Budget debate: Digital medical certificates to be rolled out to private healthcare sector

Developed by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, the digital medical certificate system known as DigiMC will be used at private healthcare institutions, such as Raffles Medical and Mount Alvernia Hospital, in the coming months. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - Soon, there will be no need to present hard-copy medical certificates (MCs) as Singapore looks to roll out a system for digital versions to the private healthcare sector.

Developed by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), the digital medical certificate system known as DigiMC will be used at private healthcare institutions, such as Raffles Medical and Mount Alvernia Hospital, in the coming months, said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, in Parliament on Friday (Feb 28).

This follows the pilot of the system at the National Heart Centre Singapore in 2018, before it was rolled out to the SingHealth cluster last December.

So far, more than 400,000 digital MCs have been issued.

Going forward, telemedicine providers in the Ministry of Health's telemedicine sandbox, such as Doctor World and Parkway Shenton, will also be looking into adopting DigiMC.

Other healthcare institutions, such as National Healthcare Group and National University Health System, have expressed interest in doing the same.

Digital MCs, which can be accessed via a URL and are sent to patients in an SMS, eliminates the need to submit a hardcopy of MCs to their employers, or misplacing the MCS and having to request for replacements.

A hospital such as Singapore General Hospital receives about 150 requests per year to reprint copies of MCs, and involves at least three members of its staff to do so.

It costs about $13.91 to reprint a paper MC, so this will help patients save on costs as well.

As these digital MCs are hosted and displayed on a government domain, employers are also better able to determine if the documents received from their employees are legitimate.

The digital MC initiative is among several instances of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, which GovTech is a part of, using technology to make things more convenient for citizens in healthcare matters.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the agency also developed several digital tools to disseminate timely and accurate information to Singaporeans.

For example, the website MaskGoWhere was created to help Singaporean households locate the designated place, day and time to collect surgical masks during the recent nationwide free mask distribution exercise.

The website FluGoWhere is a website to enable the easy search of Public Health Preparedness Clinics providing special subsidies for those diagnosed with respiratory illnesses.

Gov.sg's WhatsApp channel, where citizens can receive trusted updates on the virus situation via the popular messaging service app, has to date 635,000 unique subscribers for the service.

The Minister-in-charge of GovTech Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament on Friday: "Our swift response to the Covid-19 situation is a glimpse of how Smart Nation is already here to impact our daily lives."

Referring to how GovTech engineers put together MaskGoWhere overnight, he said: "Their willingness to step forward and rapidly put together what they understood was a solution to an urgent problem, and the fact that they had tools and capabilities to do so immediately, demonstrates that we are well on the way to becoming a government that is digital to the core and serving with a heart."

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