The Complete Guide To Seeing An Eye Specialist In Singapore (2019)

The Complete Guide To Seeing An Eye Specialist In Singapore (2019) undefined
Table Of Contents

As an eye doctor practising for more than 25 years, I’ve written this guide for Singaporeans who are looking for an Opthalmologist in Singapore. 

Most of us would agree that our eyes are our most treasured asset. Indeed most of us cannot imagine a life without sight!

However, as we age, some of us may experience eye problems such as

  • blurry vision
  • floaters
  • unexplained tearing
  • or eye pain
that will require the attention of an eye doctor.
 
This post covers all the topics I'm asked about most, such as:
  1. When to see an opthalmologist versus optometrist versus optician
  2. Which type of eye doctor to see 
  3. Private vs public eye clinics in Singapore, such as the SNEC
  4. How much it costs to see an eye specialist in Singapore
  5. How to pick the best eye doctor for your needs
Also read:

What are the different eye care providers in Singapore?

Broadly classified, there are 3 main eye care providers: namely the ophthalmologist, the optometrist & the optician.

1. Ophthalmologists in Singapore

Ophtalmologists can perform LASIK surgery

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has completed specialist training in the field of ophthalmology. You may simply call him or her the “eye doctor” or “eye specialist”.

All ophthalmologists are registered with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and are trained in the medical and surgical care of the eye diseases.

With the advancement of medicine, most ophthalmologists in Singapore will have their own niche area of sub-specialisation.

Common ophthalmology sub-specialisations are:

  1. Refractive surgery, for correcting common refractive errors such as myopia, astigmatism and “lao hua” (middle-age farsightedness)
  2. Glaucoma
  3. Retina
  4. Paediatric Ophthalmology
  5. Oculo-plastic, for repair of traumatic eyelid and orbital facial injuries and also cosmetic eyelid and orbit surgeries

2. Optometrists in Singapore

optometrist

Optometrists are eye care providers who are not medical doctors. However, they are also trained professionals who have undergone college and/or university training in the related field of optometry.

Common reasons to see an optometrist include:

  1. performing eye tests
  2. fitting and prescribing spectacles and contact lenses
  3. screening for common eye disorders

In cases where eye disease is detected or suspected, the optometrist would refer the patient to an ophthalmologist for further management.

Currently, recognised qualifications in Singapore for optometry are diplomas awarded by Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Parkway College.

3. Opticians in Singapore

Opticians are eye care providers who are not medical doctors. They are trained eye care providers skilled to fit and dispense spectacles by interpreting prescriptions provided to them by eye specialists and optometrists.

Under local regulations, they cannot prescribe or fit contact lenses.

Currently, recognised qualifications in Singapore for opticians are Advanced Certificate of Performance in Ophthalmic Dispensing (ACOPOD) and Advanced Certificate of Performance in Ophthalmic Dispensing and Refraction (ACOPOD+R) awarded by Singapore Polytechnic.

You can find out more about the differences between Opthalmologists, Optometrists, and Opticians here. Of note, all 3 professions require licensing by the Ministry of Health in Singapore.

“Do I need to see an Opthamologist or Optometrist in Singapore?”

In general, if you are known to have a medical condition such as:

  • glaucoma
  • macular degeneration
  • cataracts
it's important to seek care from an opthamologist.
 

However, if your eyes and vision are healthy, it's perfectly okay to seek out either a optometrist or opthalmologist.

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists perform routine eye exams and are trained to detect and diagnose eye disease. 

LASIK or cataracts? Different opthalmologists in Singapore may provide better treatment for different conditions

As mentioned earlier, there are different "types" of subspecialties within the field of opthalmology.

Why did this happen?

Well, your eye is such a complex structure that subspecialisations enables ophthalmologists to provide better and up-to-date management for patients who have complex eye conditions.

For example, when it comes to LASIK, it's useful to check if your eye doctor received subspecialty training in refractive surgery. 

Similarly, for cataracts and glaucoma, it's useful to check if your eye doctor received subspecialty training in retina surgeries.

Other sub-specialisations include:
  • vitreo-retina
  • glaucoma
  • cornea
  • paediatric ophthalmology
  • strabismology
  • oculoplastic surgery
  • refractive surgery
  • neuro-ophthalmology
  • ocular inflammatory diseases
  • medical retina

“Should I go to an eye doctor in a private or public eye clinic, such as the SNEC?"

The difference between choosing to see an eye specialist in the public or private sector in Singapore comes mainly down to cost and convenience.

