conditions (eg. eczema, skin allergies, acne) can be adequately managed by polyclinic GPs at nominal fees. Polyclinics also stock most of the medications given for these conditions.
However, if your skin condition isn't responding to treatment, or if they deem it necessary, polyclinic doctors will refer you on to see a dermatologist at the NSC. The NSC and private dermatologists generally offer a much wider range of treatment modalities and medications for various skin conditions.
What are the types of dermatologists in Singapore?
This is perhaps a gross oversimplification, but there are 2 main "types" of dermatologists in Singapore -
1. Dermatologists with a focus/interest in medical dermatology. They are vastly experienced at diagnosing and managing skin disease such as:
- Skin cancers
- Paediatric dermatology
- Autoimmune skin conditions
- Skin allergies
- Hair loss
- Nail disorders
2. Cosmetic dermatologists. These are dermatologists who focus mainly on providing aesthetic skin treatments, such as:
As a rule of thumb, dermatologists at the NSC generally belong to the first category. However, there are senior dermatologists at the NSC who also provide cosmetic dermatology services via the private Procedure Suites section of the hospital.
On the other hand, private dermatologists usually provide some degree of overlap in services - ie they see medical dermatology patients, AND provide cosmetic skin treatment.
Not many Singaporeans know this, but dermatologists in Singapore are also trained to diagnose and manage sexually transmitted disease (STDs) - the DSC Clinic (Department of STI Control) is fully staffed, and run by dermatologists. Just in case you were wondering as to the link between dermatologists and STDs, it's because many STDs commonly present with skin rashes as one of the first signs (eg. genital warts, HIV, and syphilis).
How to find a good dermatologist in Singapore for your needs?
First of all, you may want to find out whether the doctor you're considering is indeed a dermatology specialist. It's easy to check their specialist status on this website. Some doctors possess a Diploma in Dermatology - this is not the same as a specialist qualification, which requires a much longer training period.
As explained earlier, other factors to take into consideration are:
- Time/convenience versus cost (public vs private route)
- Purpose (medical vs cosmetic dermatology)
- Type of skin procedure required (some clinics do not offer specific types of treatment or machines)
With this information in hand, you can then call the practice directly to enquire about the treatment you desire.
At your consultation, do see if you are able to form a good rapport with the dermatologist. Ultimately, I feel that the key factor to receiving the best treatment is in finding a doctor whom you can trust, and are able to communicate well with.
I've probably rambled on a little too long by now, but I hope that this post has at least provided you with an overview to the process of finding, and seeing a good dermatologist in Singapore.