Telemedicine subject to same medical standards

Patients can use telemedicine apps on their phones to consult doctors and get MCs without even leaving their houses.
Patients can use telemedicine apps on their phones to consult doctors and get MCs without even leaving their houses.PHOTO: ST FILE

We thank Ms Janet Lim Poh Eng and Dr Lee Pheng Soon for their letters (MOH must crack down on conveniently issued e-MCs; Let heartland doctors teleconsult with patients, both Sept 12).

Telemedicine provides better accessibility for Singaporeans' varied care needs. It complements the services provided by general practitioner (GP) and specialist clinics, polyclinics, and the intermediate and long-term care sector.

Telemedicine will be regulated under the upcoming Healthcare Services Act. In the interim, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is working closely with telemedicine providers through the MOH Licensing Experimentation and Adaptation Programme (Leap) regulatory sandbox.

The sandbox enables the development of telemedicine services with close monitoring of all aspects of safety, including clinical processes, medication delivery and data protection, while co-creating the appropriate regulations.

All medical practitioners are already able to provide care via existing telemedicine modalities, such as telephone, text messaging or video consultation.

They must comply with the Singapore Medical Council's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines, and take reference from all other applicable guidelines, including the National Telemedicine guidelines, and should maintain the same standards of care and professionalism.

If in doubt, the patient should be evaluated in person for a proper physical assessment.

Medical certificates (MC), whether in the paper format or an electronic one, must be given on sound medical grounds.

There are security measures to prevent fraudulent issuance of electronic MCs.

As with in-person consultations, all medical practitioners are required to maintain telemedicine medical records securely and comply with laws governing personal data.

MOH will continue to work closely with the medical community and patients to ensure the safety and quality of telemedicine services.

Medical professionals are reminded to act responsibly in delivering care through telemedicine modalities and in the issuance of MCs so as to uphold the ethics of the profession.

Those who have information about errant doctors should share it with MOH so that we can take action.

Raymond Chua

Group Director

Health Regulation Group

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Telemedicine subject to same medical standards'. Print Edition | Subscribe