1. Seeing an ophthalmologist at a public eye clinic (eg. SNEC) – as a subsidised patient

If cost is the main concern, you may want to opt to see an eye specialist at a public hospital such as the SNEC (Singapore National Eye Centre) using the subsidised route.

To do that, you will first need to visit your neighbourhood government polyclinic and see the medical doctor there. Do let the doctor know that you wish to see an eye specialist at a public hospital and he will provide you with the referral letter that you require.

The staff at the polyclinic can help you arrange for an appointment with an eye specialist at a public hospital. In general, the waiting time to see an eye specialist at a public hospital can vary between a few weeks to 3 months.

You'll not be able to choose your preferred eye doctor

It is important to note that if you choose the subsidised route, you will not be able to choose your preferred doctor and that you may not see the same doctor for your follow up visits.

In other words, public hospitals are staffed by doctors with a wide range of differing experience.

Therefore, your doctor could be:

  1. a trainee medical officer
  2. registrar
  3. consultant
  4. or a senior consultant

Additional savings

If you have a Pioneer Generation (PG) or Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) card, you may enjoy up to 50% savings off the published consultation rates.

If you have the Merdeka Generation card, you may also enjoy an additional 25% savings off the published rates, on top of your CHAS discount.

For savings on surgeries, you will have to check with the respective hospital staff on the subsidies for your specified surgical procedure.

2. Seeing an ophthalmologist at a public hospital – as a private (non-subsidised) patient

If you would like to choose your eye doctor and see the same doctor for all your visits, you will need to opt for the non-subsidised (private) route at the public hospital.

However, you should be aware that you will no longer enjoy government subsidies. The cost may end up almost on par with the rates of independent eye clinics in private practice (see cost table below).

3. Seeing an ophthalmologist in a private eye clinic in Singapore

If cost is not a major concern but convenience is, you may prefer to visit an eye specialist in a private eye clinic.

Doing so will mean a shorter waiting time, and being able to choose the doctor you would like to see.

Simply call up the clinic and the staff will be able to give you an appointment with your preferred doctor within a day or two. Most private clinics are also able to accept walk-in patients too.

In Singapore, private eye specialists are generally consultants who have chalked up more than 10 years of experience working in public hospitals, who have then gone on establish their own private eye clinic.

“How much does it cost to see an ophthalmologist in Singapore?”

Asian woman seeing an ophthalmologist

 Public HospitalsPrivate Clinics
 SubsidisedPrivate (Non-subsidised)-
First Consultation

$37 (SG citizen)

$56 (SG PR)

$100 - $130$100 - $300
Follow-up Consult

$37 (SG citizen)

$56 (SG PR)

 $70 - $120$80 - $150
Process to get appointment

Polyclinic referral

Private GP referralDirect
Waiting time for appointment

3 - 6 months

1 - 2 monthsWithin 1 week
Eye Tests   
Tonometry$10 - $30$30 - $50$30 - $50
Biometry$30 - $50$100$100 - $250
OCT$30 - $50$80 - $100$100 - $250
Eye Procedures   
LASIK-$3,500 - $4,500
PRK, EpiLASIK, TransPRK-$3,800 - $5,000
ReLEx SMILE-$5,000 - $6,000
Cataract Surgery$800 - $1,200$4,000 - $6,000$4,000 - $8,000

“Can the cost of my eye visit be covered by MediSave and/or MediShield?”

MediSave

MediSave is a national medical savings scheme in Singapore where you contribute a portion of your monthly salary to your MediSave Account as part of your Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution. It should not be confused with insurance.

In general, eye consultation costs cannot be covered by MediSave.

Eye surgery costs however, can be covered for both public and private practice. Common MediSave-claimable eye surgeries are:

  1. Removal of pinguecula (Conjunctiva)
  2. Removal of limbic tumor (Conjunctiva)
  3. Retina tear laser
  4. Cataract surgery, also read: "How much Medisave or subsidies can I claim for cataract surgery in Singapore?"
  5. Cornea transplant

Generally speaking, MediSave should be able to cover most of your surgery cost in a public hospital.

In the private sector, you may also use MediSave to cover a portion of the surgery cost. For example, the most common eye surgery – cataract surgery – can be covered with Medisave for up to $2,150 per eye of the cost.

For laser vision correction (Lasik) procedures, it is usually considered a cosmetic procedure and is generally not MediSave claimable.

However, if the difference between the degree in your left and right eye is more than 300 degrees, it is considered a medical condition and you may use MediSave to claim up to $1,250 per eye of the cost.

Also read: "Can I use Medisave for LASIK in Singapore?"

