After a day’s hard work in Singapore, you return to the tranquillity of your home. But in the dead of night, you or someone you care about is feeling really sick. You don’t think that your medicine cabinet has anything that might help, and your family’s General Practitioner has long gone to bed. What do you do?
Fortunately, there is an emergency care service in Singapore that will come to your rescue at any hour to provide timely care when you need it the most; all you have to do is reach out. It is the one and only – Urgent Care Clinic International.
Urgent Care Clinic International (UCC) provides healthcare for anyone in need of urgent treatment for non-life-threatening illnesses, injuries, infections, and pain. The clinic provides treatment and care for children as well as the elderly.
In the following interview, Dr. Cheah Si Oon, the Medical Director of Urgent Care Clinic International, tells us the story of UCC and shares some insights from the world of urgent care services.
Please brief our audience about your organization, its values, mission, and the aspects that make it a leader in providing quality urgent care services.
We are the first private urgent care provider in Singapore, led by a team of specialist emergency physicians, pediatricians, and emergency nurses. Our Core Value is to provide specialist-level care that is fast, personalized, and affordable.
What are the services offered by your organization that give it a leading edge from the competition?
We provide high-level medical care with specialists and staff who have years of experience working in busy tertiary hospital emergency departments. We are equipped with state-of-the-art portable equipment, and this allows us to perform rapid bedside investigations to quickly diagnose and treat many urgent medical problems.
This also allows us to provide specialist-level urgent care right in the patient’s home and in the field. We also provide phone triage and advice to right-site medical emergencies to hospitals where appropriate. Together with our extensive network of medical and surgical specialists, we aim to deliver the best care for medical urgencies.
Dr. Cheah, please brief us about your professional journey in the healthcare industry and your contribution towards the organization’s success.
After graduating from medical school, I decided to specialize in Emergency Medicine. Patients come into the emergency room with various different symptoms, and the challenge is to piece them all together and make quick decisions on treating various acutely ill or injured patients.
Apart from honing my diagnostic and management skills in the emergency management of patients with severe trauma as well as medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes, my training also allowed me to work with surgeons and anesthetists in the operating rooms and with physicians managing complex medical cases.
The high volume of tertiary emergency rooms and the very hands-on nature of emergency work allowed me to fine-tune diagnostic modalities like emergency ultrasound scans as well as emergency procedures in the ER.
As a specialist emergency physician, I also learned to manage medical teams efficiently in the ER. One of my most memorable cases was managing a team of doctors and nurses in a traumatic perimortem cesarean delivery of a premature baby. It gives me great satisfaction to know that we were able to give this baby a fighting chance and that she is now a happy and healthy young toddler.
I further joined the Pre-hospital Emergency Care team, working closely with the paramedics to improve patient care and survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims. I was actively involved in the training of paramedics in the national training program. I was also an active member of the Singapore Sports Safety Committee, which oversaw the creation of guidelines and recommendations for the safe practice of sports and sporting events in Singapore.
My training and experiences in emergency and pre-hospital care then set the stage for my foray into setting up my own Urgent Care facility where I can efficiently manage my small team of specialized medical staff to deliver the highest standards of care to my patients. This also provided me with the opportunities to branch out into home-based urgent care and ambulance transfers of critically ill patients.
By delivering high-standard and affordable care, we have been able to make positive impacts on the lives of all our patients.
With constant development in medical technologies, in your opinion, what could be the future of urgent care services?
Urgent care services have changed over the pandemic, and there is definitely a higher demand for tele-triage and tele-consult. With centralized medical records, the sharing and retrieval of patients’ medical history and investigations would facilitate remote management.
Portable point of care testing such as handheld ultrasound scanners and blood test analyzers have allowed us to make quicker diagnoses and to institute more timely treatment. In time, smaller devices with easier maintenance will definitely facilitate urgent care and home-based management. The ability to upload and retrieve results into a centralized electronic medical records system allows us to obtain accurate information and institute the most appropriate treatment.
New technology also allows us to safely perform more surgical procedures in the urgent care setting. With improved monitoring equipment and safer anesthesia or sedation, urgent care services are able to offer more treatment options that would traditionally have required hospital management.
What is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the global healthcare sector, and what challenges did you face during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns?
The pandemic has certainly made people look for alternatives to visiting the hospital ERs. By providing an option for patients to receive medical care for non-life-threatening conditions outside of hospitals, urgent care facilities can help to decongest the strained hospital services while at the same time keeping non-COVID cases out of the hot zones in the hospital ERs.
During the pandemic and the lockdowns, the demand for home visits also increased due to patients’ reluctance to go to the hospitals. We adapted to this by providing tele-triaging and subsequent tele-consults or home visits. Although management in the home setting may be challenging, our investment in portable diagnostic ultrasound and blood analyzers allowed us to efficiently diagnose and treat these patients in their homes.
As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding healthcare professionals aspiring to venture into the healthcare industry?
Healthcare professionals should stay open-minded and versatile. Institution or hospital-based careers may not be for everyone in the long run. I would advise healthcare professionals to look for niche areas where they can make a bigger difference to patients. Leaving the safety and certainty of a hospital-based career may be unnerving, but this should not stop one from making the leap to bring healthcare closer to the public.
How do you envision scaling your organization’s operations and offerings in the future?
Out-of-hospital management at urgent care facilities is gaining popularity, with many patients opting to avoid the hospital ERs. I believe there is also definitely a demand for medical concierge services for medical advice, as well as strong demand for urgent care of the elderly in the home setting.
Apart from expanding our coverage with more such urgent care facilities and expanding an ambulance service, it is important to grow the team with trusted, quality manpower so as to deliver a reliable and consistent standard of care. In that way, my urgent care organization will be synonymous with high-quality and affordable care and be the first-choice provider for patients with medical urgencies.
Please share the awards and recognitions that your organization has received so far since its inception.
Collectively we have received recognition from Sports Singapore for Dr. Cheah’s contributions in Promoting Sports Safety in Singapore, and our Emergency Paediatrician, Dr. Diana Lin, received recognition from pre-schools for education on safe environments for children.