MediShield Life

MediShield is a basic healthcare insurance scheme, also administered by the CPF Board, to help Singaporeans cope with sudden, large hospital bills. Your MediShield Life insurance premiums are usually paid using your MediSave. It is usually used to cover B2 or C ward hospital stays and selected costly outpatient treatments, such as cataract surgery.

You may use your MediShield Life insurance to claim up to $1,150 per eye of your cataract surgery cost, on top of your MediSave claims.

Thus, if you are going for a cataract operation for one eye, you may claim up to $2,150 from MediSave and up to $1,150 from MediShield Life. This applies to both the public and private sector.

“What about private medical insurance? Can my insurance cover the treatment cost?”

Private insurance coverage depends on the medical insurance policy you buy.

In general, most medical insurance policies only covers for eye operation procedures, be it an out-patient or in- patient procedure, but does not cover for eye consultation visits.

In any case, you will need to check with your insurance provider on the amount you can claim for your specified procedure.

If you are under a corporate group insurance scheme, eye consultation visits can be covered as a staff welfare benefit. You will have to check with your company on what the medical coverage entails.

“What if I have an emergency eye problem?”

Street night blurry vision

Emergency eye problems include:

  1. sudden loss in vision
  2. seeing floaters
  3. seeing flashes of light
  4. or severe eye pain
Should you experience one of these eye problems, this demands urgent attention.
 

If this occurs during office hours, your best option is to go to an ophthalmologist that you know. Alternatively, do a Google search to find the nearest eye specialist where the doctor is able to see you immediately.

If emergency eye problems occur after office hours, you may go down to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department of any major government or private hospital. You should speak to the nursing officer in charge and inform them you have an emergency eye problem and wish to see an eye specialist urgently.

Accidents & Emergencies (A&E) Departments in Singapore

Public HospitalAddress Phone
11 Third Hospital Ave, Singapore 16875162277255
SNEC Eye Clinic @ Changi General Hospital (CGH)

2 Simei Street 3, Singapore 529889

 
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)11 Jln Tan Tock Seng, Singapore 30843362566011
NUH Eye Centre5 Lower Kent Ridge Road, NUH Medical Centre, Singapore 11970467722002
Ng Teng Fong General Hospital1 Jurong East Street 21 Singapore 60960667162000
 
 
Private HospitalAddress 

3 Mt Elizabeth, Singapore 228510

67355000

38 Irrawaddy Road, Singapore 329563

68986898

321 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427990

63773737

6A Napier Road, Singapore 258500

64737222

1 Farrer Park Station Road, 01 Connexion, Singapore 217562

63631818
 

820 Thomson Road, Singapore 574623

63476688
 

555 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188770

 
63111111

“How do I find the best eye specialist for me in Singapore?”

If you don’t already have an eye specialist whom you see regularly, consider choosing an eye specialist who is:

  1. Highly recommended by friends and family. If you have an eye doctor that comes highly recommended by your loved ones, you may consider seeing him or her. 
  2. Highly recommended by healthcare professionals. If you know of anyone working in the healthcare sector such as nurses, optometrists or opticians they would be privy to insider information of the competence of eye doctors.
  3. Trained in the particular sub-specialty that you have an eye problem in. In general, all ophthalmologists are trained to see a wide range of common eye problems such as cataracts. However, if your eye problems fall into a specific sub-specialty category e.g. laser refractive surgery, cornea, retina etc, you may want to look for an eye specialist in that field.
  4. Practising for more than 10 years. For medicine, there’s no substitute for experience so in general, you are always on the right track when you look for an eye specialist who is more senior. In general, most private eye specialists in Singapore are already doctors with over 10 years of experience working in a public hospital prior to setting up their own private clinic.
At the end of the day, choose an eye specialist with a good reputation that you feel comfortable with.

After one or two visits to the eye specialist, you will be able to tell if there is good rapport and whether you are confident that the doctor can treat your eye conditions and give you the best visual outcomes.

Even if no eye complaints arise, it is always a good habit to visit your eye doctor at least once a year. This is to ensure that your eyes are healthy and well, especially if you are over the age of forty or if you have family history of eye disease.
 

Here’s wishing you the best of sight!


Dr Tony Ho is an ophthalmologist at Eye Care Clinic in Mount Elizabeth Hospital. With more than two decades of experience, Dr Tony Ho has been a respected figure in the Singapore ophthalmology and refractive surgery fields. Dr Ho has published numerous books, of which The Complete Eye Care Book in 1994 received a National Book Development Council Award and sold out its published run.
5312 views 25 Jun 2019 Medically reviewed by Dr Tony Ho on 15 Oct 2019.
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Disclaimer: Any answers provided are for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.

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Disclaimer: Any answers provided are for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.

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